Texas Baptists Elect African American President

The Baptist General Convention of Texas, the largest state body affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, elected an African American to presidency for the first time in its history.

The Rev. Michael Bell, pastor of Greater St. Stephen Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, won on the first ballot with 1,278 votes. His opponent, Rick Davis, received 310 votes.

Bell’s election was one of several actions taken during the BGCT’s annual convention this week that opened the mostly-Anglo BGCT to non-white leadership.

In a separate vote, delegates to the Nov. 14-15 meeting in Austin, Texas approved changes to the denomination’s constitution which would decrease the number of executive board members from 230 to 90 and mandate that at least 30 percent of the board members are “non-Anglo persons.”

Under the constitutional changes, which also expanded the powers of the president and vice president, Bell will have voting rights to the board.

David Currie, the Texas Baptists Committee executive director who nominated Bell, said the new president’s election would mark a great change in the denomination’s history.

“Electing Michael Bell would send a message around the state and throughout the nation that Texas Baptists are inclusive,” said Currie. “Make history today and elect my good friend Michael Bell as president.”

Prior to his new position, Bell served as the BGCT first vice president for one year. Just days before he was elected as President, Bell challenged a crowd of African American Baptists to be full partners in the BGCT.

“It’s time for us, as African Americans, to make room for something big in our lives because God has already set some stuff up,” said Bell as he closed the 2005 meeting of the African American Fellowship on Nov. 13. “The door is open. There is no need to keep wasting time looking for the keys. It’s open. Let’s walk through and be part of what God has for the Baptist General Convention — all of the Baptist General Convention of Texas — to do.”

He also encouraged the crowd to take part in the church by supporting its financial ministries.