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$2.2 M in college’s funds placed in escrow by Tenn. convention

KINGSPORT, Tenn. (BP)–Messengers to the Tennessee Baptist Convention approved a motion to escrow the $2,229,381 set aside for Carson-Newman College in the 1998-99 TBC budget.
A near-record crowd of 2,245 messengers convened at Kingsport’s MeadowView Convention Center Nov. 10-11. The previous high for a TBC annual meeting was the 2,280 messengers who attended the Gatlinburg meeting in 1992.
Among other actions, messengers elected a new slate of officers, adopted an amended Cooperative Program budget of $31,467,034 to include an additional $100,000 to Harrison-Chilhowee Baptist Academy, approved a $9.5 million camps development project, approved a partnership with Portugal Baptists, and considered numerous amendments to the TBC constitution and bylaws.
At the beginning of the sessions, messengers discovered the Protocol for College Trustee Selection had been referred to the constitution and bylaws committee because in its present form it violated the constitution and bylaws of the convention. The protocol was an effort earlier this year to provide Tennessee Baptists’ three schools of higher education — Belmont University, Carson-Newman College and Union University — more flexibility in choosing their trustees.
The opening session of the 124th annual meeting began with a call to solemn assembly.
In issuing the call to solemn assembly, TBC President Doug Sager said: “The most important thing that can happen to us in these two days is to have a fresh touch from God.”
Ray Newcomb, pastor of First Baptist Church, Millington, urged messengers to cleanse their hearts of sin.
“The hardest words for me are ‘I have sinned.’ Before we can really let God bless us, we must look at our own hearts and see if there is anything between us and God,” he said.
Two longtime Tennessee Baptist pastors — Bill Sherman of Nashville and Wayne Allen of Memphis, both past convention presidents — led messengers in the solemn assembly. Their presentation was followed by small-group prayers.
In April, Carson-Newman College trustees voted to become a self-perpetuating board. Numerous meetings of the TBC executive board’s education committee led to the development of a plan for college trustee selection. Carson-Newman trustees voted to accept the protocol agreement and revise their bylaws to come into compliance if the protocol was approved by TBC messengers.
The executive board learned 10 days prior to the convention the protocol was in conflict with the convention’s constitution and bylaws and ultimately voted to refer the protocol to the TBC constitution and bylaws committee.
During the presentation of the budget the morning of Nov. 10, James T. Stroud, pastor of Third Creek Baptist Church, Knoxville, moved “the proposed Cooperative Program budget be amended to provide that all Cooperative Program allocations for Carson-Newman College be withheld and placed in a reserve fund pending a satisfactory resolution of the violation of the bylaws, policies, and programs of the Tennessee Baptist Convention by the trustees of Carson-Newman College which occurred on April 17, 1998.”
A similar motion was offered by Charles Bailey of Laurel Bank Baptist Church, Friendsville. He later withdrew his motion.
The convention’s budget and program committee reviewed the motion and brought back a recommendation that the “proposed amendment be defeated because it violates the spirit of the ongoing efforts for reconciliation” by the executive board, the convention’s Relationship Focus Group and the education committee.
On Wednesday morning the matter was brought to the floor for discussion.
Stroud said the action of Carson-Newman College trustees in April “violated our trust.” He noted Carson-Newman was now “an independent college” but they “want our money and our students.” The C-N action also violated the constitution and bylaws of the convention, he said.
Mike Glenn, pastor of Brentwood Baptist Church, Brentwood, and a member of the education committee, urged messengers to defeat the proposed amendment.
He cited the school’s long history with the convention. “We have asked for 12 more months. I am angry. I know you are angry. Please do not act in anger,” Glenn pleaded. He added passing the amendment would make C-N a victim and aid them in their fund-raising efforts. “Give your education committee and executive board 12 more months. We can always throw them out later. Once the toothpaste is out of the tube, we cannot get it back in.”
Jerry Tidwell, pastor of West Jackson Baptist Church, Jackson, spoke for the amendment. He said his hope was for Carson-Newman to come “back into the fold. My belief is the best thing we can do to motivate Carson-Newman to come back is for us to escrow these funds.” He cautioned that if the amendment was not passed it might make churches “decide if they want to support Carson-Newman with Cooperative Program dollars. Please don’t force churches to make a decision this year with designated giving,” Tidwell urged.
Fred Steelman, pastor of Red Bank Baptist Church, Chattanooga, and a trustee of Carson-Newman, said the trustees exercised an issue of governance. “It was not our intention then or now to distance ourselves from Tennessee Baptist life. Our intention was simply to enable us to do our work more effectively.” He cautioned escrowing funds would limit money for student scholarships.
