BGCT makes final decision

Baylor to lose more than 50 percent of funding

By Daniel C. Houston
Staff Writer

The Baptist General Convention of Texas approved a final measure Tuesday to slash its cooperative program funding for Baylor undergraduate programs by more than half, while simultaneously increasing funding for every other associated Baptist university across the state.

The BGCT approved $831,175 to fund Baylor undergraduate programs in 2012, a decrease of 51.7 percent from the previous year, as well as $1.1 million for George W. Truett Theological Seminary, whose funding remained relatively stable with only a 1.7 percent decrease.

“Of course, we are disappointed in this action by the BGCT,” Baylor spokesperson Lori Fogleman wrote in an email to the Lariat, “particularly given Baylor’s strong tradition of support for Texas Baptist students and programs, including George W. Truett Theological Seminary.

“We are appreciative of those who spoke so positively at the convention about Baylor’s impact not only on Texas Baptist life but to the work of God in the world. We understand that cuts in funding were limited to Baylor and that many higher education institutions supported by the BGCT actually saw their budgets increased. We are grateful that none of our fellow Texas Baptist institutions will be negatively impacted by the budget which was adopted today by the BGCT.”

Supporters of the budget as introduced successfully staved off an amendment that would have kept Baylor’s share of funding untouched from the previous year’s amount, $1.72 million, without removing the increase in funding levels already proposed for the other Baptist institutions.

The motion would have financed the increased expenditure by dipping into the BGCT’s annual investment income.

Randy Wallace, pastor of First Baptist Church Killeen and member of the BGCT executive board’s education subcommittee, said he believed the proposal was pushed through the executive board recommendation process too quickly. He also argued that voting to cut Baylor funding would mar the public’s perception of this year’s convention.

“The headline of this meeting is not ‘everything good we’re doing in the world,’” Wallace said. “The headline of this meeting is ‘the BGCT votes to defund Baylor.’”

While several of those speaking in favor of the funding redistribution insisted the change was not intended to be punitive, former Baylor regent Ella Prichard, representing Windsor Park Baptist Church in Corpus Christi, pointed to Baylor’s decision to allow non-Baptist Christians to serve on the board of regents as an example of Baylor dictating the terms of the relationship.

“The BGCT keeps the relationship with Baylor by agreeing to what Baylor wants,” Prichard said. “I don’t see it as an equal partnership anymore.”

Charlotte Young of First Baptist Church Dimmit, who serves as the chair of the BGCT executive board’s institutional relations committee, stressed the new distribution of funding is based on a formula intended to be more fair to other Texas Baptist institutions. She pointed out Houston Baptist University, which like Baylor has opened its board of trustees to non-Baptists, would receive more money under the proposal than it had in previous years.

“In no way was it intended to be a punitive measure,” Young said. “If that were so, then Houston Baptist would have had to [take a cut in funding] as well.”

The cut in funding followed the BGCT’s decision Monday to approve a renegotiated special agreement that gave Baylor more influence over the BGCT’s process for nominating candidates to fill vacancies on the Baylor Board of Regents.

The BGCT maintains its ability to select one-quarter of the Baylor board’s membership, and its five-member panel that selects nominees now includes three Baylor representatives.

One of the BGCT’s representatives on the team that negotiated the new special agreement spoke out publicly in favor of the funding reductions.

Ed Jackson of First Baptist Church Garland said the available cooperative program funding would be more fairly distributed among the other institutions under the new budget proposal, and said the reductions represent a tiny portion of Baylor’s overall operating budget.