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University’s dual-convention ties prompts one to initiate inquiry

LUBBOCK, Texas (BP)–The Baptist General Convention of Texas is in the process of evaluating its funding and connection with Houston Baptist University in light of the school’s newly implemented “fraternal relationship” with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

Robert Creech, pastor of University Baptist Church in Houston, introduced a motion at the BGCT annual meeting in Lubbock to have the convention’s Christian education coordinating board look into the BGCT’s relationship with HBU in light of the agreement with the SBTC, including how much funding the university will receive from the BGCT in the future.

“We just need to know what our boundaries are,” Creech said.

Facing a budget crunch, the BGCT limited the $50 per hour scholarship it offers ministry students at HBU and the other Texas Baptist schools who are members of BGCT churches. The SBTC recently signed an agreement with HBU to allocate $75,000 in surplus receipts for ministerial scholarships for HBU students, three missions projects for HBU students who are members of SBTC churches and a special project yet to be determined.

“There may be specific projects or causes that we want to help with and, because our relationship with HBU is just starting, we still have to work out exactly what those might be,” SBTC spokesman Gary Ledbetter said. “But, for instance, because we are fraternally related, churches can send pass-through money to the SBTC designated for HBU students.”

HBU leaders said they did not see the agreement with the SBTC as contrary to their covenant with the BGCT and were not concerned about the motion calling for an inquiry.

“It’s a reasonable request, and it’s their prerogative to see what they want to see,” HBU President Doug Hodo said. “I don’t take umbrage at it.”

Hodo said he believes the BGCT report will focus on concerns that the SBTC will try to put its trustees on HBU’s board. He said the board was not inclined to allow that to happen.

“The BGCT names a fourth of our board and we name three-fourths of our own board, but the SBTC does not name any board members,” Mark Dennison, chairman of HBU’s trustees said. “I would not pretend to know what they will do, but we would welcome their support for the SBTC students who are no longer funded by the BGCT.”

HBU’s decision to enter into a fraternal relationship with the SBTC passed the board of trustees easily. Pete Freeman, pastor of First Baptist Church in The Woodlands, was one of the few dissenting trustees, but he went so far as to resign his position on the board over the agreement.

Ledbetter said the SBTC had no plans to include HBU in their budget because they did not have the appropriate kind of relationship to do so.

“Fraternally related organizations do not get regularly budgeted funds, but it may be that if we have money available for student scholarships we might make a grant to certain students to go to HBU,” Ledbetter said.

Ledbetter emphasized that the relationship between HBU and the SBTC was still very much in the preliminary stages, because HBU only signed the agreement Sept. 23, and the SBTC affirmed it in early November at their annual convention in Corpus Christi. He also dismissed the idea of the SBTC trying to gain control of HBU through the recent agreement.

“Even the resolution they passed underscored their unique affiliation with the Baptist General Convention of Texas,” Ledbetter said. “We would have no basis on which to expect governance of HBU, so the idea of us trying to horn in or control anything is pretty far-fetched. … We don’t have any interest in owning or ruling HBU.”

The BGCT’s executive director, Charles Wade, and coordinator of institutional ministries, Keith Bruce, did not return calls for comment on this story.

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  • Samuel Smith