Editorial: BGCT must explain fund-cutting

Esteban Diaz | Editorial Cartoonist

If a mixed message has ever been sent, the Baptist General Convention of Texas is certainly sending one to Baylor.

While Steve Vernon, associate executive director and acting executive director of the BGCT, claims that the organization wants “a strong relationship” with Baylor, the BGCT is considering making changes regarding its financial appropriations to schools. This would not be positive for Baylor. The proposed changes would cut Baylor’s appropriation in half and lessen the appropriation for Truett Seminary, but increase the appropriations for all nine of the other institutions involved.

While Truett would lose minimal funding by comparison – potentially $18,596 – Baylor would lose funds of a much greater scale – potentially $889,053, or 51.68 percent.

According to the Baptist Standard, the recommendation within the BGCT states that the financial changes are being considered as an attempt to “level the playing field” for the universities involved.

In order to do this, the schools would all start at the same base funding level – $625,000 – and other funding received would be determined on the classification of the school as “affiliated” or under “contractual special agreement” with the BGCT.

The BGCT elects 75 percent of the regents for its “affiliated” universities, but does not have as much influence over the governing boards of schools under contractual special agreements, which provide less powerful stipulations. At present, only Baylor and Houston Baptist University fall under this category.

While it does seem that the playing field would be leveled among the “affiliated” schools and between the “special agreement” schools, one can’t help but think that Baylor – the only university receiving cuts – is at the same time being punished. Especially when members of the BGCT executive board publicly confirm such an idea, as Randy Wallace did in the Baptist Standard last month. Wallace expressed certainty that the cuts to Baylor’s funding are more than a coincidence, and are indeed “punitive.” The punishment would appear to be a response to the Baylor Board of Regents’ decision to allow non-Baptist Christians onto the board, after which the BGCT decided it was time to renegotiate its agreement with the university.

Interestingly, HBU made a similar move to allow non-Baptists onto its governing board earlier this year, also to the dismay of the BGCT. However, HBU is looking at a potential increase in its funding from the BGCT. We can only speculate about why this might be so.

Together, Baylor and Truett would still receive the second-greatest amount of funding under the proposal. But on its own, Baylor would face a significant drop in funding.

We could applaud funding changes made genuinely in the spirit of helping other Baptist universities to further their causes, changes that were not petty or retaliatory. But this situation does not call for applause. If the leading Baptist institutions in Texas cannot handle their differences by being honest and transparent in their negotiations, who can Baptist institutions look to for guidance? Baylor and the BGCT may not always agree on policy changes, but there is a better way to resolve our differences than underhanded financial changes made under the guise of helping other institutions.

The BGCT still has a chance to prove itself as an honest Christian leader by simply being open about its reasoning and re-evaluating the proposal at hand. “A strong relationship” cannot be had with dishonesty or hidden motives at play, so if that is truly what the BGCT desires, something must change.