Wayne Allen of Briarwood Baptist Church, Cordova, said the convention has shown “patience and grace” with Carson-Newman by continuing to fund them out of this year’s budget. “To be a TBC institution their trustees must be elected by this convention,” he said.
Bill Sherman, retired pastor of Woodmont Baptist Church, Nashville, countered the issue was not whether the convention should or should not escrow funds, but rather, “Do we want to be family?”
Acting in a strong response against C-N would polarize and alienate the family, Sherman said. “Let’s be people of grace; let’s be people of love,” he urged.
Bill Daniel, pastor of Ball Camp Baptist Church, Knoxville, cautioned that approving the amendment would “be setting a precedent for our churches to escrow funds from our convention.” He urged the convention not to hold “our students victims because we disagree with actions of trustees.”
Charles Bailey said there would be no motivation for reconciliation if some action was not taken. Also, he said, taking no action might encourage other institutions to do the same thing Carson-Newman did.
Several other messengers spoke for and against the amendment before a ballot vote was taken.
The motion to escrow the funds passed by a 959-742 margin.
Another motion affecting the budget related to Harrison-Chilhowee Baptist Academy.
Messenger Guy Milam, pastor of Springview Baptist Church, Maryville, moved to amend the Cooperative Program budget to restore $100,000 taken from the school’s budget at the 1992 TBC annual meeting in Gatlinburg. Milam said the move was done then because of a financial crunch in the convention.
Reed Dixon, messenger from First Baptist Church, Sweetwater, and a member of the budget and program committee, said the funds were reduced then because of the high receipts per student served by the academy at that time.
Enrollment then was about 100 students, said President Walter Grubb. It has since risen to 215. Grubb, who was in line at a microphone to address the motion when debate was cut off, told Tennessee’s Baptist and Reflector newsjournal he was not aware such a motion would be made prior to the convention.
“I was surprised but certainly pleasantly pleased by the action taken,” he said.
Grubb said he got up to share that the academy received less money from the TBC last year than it did 15 years ago and that it received $730,000 less over the last five-year period than it did during the five-year period before the 1992 convention action.
Messengers were told that adding $100,000 to Harrison-Chilhowee would actually increase the total budget by $160,000 because it would mean more money would be sent to Southern Baptist Convention causes.
Messengers approved the additional funds for HCBA and then adopted another motion which added the amount to the total budget, rather than have the amount taken from other institutions and entities.
Messengers defeated another motion made by Alpha Patrick, a messenger from Ball Camp Church, Knoxville, which would have added $15,000 each to the budget of the Tennessee Baptist Children’s Homes and Tennessee Baptist Adult Homes.
Messengers ultimately adopted a 1998-99 CP budget of $31,467,034, $160,000 more than originally proposed. Of the budget, 62.5 percent will continue to be allocated for TBC causes and 37.5 percent for Southern Baptist Convention causes. The 1997-98 budget was $30,105,514.
Larry Gilmore, pastor of College Heights Baptist Church, Gallatin, was elected president over two other candidates: Vern Powers, retired TBC staff member, and Carl Scarlett, pastor, Miracle Baptist Church, LaVergne. All three men serve on the TBC executive board. Gilmore received 835 votes (50.5 percent); Powers, 699 votes (42.3 percent); and Scarlett, 118 votes (7.1 percent).
In the vice presidential race, David Daughterty, pastor of Shellsford Baptist Church, McMinnville, defeated Ron Murray, pastor of Central Baptist Church, Johnson City, by a margin of 725-681.
A director of missions, John Parrott Jr., of Holston Valley Baptist Association in upper east Tennessee, was elected second vice president over Donald Owens, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church, Lebanon, by a margin of 329-241.
In other actions, messengers:
— overwhelmingly approved a TBC Camp Development Project and to proceed with construction at a cost not to exceed $9,520,201.
— approved three resolutions which expressed opposition to the expansion of legalized gambling in Tennessee, affirmed the respect and value of all human life, and a resolution of gratitude for everyone involved with the 124th annual meeting of the convention.
The gambling resolution cited the following items.
1) opposing any referendum or constitutional convention which would remove the protection provided in the state constitution against various forms of gambling.
2) opposing legalization of video poker.
3) opposing any reinstatement of the Tennessee Racing Commission.
4) supporting the repeal of SB 927, the 1996 simulcast gambling expansion act, so that a race track will not be economically feasible for any gambling interests.
5) refusing any political contributions from gambling-related interests.
The convention’s 1999 meeting will be Nov. 16-17 at First Baptist Church, Franklin.

    About the Author

  • Lonnie Wilkey

    Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist and Reflector (baptistandreflector.org), newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.

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