By R. Dary Stone
Last week, Baylor University regents met in Dallas to consider a variety of issues of importance to the continued growth, prosperity, impact and influence of Baylor University. Amid reports from university President Ken Starr and other administrators on a variety of topics, including Baylor’s popularity as measured by the strength of its expected incoming freshman class, and the vitality of our endowment during the first half of the current fiscal year, regents voted to retain the services of an architectural firm to help us begin to consider our next campus residential community.
We also enthusiastically approved a new Baptist Studies Center for Research that will create an international depository of significant denominational papers.
But as critical as each of these items is to Baylor’s future, nothing that university regents did last week was as important as the decision that was made to modify Baylor’s bylaws to allow up to 25 percent of the seats on our board of regents to be occupied by fellow Christians who are active members of a church in a Christian tradition other than Baptist.
Let there be no mistake: Baylor is immensely proud of its longstanding relationship with Texas Baptists. Going forward, our bylaws guarantee that 75 percent of our regent membership will continue to be Baptist and that the Baptist General Convention of Texas will continue to select 25 percent of our board members.
Indeed, we will remain forever grateful for the remarkable foresight of our Baptist forefathers who envisioned an unparalleled university education, distinct in both its commitment to high quality academics as well as the spiritual growth of the sons and daughters of Texas.
In their vote, regents reaffirmed — and quite strongly — Baylor’s commitment to its historic Baptist heritage.
But out of respect for the remarkable vision of our founders, so very relevant for their time and for ours, Baylor regents did something else.
They enlarged Baylor’s tent and invited all faithful members of the Baylor family who have a heart for our important work and a demonstrated record of service and support to Baylor to occupy a seat at the leadership table as we contemplate the university’s increasingly important and distinct role in the 21st century.
We’re convinced the addition of fellow Christians in our governance model will empower the entire Baylor nation, strengthen our board, help Baylor to broaden our reach and impact, and open new doors of cooperation and collaboration with those who share with us a love for Christ and a profound appreciation for the mission of Baylor University.
Baylor is a beacon on a hill, shining ever more brightly in a world where, as one scholar has put it, the light elsewhere is dying. Our work is too important to exclude those who care deeply for our university and wish to help us. This inspired modification to our bylaws now qualifies tens of thousands of our own alumni, rich in talent and active in a variety of vibrant Christian congregations, back into service of the university they love.
In a quiet and discerning manner, after thoughtful discussion, warm fellowship and fervent prayer, a group of dedicated servants fiercely loyal to Baylor University did something thoroughly Baptist. They declared their faith and opened their arms to fellow believers who the Lord would call to labor alongside them, Pro Ecclesia, Pro Texana: For God and for Texas. Baylor will be better because of what they have done.
R. Dary Stone, of Dallas, has served as a regent since 2005.
This column originally ran in the Feb. 13 edition of the Waco-Tribune Herald.