Headlines from First Thoughts

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Farewell to an Old Friend


The most significant news in Baptist life in Knoxville last week was not the election of a new president of the Southern Baptist Convention. We’re pretty removed from politics now at 510 W Main. The most significant story ran the same day in the local paper. Baptist Hospital is being sold.

Baptists have never been very good at parting ways with their institutions. Like an overprotective parent, we keep a pretty tight rein on our hospitals, universities, and children’s homes. When the rumors started circulating late last year that our old friend Baptist Hospital was officially on the market, the First Baptist family felt a collective sense of loss. East Tennessee’s Baptist Hospital would not exist were it not for Fred Brown and the leadership of First Baptist. Some have even said that Dr. Brown announced in the pulpit of FBC that they needed more money for the hospital and passed the plate until he collected enough. Over the years, First Baptist members have had a strong presence on the board and given time and money to make it possible for everyone to have access to healthcare.

With this week’s news of Triad Health System’s purchase of our baby, we say farewell to an old friend. Long ago, Tennessee Baptists removed themselves from positions of monetary influence. As healthcare costs soared, Tennessee Baptists contributions did not. That’s life today, and we’ve seen this story repeated around the country as various Baptist institutions have grown up and moved on. We have church members today that serve on the board and as employees in each of the healthcare systems in Knoxville. It’s truly a new day in healthcare.

The board and employees of Baptist have been in my prayers the past months. Each person knows the agony of the decision at a personal and private level. We have seen good church members relocate; we have encouraged board members who have made tough, difficult decisions. We will walk beside each person as they face inevitable transitions in the coming days and hopefully welcome new members who are part of Triad’s group.

Several lessons can be learned as people of First Baptist.

(1) The Baptist name is still popular in some circles. Ironically, one of the things Triad wanted to maintain is the name. Isn’t it interesting that the only area where Baptists get good reviews is in healthcare? This should be a lesson to all of us. Baptists as a brand and as a people are at their best when they minister to people in the crisis moments in the name of Christ.
(2) We can still have a prophetic voice. The News-Sentinel’s editorial alluded to a looming crisis if charity cases are not covered in the new system. UT and St. Mary’s can’t do it alone. We need to refocus our efforts to caring for those who cannot afford the benefits that most of us take for granted. We must accomplish this beyond pious rhetoric. Our wallets and actions must match our words.
(3) Institutions grow and change. We should apply the principles of the Baptist experience to Belmont, Carson-Newman, and other institutions. We should allow them freedom to be the best they can be, raise money from as many sources as possible, and help them maintain a Baptist identity in the best sense of the word.
(4) We will always be there for Baptist. First Baptist will continue to send employees and volunteers across the river and out west. Baptists are everywhere. Let’s welcome our new friends, encourage those who remain, and pray for people who will seek new employment.

Farewell, old friend, East Tennessee Baptist Hospital. May the new Baptist carry on the legacy that we have built together.

1 comment:

Dr. Danny Chisholm said...

Bill,

You are right about the name Baptist as it pertains to health care. I've always wondered about that, but it's good to be known for healing people instead of hurting people for a change. Maybe I'll see you in Atlanta. I started a blog a few days ago and wondered how many TN CBFers did this.

Danny

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