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BGCT Head Pledges Accountability in Possible Funding Scandal

The chief executive of the Baptist General Convention of Texas promised to hold accountable any parties accused of wrongdoing in an internal probe of possible misuse of church-starting funds scheduled to be unveiled to convention leaders Tuesday.

“I pledge to you that the Executive Board and I will work together to repair what is broken, to hold accountable any person who may have misused the trust Texas Baptists have placed in them, and to move forward together to respond to the continuing needs of our state for God,” Charles Wade, BGCT executive director, wrote in an Oct. 27 column for the Baptist Standard. “I ask you to pray for the Executive Board and its leaders.”<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
 
Wade said he “finally realized” in December that concerns raised “from time to time” alleging mismanagement of church-starting funds in the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Rio GrandeValley warranted a thorough investigation and, after a formal request, he and eleced leaders recommended hiring a lawyer to lead an independent probe.
 
The report of that five-month investigation, expected to cost as much as $150,000, is scheduled to be presented to the full Executive Board in a called meeting Tuesday.
 
Two BGCT staff members have already resigned after executive-level leaders previewed the report Oct. 25.
 
EthicsDaily.com reported Friday that Abe Zabeneh, a church starter and former director of the BGCT Church Starting Center resigned Wednesday, and David Guel, former associate director and south-Texas consultant, decided to retire.
 
Both are listed as directors of the Piper Institute for Church Planting, a non-profit organization promoting evangelism in Latin America built on strategy of Otto Arango, a church planter apparently at the center of the BGCT investigation.
 
An unofficial Web log by a Texas pastor has for several months chronicled allegations that Arango and others took money for church plants that existed only on paper, while alleging convention leaders ignored warnings until he threatened to go public with reports of a cover-up.
 
In his column in the Baptist Standard, Wade wrote:
 
“Our convention is committed to open communication and careful, thorough discussion of matters that concern our churches and our Baptist mission in Texas and beyond.
 
“Last December, I finally realized concerns that had been raised with me from time to time regarding our church-starting practices in the Rio GrandeValley required a more thorough investigation than I had been able to achieve through the normal staff channels available to me.
 
“Then, early this year, Palo Pinto Baptist Association called for our Executive Board to investigate the matter. After discussing the situation with board and convention officers, we agreed we would engage an experienced attorney from the Valley to get to the bottom of this. Her report will be presented to our board on Tuesday, Oct. 31, at the BaptistBuilding in Dallas.
 
“There will be time for a thorough presentation by the attorneys and for questions from Executive Board members. The Baptist Standard will report on the findings and the board discussion in next week’s issue.”
 
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.
 
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