You can’t say René Maciel, MS ’91, doesn’t have audacious goals.
The president of Baptist University of the Américas (BUA) in San Antonio recently took on the role of president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas (Texas Baptists) and he defines success in that role as “bringing unity to Texas Baptist life.”
The numbers indicate how big a job that will be: There are 2 million Texas Baptists in 5,300 autonomous congregations statewide that are affiliated with the group. Those 2 million people speak 69 different languages and many bring different ideas to the table.
“The denomination is on a downward spiral,” he said last week. “Texas Baptists have a unique opportunity for a common mission and purpose.”
Maciel will juggle the responsibilities of guiding the Texas Baptists with his day job, which this year will include a transition to a new campus for a school committed to “training cross-cultural Christian leaders in the Hispanic context.” It’s a full plate, but one that will include the opportunity to preach in churches across Texas.
“As Texas Baptists reach out and share the gospel of Jesus Christ, we have the opportunity to do that with an untapped ministry” – the growing demographic of Hispanic Texans that is dominated by Catholics. But he believes many within that group may have strayed or been involved in name only, so the Texas Baptists have an opportunity to “minister and care for them.”
“If we’re not doing Hispanic ministry in this state, then we really don’t have a purpose,” he added.”
Maciel points out that more people attended the Hispanic Baptist convention than came to the Texas Baptist’s convention. He also says there is a great opportunity to “celebrate” the 28 affiliated Baptist ministries – hospitals, seminaries, universities, and child-care organizations – that call Texas home.
Maciel has been involved in Texas Baptist life for 29 years [LINK TO BIO HERE]. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Hardin-Simmons and his master’s in education from Baylor, and played basketball in Brazil and Central America with Campus Crusade for Christ. He joined BUA as president in 2007 from George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor where he had served as assistant dean for Administration and Academic Services. He previously worked for Baylor Admissions and led Hardin-Simmons’ Admissions department. He also worked at the New Mexico Baptist Children’s Home in Portales, New Mexico and recently served 10 months as interim pastor at First Baptist Church of Castroville, where he and his family have been members for nine years.
Maciel also played a role in Baylor appointing its first Hispanic regent – his father, Eleazar Maciel ‘52. He recalls that as one of the few Hispanics on President Herbert Reynolds’ staff in 1985, Reynolds asked him how Baylor could attract more Hispanics.
“I asked him to tell me about our Hispanic vice presidents, about our Hispanic faculty, about our Hispanic staff,” Maciel says. “When Hispanics came to visit Baylor, they didn’t see any Hispanic faces. And then I introduced my dad to Dr. Reynolds and he became the first Hispanic regent.”
At a time when other Texas religious universities have seen falling percentages of Baptist enrollment and rising tuition, BUA has seen his school stay steady at 80% and keep costs low in an effort to limit the amount of debt students have when they leave school.
“I’ve watched every Texas Baptist school drop in numbers and percentage of Baptist students,” he said. “I think it’s cost-related. We’ve priced ourselves out of Baptist kids. Even though the quality of education at these schools is incredible, it’s a challenge for Baptist families to invest because of the cost per year of tuition.”
Maciel says BUA is accomplishing its mission of graduating students with little or no debt by keeping costs down. But he recognizes he’s attracting a culturally different type of student than the ones that are going to schools with athletic programs and a broad range of academic programs.
- Which Baylor professor had the greatest impact on you and why? Hulitt Gloer. He was a pastor’s pastor. I used to go to his office and just sit and talk. I travel with him to monasteries in New Mexico almost every May.
- Tell me one thing that’s not on your resume. That I’m not Dr. Maciel. I’ve been so busy and involved, I never got a doctorate.
- What’s your superpower? My relationship with Jesus.
- How do you decide which requests for your time to do? I’m very high energy. I say yes to preaching opportunities. The other requests have to sound interesting.
- My proudest moment as a parent is…Having two daughters who graduated from college and have gotten to know Jesus Christ.
- What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? From my dad. Stay in the Word.
- My creative process begins with…Alone time with God. It all flows from what God intends and enables us to move forward and be proactive rather than reactive.
- What one word or phrase would you use to describe yourself? Would others use the same phrase? Encouraging and motivating.
- One thing that’s overrated is…the ocean. I’m not a sand and beach guy. I grew up in New Mexico; I like mountains.
- My favorite app is…the NIV Bible. I open it every day. com – a searchable online bible.
- What’s on your bucket list? Go the base camp at Mount Everest – but no higher. I’d also like to run a marathon; I’ve run a lot of half-marathons.
- What is the best gift you’ve ever received? Sabrina, my wife of 31 years.
- What advice do you give young people? Take initiative and be motivated. If I’m hiring someone, I want the person to be driven and knocking on my front door and excited about working here.