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Houston Baptist blazes new ground in affirming relationship with SBTC

HOUSTON (BP)–The Houston Baptist University trustee board voted Sept. 23 to affirm a “fraternal relationship” with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC), marking the first time a school affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas officially has related to the five-year-old SBTC.

Jim Richards, executive director of the SBTC, which includes 1,361 congregations, welcomed the new relationship.

“The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention is comprised of churches that had a part in building Houston Baptist University,” he said. “Students who are members of SBTC churches attend HBU. It is only natural for an educational institution and a convention with compatible views on the nature of Scripture and Baptist distinctives to work together.”

Richards commended the work of Houston Baptist University President E.D Hodo, Trustee Chairman Mark Denison, and a study committee, led by board member David Stutts, which recommended the relationship.

Meanwhile, trustees of the liberal arts school also re-affirmed the university’s unique affiliation and relationship with the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT), from which it receives budgeted funds.

Charles Wade, BGCT executive director, said in a university press release the BGCT appreciates the “unique relationship” it has with Houston Baptist University, and, “We recognize and affirm the university’s desire to serve all the Baptists in Texas and beyond, while at the same time maintaining its historic partnership with the BGCT.”

Denison, pastor of First Baptist Church in Gainesville, Texas, said such relationships strengthen Houston Baptist University’s ministry.

“Our desire is to reach out to all Texas Baptists, and likewise, for all Texas Baptists to reach out to Houston Baptist University in ways that will honor and not violate the unique affiliation we have with the BGCT,” he said.

Preceding the university’s decision, Texas Baptist Men voted in February after an exclusive, longstanding relationship with the Baptist General Convention of Texas, to build a fraternal relationship with the SBTC while remaining a BGCT affiliate — the first such entity to do so.

Texas Baptist Men, comprised of thousands of volunteers in Texas Baptist churches, offers hands-on ministry in areas such as disaster relief and construction support.

Andy Andreason, who was Texas Baptist Men’s acting president at the time, told his board the fraternal relationship “permits us to go into every single church in the state to carry out the ministries God has called us to do” while maintaining ties with conventions outside Texas and with the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board.

Unlike The Criswell College in Dallas, which has an affiliate relationship with the SBTC involving partial governance and SBTC budgeted funds, the Houston university will not receive SBTC budget funds and the SBTC will have no governing authority in it.

In 2000, the SBTC’s Richards invited fraternal relationships with institutions built by Texas Baptists based on agreement of a “high view of Scripture” and an officially expressed desire to work with the SBTC.

Houston Baptist University was founded in 1960 as Houston Baptist College and is a coeducational school of more than 2,600 graduate and undergraduate students. Union Baptist Association initiated a study committee to explore starting a Baptist college in the Houston area in 1952 and eight years later the school was born, the school’s website notes. The university’s student body “reflects the diverse cultural makeup of Houston,” according to the website.

The school’s preamble states it is a “Christian liberal arts university dedicated to the development of moral character, the enrichment of spiritual lives, and the perpetuation of growth in Christian ideals” and founded “under the providence of God.”

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  • Jerry Pierce