News Articles

Texas leader envisions cut in funds to 3 SBC seminaries

ABILENE, Texas (BP)–A $3 million loss in funding from Texas Baptists to three Southern Baptist Convention seminaries could lie ahead, Russell H. Dilday Jr., president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, was quoted as saying Jan. 19 by an Abilene newspaper.
The funding loss, Dilday told the Abilene Reporter-News, could result from a change in the state’s procedures for allocating Cooperative Program gifts from local churches. Such a step, which might be proposed at next November’s BGCT annual meeting, Dilday said, would give churches broader choices in selecting which SBC entities to support with their funds.
Dilday — the first BGCT leader to be publicly quoted as envisioning funding cuts for SBC agencies — was fired as president of the SBC’s Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1994 after nearly 16 years in office.
In the Abilene newspaper article, Dilday cited three seminaries which could face the $3 million loss: Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky; Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.; and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo.
Southern is the SBC’s oldest seminary; Southeastern is headed by the SBC’s current president, Paige Patterson. Of Southwestern, Dilday described it as moving in a “fundamentalist” direction, but he said “it would still receive funds from the state convention,” according to the newspaper’s paraphrase of Dilday’s remarks.
Morris H. Chapman, president of the SBC Executive Committee, issued a statement Jan. 25, noting, “It is disappointing in a day when state conventions and the Southern Baptist Convention are strengthening their partnership that Dr. Dilday would suggest an approach which erodes the relationship between the BGCT and the Southern Baptist Convention.
“We trust that the vast majority of Texas Southern Baptist churches will exercise wise judgment, and remain loyally committed to the historic missions and theological training of the Southern Baptist Convention,” Chapman continued.
“From its inception, the Cooperative Program has been a partnership between the state conventions and the Southern Baptist Convention for eliciting support from their common constituents, the churches,” Chapman said. “Of course, the churches are always free to give as they wish, but the states and Southern Baptist Convention have a covenant with each other in the Cooperative Program. The agreement is that the state convention will not only promote and receive contributions for its own ministries but also will promote and receive contributions for Southern Baptist Convention ministries.
“Some seem intent on shattering this historic partnership,” Chapman said. “What Dr. Dilday envisions is a serious and unnecessary departure from the proven method of the Cooperative Program.”
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Seminary and a former president of the SBC’s Council of Seminary Presidents, said in a statement he believes Texas Baptists “expect Southern Baptist seminaries to adhere to the very highest standards of theological conviction and to do so without apology. … [We] are committed to offering the very finest programs in theological education to the churches of Texas and the entire Southern Baptist Convention.”
Mohler described Dilday’s comments as “a case of posturing in an attempt to dissuade Texas Baptists from their historic and longstanding partnership with the Southern Baptist Convention. I am convinced that the vast majority of faithful Texas Baptists cherish and will continue to support the historic partnership we share.”
No specific proposal for the shift in funding was reported in the quotes attributed Dilday, who is now a homiletics professor at Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary and was elected BGCT president in 1997 and re-elected to a second term last November.
The BGCT’s communications office was not aware of any specific funding proposal on Jan. 25, but a spokesman said a funding committee is continuing to function in connection with changes voted by the BGCT in 1997 to explore and inaugurate efforts in Sunday school literature, theological education, the potential for sending missionaries and various other denomination-like initiatives.
The state convention already allows churches to designate funds away from five specific entities and still be credited with participating in the Cooperative Program. The BGCT’s four funding plans also include one which allocates two-thirds to BGCT causes and one-third to SBC causes. Yet another plan provides funding for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship among its options.
Most Texas churches select the plan which allocates one-third of their Cooperative Program gifts to SBC causes, Dilday said, according to the newspaper.
Among the reasons for the possible funding cuts, Dilday said in the article, was the SBC action last summer to add a statement on the family to the convention’s historic Baptist Faith and Message confessional statement. “We need to quickly get past that,” Dilday was quoted as saying. The “Baptist image has been scarred and must be repaired,” according to the newspaper’s paraphrase of Dilday’s related comments.
The family amendment, while much debated in the nation’s media, drew affirmation from 131 evangelical leaders and their spouses in a full-page ad in USA Today Aug. 26. The signers included Franklin Graham, of Samaritan’s Purse ministry, and Anne Graham Lotz, of AnGeL Ministries, two of Billy Graham’s children; Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and his wife, Janet; Prison Fellowship founder Charles Colson and his wife, Patty; Campus Crusade founders Bill and Vonette Bright; Promise Keepers founder Bill McCartney and his wife, Lyndi; Dallas-area African American pastors and popular speakers Tony Evans and T.D. Jakes and Evans’ wife, Lois; and Joseph Stowell, president of Moody Bible Institute, and his wife, Marti.
Dilday, in his comments in Abilene, also declared that the BGCT is “not a farm club” for the SBC.
Chapman noted in response: “To suggest anyone would think the BGCT is a farm club of the Southern Baptist Convention does great disservice to our fraternal partnership. In 25 years of active participation at every level of Baptist life, I have never heard, nor heard of, one Southern Baptist Convention leader who referred to any state convention so disrespectfully. It appears to display a willingness to drive a wedge between partners who have had good relationship through the years.”