Rocky Weatherford on SBTC founding: ‘I was just a voice’ in convention’s history
January 22nd, 2019 / By: Jane Rodgers | TEXAN Correspondent / comments
Editor’s note: As the SBTC continues in its 21st year, we are sharing reflections from those who laid the groundwork for a new state convention. The TEXAN interviewed Rocky Weatherford for this article, the second of a yearlong series.
ROCKWALL—Rocky Weatherford, pastor of Rockwall’s Chisholm Baptist Church, remembers the founding of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention as both unlikely and relational, calling himself “just a voice” in the convention’s history.
The Arkansas native was working as an electric company lineman when God called him to ministry. He earned two degrees at Criswell College and pastored his first church in Princeton, Texas, in 1987.
“In Texas, Criswell was the focal point of a lot of the conservative movement,” Weatherford said in a recent interview with the TEXAN.
By 1994, Weatherford was pastoring First Baptist Church Tool, on the west side of Cedar Creek Lake, when he heard of a meeting of Texas Baptist conservatives in Lubbock.
“I flew out there. There were maybe a dozen. Miles Seaborn, Casey Perry, Ed Ethridge were there,” Weatherford recalled. “We started meeting together. Gerald Smith would drive people all over the state at his own expense.”
The core group met in private homes, often in the Dallas area. “We could see the BGCT getting further from our roots,” Weatherford said. “Our goal was not to be divisive. We just wanted to be conservatives.”
People came from all over to the gatherings, including Skeet and Don Workman from Lubbock, Weatherford noted, adding, “I was just wanting to be part of something bigger.”
Events coalesced when a dozen met in a private home in the Dallas suburb of Rowlett. Frustration had built over the continued rejection of conservative voices by the BGCT. “Everything we’d try to do, they’d vote down,” Weatherford said. At dinner that night, he told the group, “I am as far as I can get. There’s going to be one conservative church in Texas.”
“I’m with you. There’s going to be two,” Ed Ethridge, then pastor of Woodlake Baptist Church in Carrollton, responded.
“At first we didn’t have a lot of the big name guys. It was all little churches. Then Stan Coffey [The Church at Quail Creek, Amarillo] showed up,” Weatherford recalled of the fledgling convention. “David Fannin of Nassau Bay signed on. George Harris [FBC Castle Hills, San Antonio] was not too far behind, out of San Antonio. Bill Sutton of McAllen [FBC McAllen] was such a strong voice. Guys like that stepped in and stepped up.”
Of the need for a new
state convention, Weatherford mused, “The reality is I believe in Texas as a whole, 80 to 85 percent [of Baptists] are conservative to the core but some of the leadership was not, at least in in 1998. We weren’t fighting. We just disagreed. Churches are autonomous.”
Weatherford also credits the churches of the Dogwood Trails Baptist Association and its fellowship among pastors for exemplifying the idea that “convention is personal.”
Weatherford served as the SBTC executive board’s first vice-president and chaired the board for two years until becoming alumni relations director at Criswell College.
FBC Tool was among the top givers to the SBTC during its first few years, he said.
Weatherford recalled early conversations with Executive Director Jim Richards about the make-up of the SBTC, advocating the convention have a “tent as wide as we can have it,” urging that shared ministry is possible with people who “do things differently” as long as they agree on the truths of 1 Corinthians 15: “the plain vanilla of the gospel. We may not all agree on exactly how you do church, but we still are able to agree that we are conservatives. We hold to the Word of God.”
Weatherford also reminisced in a video message shown at the 2018 SBTC annual meeting about sitting next to Richards when he was first presented as SBTC executive director.
“Do you really feel that God has led you to this position?” Weatherford leaned over to ask Richards.
“I did until now,” Richards replied, an answer Weatherford said he would never forget.
“If God called you to this, you need to forget all the disagreement and just go on, go forward, follow where God leads,” Weatherford responded then. Addressing Richards directly on the current video, Weatherford added, “And you answered. And you did that. And you’ve done that for the last 20 years. And I’m really grateful for what you’ve done. I know that God called you there and that God has used you for his glory, and like Paul Harvey said, ‘The rest is
As for Weatherford, he served as a board member for the Texas Baptist Home for Children and recently ended a stint as chair of the convention’s credentials committee.
Weatherford and his wife, Marsha, still live at Cedar Creek Lake. Marsha told the TEXAN that her involvement in the SBTC’s founding mostly centered on holding down
the home front while Rocky traveled.
“I couldn’t do what I did if she wasn’t who she was,” Rocky said of his wife of 42 years. “She is home. Houses don’t mean anything. Wherever she is, is home.”