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Texas Convention Denies Seminary Exhibit Space

Three months after the Southern Baptist Convention said the Baptist World Alliance would not be offered exhibit space at this year’s annual meeting, an SBC-related seminary learned it is also unwelcome at a Baptist state convention meeting this fall.

The Baptist General Convention of Texas informed Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth that the long-time exhibitor would not be offered exhibit space this year. BGCT leaders said they invite exhibitors that “consistently affirm” the work of the state convention. A May 20 letter informing the seminary of the decision cited “disheartening changes” in relations between the state and national conventions and an “unsupportive direction of the Southern Baptist Convention toward the BGCT.”

Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson said in a statement he was “dumfounded” by the decision, which he said signals that the BGCT intends to sever all relations with the SBC.

BGCT president Ken Hall said the connection between the SBC and BGCT “is built on something much more important and deeper” than space in an exhibit hall. Hall said this year’s meeting planners desire to amplify “wonderful things God is doing through the (state) convention,” and no longer want “to be defined by controversy.”

A rival state convention, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, has a policy excluding certain exhibitors. So does the SBC, which denied exhibit space to the BGCT-related Buckner Baptist Benevolences when the national convention met in Dallas in 1997. Buckner had been allowed space when earlier conventions were held in Texas, but was told in 1997 that “we are not part of the Baptist family,” said Scott Collins, Buckner’s vice president for external affairs.

An SBC official informed the Baptist World Alliance in March that a recommendation at this June’s convention in Indianapolis calling for the SBC to withdraw from the worldwide Baptist organization made it “inappropriate” for the BWA to be allowed exhibit space.

BWA official Alan Stanford told Baptist Press that he assumed the BWA would be allowed to exhibit at the SBC until after the convention voted to discontinue the relationship. Stanford called it “premature” to deny SBC messengers access to BWA materials and representatives prior to voting to end an almost 100-year relationship.