This month Houston will host the annual meeting of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. UBA is an association of churches that partners with both the Southern Baptist Convention of Texas and the Baptist General Convention of Texas to promote and extend the cause of Christ in Texas and beyond.
Prior to 1886 there were as many as five state conventions in Texas. Over time the leaders of the various conventions realized it would be better to consolidate the conventions and agencies and work together rather than compete with one another. They consolidated under the name “Baptist General Convention of Texas.” From then until November 1998, BGCT was the only state Baptist convention in Texas.
The Baptist General Convention of Texas encourages, facilitates and connects churches in their work to fulfill God’s mission of reconciling the world to himself. Approximately 5,700 churches affiliate with BGCT as do 23 different institutions and human care agencies including Buckner International (the largest Baptist human care agency in the world — founded by a transplanted Tennessee pastor like myself I must add) and ten educational ministries including Baylor University (largest Baptist University in the world).
Sadly, many, if not most, Baptists have lost a sense of their own history and distinctiveness in the body of Christ. When I was a child, denominational distinctives were emphasized, so much that I sometimes wondered if anyone would get to heaven other than Baptists. Today the emphasis is more on recognizing that we are all part of the larger body of Christ with all its plurality and diversity. That doesn’t mean, though, that Baptists should not know and celebrate their uniqueness. 2009 is special because it marks the 400th anniversary of the beginning of Baptists with John Smyth. (For more on the history of Baptists, cf. www.baptisthistory.org) If you want to know more about our Baptist distinctives, I’d encourage you to check out www.baptistdistinctives.org.
Of course, I’m partial to the special role Union Baptist Association plays in the history of Texas Baptists. UBA was the first association formed in Texas (1840). At the second meeting of the association, two actions were taken that even today impact the priorities of our Texas Baptist witness and ministry. The first action was the creation of a “Missionary Society.” Today, missions and evangelism remain the heartbeat of Texas Baptists. The second significant action was the creation of an Education Society. From these efforts, Baylor University was chartered by the Republic of Texas in 1845.
So to the messengers to the 2009 meeting of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, we say “Howdy, partners. Welcome to Houston.”