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Texas convention to escrow Houston Baptist Univ. funds

HOUSTON (BP)–Houston Baptist University officials entered the Memorial Day weekend not having received notice from Baptist General Convention of Texas officials about its executive board’s action May 25 to escrow nearly $500,000 in funding because of the university’s relationship with the conservative Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

The 234-member BGCT board voted — with only 12 dissents — to ask HBU to rescind its “fraternal relationship” with the five-year-old SBTC and approved “temporarily” escrowing, beginning June 1, all funding except $169,000 in “ministerial financial aid,” a BGCT news release stated. A motion to soften the language of the request garnered 19 votes, the BGCT reported.

Meanwhile, Houston Baptist University President E.D. Hodo said by telephone May 28 the school had received no notice of the BGCT board’s action and would not comment until it did.

“We have not received anything formally from [the BGCT board], nor have we heard from them informally since they took the vote,” Hodo said.

Last September, when the SBTC and HBU agreed to an informal “fraternal relationship,” HBU trustees re-affirmed the school’s unique affiliation with the BGCT, from which it receives annual budgeted funding.

At the time, BGCT Executive Director Charles Wade said in an HBU news release, “We recognize and affirm the university’s desire to serve all Baptists in Texas and beyond, while at the same time maintaining its historic partnership with the BGCT.”

But messengers to the BGCT’s 2003 annual meeting instructed the convention’s Christian Education Coordinating Board to appoint a review committee to examine the SBTC/HBU relationship and clarify the BGCT/HBU relationship. The BGCT board heard and adopted that report May 25.

The report said HBU’s fraternal relationship with the SBTC “violates the spirit and intent” of its BGCT agreement, forged in 2001 after HBU reduced BGCT representation on its board, that it would “maintain a unique affiliation with the BGCT by not affiliating or establishing a formal relationship with other denominations, conventions or religious entities.”

Since HBU’s move to allow only one-fourth of its trustees to be appointed by the BGCT, the BGCT has trimmed HBU’s funding in half, from about $1.5 million to around $750,000.

After the May 25 meeting, Wade said funds would be escrowed temporarily “until some of these can be worked out.” BGCT President Ken Hall urged care in moving forward with the action “if we want to redeem this relationship” with HBU. Hall said the ultimate decision rests with BGCT messengers.

HBU is the only affiliated BGCT school to relate to the SBTC. Texas Baptist Men, a BGCT auxiliary ministry that receives BGCT budgeted funding, 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 auxiliary ministry — 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.

Wade said Texas Baptist Men’s fraternal relationship with the SBTC was an “accommodation” because of its unique work among BGCT churches and SBTC churches, according to the news release. BGCT institutions are different, he said.

Unlike Criswell College in Dallas and the two-year Jacksonville College in east Texas, which have affiliate relationships with the SBTC involving partial governance and SBTC budgeted funds, the Houston university receives no budgeted SBTC funding and the SBTC has no governing authority in it.

In 2000, SBTC Executive Director Jim 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.

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