Headlines from First Thoughts

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Belmont vs. Baptists

Last week, Tennessee Baptists added another sad page the volume of Baptist battles. It likely will end up in a court battle entitled for lack of a better term, Belmont v. Baptists.

Here's how it happened. Belmont's trustees, who are Tennessee Baptists, voted to protect themselves from any hostile takeovers by non-traditional Baptists and to open the trustee board to likeminded Christians who could assist them with fundraising. Similar moves have been made by Baylor, Samford, Georgetown College in Kentucky, and other insitutions of higher education. The aim is two-fold: protect the institution and plan for the future.

Fortunately, the Executive Board of the Tennessee Baptist Convention saw the wisdom in this move. It was not pleasant to allow Belmont to go, but they were willing to accept a generous offer by the school. Belmont would give $5 million to the convention and allow both parties to separate amicably. No court battles, no bad media coverage.

Unfortunately, the convention messengers met last week and voted against the proposal. I was there and watched the proceedings unfold. By a 54%-46% margin, the messengers rejected the deal. Then by an 80-20% margin, they voted to empower a committee to sue Belmont if necessary to have control over the trustee board in perpetuity. Now, Cooperative Program missions dollars will likely be used in long litigation and will not go toward spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. Essentially, Baptists will be arguing with themselves, and presumably suing our own family, for nothing other than control and power. It's shameful, and Tennessee Baptists only have themselves to blame.

Like children, institutions grow and become adults. Baptists should have been wise enough to predict this growth and like good parents, let them go. It's much easier to birth the baby than it is to let the child go, whether it's a living being, or an institution. As stewards of Belmont, we need to pray for their leaders as they determine the next step.


Anonymous said...

I, too, fear a lawsuit among Baptists. Imagine what the press could do with this. I pray that God's money will not be misused. A word that was new to me was "non-traditional." What is a non-traditional Baptist, and what does he or she believe differently than a traditional Baptist?


:o)} said...

I agree we should "let them go." Since they have not taught what we as Baptists have traditionally believed and taught in our churches for a long time, it is doubtbul whether they will ever return to the fold. With one stipulation, however: they need to repay a reasonable amount of that which has been invested in them by Tennessee Baptists over the years. Otherwise, they are "getting away" with a fortune!

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