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Association seeks building sale to resolve Southwestern Seminary controversy

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–The Tarrant Baptist Association’s executive board voted unanimously Jan. 24 to offer to sell a building that has been a point of contention with Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

If the seminary is unwilling to buy the building on its campus in Fort Worth, Texas, for fair market value, the TBA executive board asked that the matter be referred to a three-member arbitration panel as stipulated in a 1982 affiliation agreement, according to TBA moderator Al Meredith. The executive board also resolved to pray for seminary leaders in the matter.

The seminary sent a letter on Dec. 10, 2010, informing the association that it had six months to vacate the building located at 4520 James Ave. in Fort Worth. According to Meredith, while the building is located on the seminary’s campus, Southwestern transferred the deed to the association in 1997. Meredith added that three or four years ago representatives of the seminary inquired about the availability of the property, but that nothing had been said on the matter between then and last December. A second letter from the seminary dated Jan. 18 reaffirmed the seminary’s position, but allowed for some leeway in when the association would have to move, Meredith said.

“I don’t have another step if these measures don’t resolve the issue,” Meredith, pastor of Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, told Baptist Press after the meeting, voicing hope that the issue can be resolved through a negotiated settlement. Otherwise, “If the TBA wins, the Kingdom loses. If Southwestern wins, the Kingdom loses. No one wants to see the Kingdom lose because of this.”

Representatives of Southwestern have declined comment until the matter is resolved.

Published reports indicate that the seminary holds that the affiliation agreement between the entities has been breached and is no longer in force.

The seminary’s letter raised two issues: the TBA’s inclusion of churches that are not in “friendly cooperation” with the Southern Baptist Convention and a lack of help with finding preaching assignments and ministry opportunities for seminary students and faculty.

TBA member Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth no longer is affiliated with the SBC and the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT) over differences in how to deal with homosexuality among church members. The Southern Baptist Convention stipulates that any church that affirms homosexuality is “not in friendly cooperation.” The SBC voted in 2009 to cease relationship with the church, and in 2010 the church voted to leave the BGCT.

“What the SBC does is not binding on state or local institutions or the local churches,” Meredith said. “It is different for Southwestern, since it is a denominational entity. As an association, we’re trying to work with people who are archconservatives and moderates and everything in between.”

As to the association’s lack of help in placing students and faculty, Meredith said, “The great majority of the pastors on staff in the Tarrant Baptist Association attended Southwestern. At my church, I am the only person on staff who did not attend Southwestern. That does not even take into account the myriad of seminary students who volunteer in TBA churches.”

Meredith added, “I pray for Paige Patterson and Southwestern Seminary every day, as I know many of our members do.”
Samuel Smith is a writer in Fort Worth, Texas.

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