Monday, February 21, 2011

Baylor Regents Bear Watching

The Baptist Standard reported that "Baylor's board of regents voted Feb. 11 to amend the university's bylaws, allowing members who are active in Christian - but not Baptist - churches to comprise up to 25 percent of the board."

Dary Stone, chair of the board of regents, explained the decision as "an accommodation to obvious demographic changes in church labels and affiliation," noting that the majority of the overall student body is non-Baptist and that this year's freshman class is less than one-third Baptist.

At Texas Baptists Committed - where our mission has always put preserving the Baptist identity at the forefront - we naturally view this move with great concern. A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post entitled "Why Be Baptist?" In that post, I tried to convey the uniqueness of being Baptist and that being Baptist still matters. Baptist is not just a "label" or "affiliation" - it's the most authentic way of being Christian . . . of being faithful to the freedom and responsibility that God gave humankind from the beginning.

Baptists are in danger of extinction today - mainly because we long ago stopped teaching our people, young and old, what is special about being Baptist. It's easier to "accommodate" than educate. It's of special concern when the world's largest Baptist university - right here in our own backyard - decides that Baptist ties aren't essential for those who determine its future vision and plans.

The article quoted Steve Vernon, acting executive director of the BGCT Executive Board: "I wrote by email to the Baylor board of regents to express our opposition to the move. The vote did not go as I believe Texas Baptists would desire."

The Standard points out that "the bylaws require 75 percent of the board to be Baptists, and the Baptist General Convention of Texas will continue to elect 25 percent of the overall board." Small comfort, but comfort nonetheless.

Admittedly, there were a few positive developments reported in the article:
  • "The regents . . . voted to create the Baptist Studies Center for Research."
  • They also voted to "increase the amount of financial aid available to children of Baptist ministers and missionaries."
Especially notable were votes to "put in place a couple of . . . 'safeguards' to protect key aspects of Baylor's Baptist identity":
  • Making "any future change in the percentage of non-Baptists on the board" subject to the approval of 75 percent of the Baptist regents
  • Restricting - to Baptist regents only - the right to vote on issues related to Baylor's George W. Truett Theological Seminary
So Baptist regents still have the upper hand in future decisions. Only time will tell whether Baylor has started down a "slippery slope" that threatens its Baptist identity. TBC will continue to watch with interest and speak out as appropriate.

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