BGCT moves ahead on cuts

By Daniel C. Houston
Staff Writer

The Baptist General Convention of Texas executive board voted Tuesday to recommend a budget proposal that would slash undergraduate funding for Baylor by 51.7 percent while also approving a renegotiated special agreement between the two institutions.

In the proposed budget, Baylor and the George W. Truett Theological Seminary are the only Baptist institutions set to lose BGCT funding — a loss of $889,053 for Baylor and $18,596 for Truett.

All other institutions, including Houston Baptist University and Dallas Baptist University, would see funding increases.

Baylor President Ken Starr, spoke at Tuesday’s executive board meeting, said BGCT funding for undergraduate programs amounts to 15 percent of Baylor’s religion department budget and 10 percent of Baptist student ministries funding, but he did not explicitly denounce the budget changes.

“The reason that Baylor University is not mounting an appeal — we have no standing to mount an appeal as such — is because so many of our sibling institutions are being substantially benefited,” Starr said, “and so we give thanks that they will be very significantly benefited by virtue of these policy decisions in the budget that are then driving the allocation.”

Steve Vernon, acting executive director of the BGCT, said the change in funding was motivated by a desire to provide relatively more funding to those universities considered “affiliated” with the BGCT, meaning they allow the BGCT to select 75 percent of the membership of their boards of trustees.

Baylor and HBU allow the BGCT to select 25 percent of their board of regents memberships and therefore relate to the BGCT by special agreement.

“Our participation in their governance is much less than it is with our affiliated institutions,” Vernon said. “So the question comes: Do you make a distinction between those who are affiliated and those who relate to us by special agreement?”

The proposed funding distribution is based on a three-category system in which every school, regardless of its affiliation status, would be given a base level of funding set at $625,000 and would receive reimbursements for certain theological education programs, but would not receive “pro rata” funding if they relate to the BGCT by special agreement. Pro-rata funding is distributed according to the number of semester hours taught at each institution.

A motion to amend the budget to return to the previous formula for BGCT funding distribution failed by a vote of 19-34.

The new special agreement would strike language committing Baylor to maintain a clause in its bylaws requiring 100-percent Baptist membership on its board of regents, unless the BGCT consented to a change in the agreement.

This requirement conflicted with another clause in the old agreement that gave Baylor the full legal right to “amend or rescind its articles of incorporation or bylaws without approval or consent of the BGCT.”

The agreement would also grant Baylor three of five spots on the subcommittee responsible for identifying the BGCT’s candidate recommendations to Baylor’s board of regents. In the previous agreement, there was no provision for Baylor input at this early stage.

The executive board invited Starr to renegotiate the special agreement in May after Baylor’s board of regents voted in February to allow up to one-quarter of its membership to come from non-Baptist Christian backgrounds, a move which at the time ruffled some feathers within the BGCT.

“That’s what our board of regents has done because of the sense that a number of our graduates that may have been cradle Baptists they may have been Baptists before they were Christians, you know what I mean? Those folks have, for whatever reason, in this 21st century, found Christian fellowship in another way,” Starr said.

The executive board’s proposals will be presented on Oct. 24-26 at the BGCT annual convention for a final vote.