May 25th, 2011 at 1:17 pm
DALLAS – The Baptist General Convention of Texas Executive Board voted unanimously May 24 to direct the convention’s associate executive director “to invite the president of Baylor University to develop together a process for renegotiating the special agreement” between the two organizations.
The BGCT board approved the action after hearing a report from a taskforce appointed by BGCT Executive Board Chairwoman Debbie Ferrier. In the wake of Baylor moving to allow non-Baptist Christians to serve as regents in February, the BGCT taskforce was charged with meeting with school officials to discuss Baylor’s future relationship with the convention.
The BGCT taskforce found the school’s decision to include non-Baptists on its board was legal, but it violated the school’s special agreement with the BGCT. The convention relates to institutions – childcare organizations, healthcare groups, retirement homes and schools – through agreements that outline how the groups will cooperate. Since 2000, the convention has sent more than $29 million to Baylor and elects 25 percent of Baylor’s regents.
“The taskforce expresses its profound and deep disappointment that Baylor University acted unilaterally in changing the agreement between the BGCT and Baylor,” the BGCT taskforce report reads. “While we recognize the right expressed in the agreement for Baylor to change its bylaws, we believe that the current agreement was intended, from its inception, to contain substantive obligations and covenants incumbent upon each party to respect. Nevertheless and specifically, the spirit of the agreement expressed in paragraph nine, which states, ‘No amendment to this agreement shall be effective unless the amendment is in writing and lawfully executed by both parties,’ has not been observed in good faith by Baylor’s Board of Regents.”
The BGCT Executive Board was unified in its desire to renegotiate the special agreement and the two Baylor regents present for the BGCT board meeting, including Chairman Dary Stone, welcomed the opportunity to dialogue with the convention, which they called a valued partner.
“We’re happy to engage with the BGCT about our relationship,” said Baylor Regent David Harper.
But the Baylor regents were “disappointed” that the taskforce used the phrase “profound and deep disappointment” in its report.
“It’s hurtful to us,” Harper said. “We were truly on a faith journey.”
Harper said the Baylor board was “as open as we could” have been in the process of making the decision to include non-Baptist regents. The Baylor board sought to build in safeguards to keep the school and the board true to its Christian identity. Baylor regents did not mean to offend Texas Baptists and felt hurt by the BGCT taskforce’s report, he said.
BGCT Executive Board Member Jay Abernathy, pastor of First Baptist Church in Palestine, offered a motion for the BGCT board to apologize to the Baylor regents for any implied BGCT board feelings caused by the taskforce report’s language choice and affirm the convention’s historic relationship with Baylor. The BGCT board overwhelmingly defeated the motion.
In the process of officials talking about the relationships between to the two organizations, it became apparent BGCT officials and Baylor regents also disagree on how to interpret the guidelines for who the convention can elect as a regent. The university has put forth three people for BGCT Annual Meeting messengers to consider in the fall, but convention officials believe two of those candidates are not eligible to serve according to BGCT governing documents.
The convention’s Committee on Nominations for Boards of Affiliated Ministries will decide how to interpret the governance and – if needed – whether an exception to the governance should be made for any of the nominees. Messengers to the BGCT Annual Meeting this fall ultimately will vote on who to elect to the Baylor Board of Regents.