MILL VALLEY, Calif. (BP)–The proposed defunding of Southern Baptist seminaries by the Baptist General Convention of Texas means the effective end of the Cooperative Program in so far as the BGCT is concerned, according to a statement released Sept. 11 by the Council of Seminary Presidents.
William Crews, president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, and chairman of the council, issued the statement on behalf of his fellow seminary presidents. The document was signed by all six seminary presidents including Charles S. Kelley, Jr., president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary; Michael Whitehead, interim president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; L. Paige Patterson, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; and Kenneth Hemphill, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Following, is the response to the proposal from the BGCT Theological Education Study Committee:
“The proposed defunding of SBC seminaries by the Baptist General Convention of Texas means the effective end of the Cooperative Program in so far as the BGCT is concerned. This is not an alteration of the Cooperative Program; it is a repudiation of the Cooperative Program. Its underlying motive is hostility, and its effect is directed at thousands of faithful young ministers of the Gospel studying at our seminaries.
“The Cooperative Program is an agreement between the SBC and the state conventions. No state convention has the right to redefine this agreement unilaterally. The proposed BGCT action is a dagger thrust at the heart of the Cooperative Program. This is a sad day for all Southern Baptists and a great tragedy for the BGCT.
“We met with the BGCT committee and welcomed its members to our campuses. We were glad to have them visit us. They were treated graciously and their questions were answered honestly. We would do the same for any interested Southern Baptist.
“Nevertheless, the proposal revealed on Sept. 8 to the BGCT Administrative Committee confirms our worst perceptions. We do not accept the claim that the BGCT study committee gave fair consideration to the issues at stake. The statements made by Robert Campbell, chairman of the committee, are identical with the concerns previously raised by BGCT leaders openly hostile to the Southern Baptist Convention.
“Our initial reluctance to meet with the BGCT study committee was caused by statements made to us by BGCT leaders, who said that the central issue of concern to the BGCT was the requirement that our faculty members sign and commit themselves to the Baptist Faith and Message, our SBC confession of faith. Prompted by this concern, CSP Chairman Bill Crews, president of Golden Gate Theological Seminary, issued a letter to Dr. Campbell affirming that all SBC seminary faculty are indeed required to sign and affirm the statement. The BGCT committee came a long way to ask a question that had already been answered.
“We are absolutely confident that the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention expect nothing less than what we pledge — that those who teach on our faculties affirm our cherished Baptist beliefs. This requirement is not new. As a matter of fact — it was in place when some current BGCT leaders taught and lead in our seminaries.
“The BGCT study committee did not conduct a serious study of our seminaries. Though offered the opportunity, the committee chose not to meet with our students or faculty. This is contrasted with the fact that the committee revealed that it had met with former faculty members who are at odds with our commitments.
“The charges made against our seminaries lack merit and misrepresent our schools. Our trustees serve faithfully as stewards of the trust of the Southern Baptist Convention. We gladly answer to them for our leadership, and to Southern Baptists we are pleased to give a full account. The more Southern Baptists know about our schools, the greater will be their support and enthusiasm.
“According to the Baptist Standard, BGCT Executive Director Charles Wade called this proposal ‘the most dramatic thing undertaken by any state convention.’ That is an understatement. 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. Their Great Commission horizon apparently ends at the Texas border.
“We are blessed to have over 10,000 students studying at our six seminaries — preparing for ministry and mission service at home and around the world. They will be the real victims of this proposal. The defunding of our institutions is an act of intended injury, and the harm will fall on our students. They can least afford it. The result of this will inevitably be fewer ministers of the Gospel and missionaries on the field. This does not seem to concern the BGCT leaders. Is this really what Texas Baptists want?
“The BGCT claims that needs at home require that fewer dollars be sent on to national and international causes. Taken to its logical conclusion, this argument will spell the end of the BGCT. Why should local churches not keep the money even closer to home? The BGCT leaders’ hostility to the SBC is leading them to take actions injurious to their own cause — and to the cause of the Gospel.
“We are proud of our seminaries, proud of our students, proud of our faculties, and proud to serve Southern Baptists. Something far more important than money is at stake in this proposal. Our convictions are not up for sale. Faithfulness to the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention; faithfulness to the Bible as ‘truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter,’ and faithfulness to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ are far more important than finances.
“We are confident that Southern Baptists will support our seminaries and enable us to accomplish the mission they have assigned us. We take our stand with Southern Baptists, and we know that Southern Baptists will stand with us. The question is now before Texas Baptists. Where will Texas Baptists stand?”