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BGCT leadership attacks Cooperative Program; proposed budget could defund SBC seminaries

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee is urging every Southern Baptist in Texas to attend the Baptist General Convention of Texas meeting in Corpus Christi.

His statement follows the announcement by a BGCT study committee of its intentions to recommend the virtual defunding of all six Southern Baptist seminaries and the reallocation of $4.3 million to theological entities that are partner-linked with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

The BGCT’s Administrative Committee will meet Wednesday, Sept. 13, to consider the 2001 budget proposal in a special, called meeting to receive the final report from the committee studying the seminaries supported by either the BGCT or the Southern Baptist Convention.

The funding changes are based on research done by a 16-member committee since March, including on-site visits to the SBC seminaries and interviews with presidents, administrators and some school trustees.

“I urge every Southern Baptist in Texas to go to your state convention in Corpus Christi and see and hear first-hand what BGCT leaders are recommending, Chapman said. “I hope you will vote to continue your support, through the traditional Cooperative Program of the SBC, its missions boards, and its seminaries.”

“If you go this year, I hope and pray you will see how important it is to go every year and protect your cherished beliefs and strong relationship with the Southern Baptist convention,” Chapman said. “This is the Baptist way.”

Messengers to the 1999 BGCT in El Paso, Texas, called for the appointment of the study committee to examine the financial resources, theological positions and philosophies of the seminaries and to report its findings to the BGCT Executive Board.

Morris H. Chapman, president and chief executive officer of the Executive Committee of the SBC, said he was dismayed and disappointed by the BGCT proposal.

“Tragically, anti-SBC leaders in the BGCT are now prepared to make the kind of recommendations that have the potential to cause hard feelings among Southern Baptists in Texas and split churches all across the state of Texas,” Chapman said. “They are making every effort to convince the churches they should not support SBC missions and ministries, all the while talking about the autonomy of the local church.”

The proposal, according to a Baptist newspaper in Texas, calls for a virtual defunding of five of the six SBC schools, which currently receive anywhere from $443,000 to $1.5 million annually from the BGCT. The paper reported that Southwestern Baptist Theological seminary would be reduced from $1.5 million to an estimated $875,000. The other seminaries would be almost completely defunded.

The paper further reported that the remaining $4.3 million would be distributed in student grants and special project funds to Truett Seminary at Baylor University, Logsdon School of Theology at Hardin-Simmons University, and the Hispanic Baptist Theological School in San Antonio.

Truett and Logsdon are theological partner-link entities with the CBF, an anti-SBC organization based in Atlanta.

BGCT Executive Director Charles Wade told the paper if the proposal is approved, it could be “the most dramatic thing undertaken by any state Baptist convention.”

“That is an understatement,” said William Crews, chairman of the SBC’s Council of Seminary Presidents and president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. “Evidently, the BGCT leadership is completely uninterested in and uncommitted to the support of theological education for anyone other than Texans — and BGCT Texans at that.”

Crews made his remarks in a statement written on behalf of the CSP, in response to the BGCT proposal.

“This is not an alteration of the Cooperative Program; it is a repudiation of the Cooperative Program,” Crews wrote. “Its underlying motive is hostility, and its effect is directed at thousands of faithful young ministers of the Gospel studying at our seminaries.”

“This is a sad day for all Southern Baptists,” he added. “And a great tragedy for the BGCT.”

Calling the move a cold and calculated move designed to sever the historic ties between the Baptists of Texas and the Southern Baptist Convention, R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said the proposal would “roll back over a century and a half of cooperation.”

“We are deeply saddened by the BGCT proposal,” Mohler said in a prepared statement released Sept. 11. “It is nothing less than a rejection of the Cooperative Program. Driven by anger at the SBC, the leaders of the BGCT now show their true agenda.”

“Sadly, it indicates that the BGCT is interested only in Texas and Texans,” Mohler added. ‘This is a sad commentary on the missions vision and national commitment of the BGCT. The churches of Texas are loyal to the Southern Baptist Convention. Trying to hurt the SBC, the BGCT leaders will instead do irreparable harm to their own convention.”

    About the Author

  • Todd Starnes