BALTIMORE—Glorieta Conference Center would have been worth millions of dollars to a commercial developer, but it was sold last year for $1 because leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention agency owning the property say they wanted the New Mexico campground to continue as a Christian ministry.
“We could have sold Glorieta for several million dollars, according to the appraisal, but it would have been sold to a commercial entity, and we don’t know what would have been at the place called Glorieta,” LifeWay Christian Resources President Thom Rainer said June 11 in a report to messengers at the SBC annual meeting in Baltimore.
“I would rather sell Glorieta and see the gospel continue than to see a casino go on what is this sacred ground,” Rainer said in response to a question from John Yarbrough, a retired Southern Baptist minister and one-time home missionary who says he purchased a home on leased property in the spirit of revitalizing the 2,400-acre mountain campus which had mounting deferred maintenance needs.
Yarbrough insisted the decision to sell the property “brought injury” to him and other homeowners because a buyout offer from the new owners was below fair market value.
“So I’m asking you, Dr. Rainer, would you provide a fair market value to homeowners and churches that were invested in the campus of Glorieta?” asked Yarbrough, a messenger from First Baptist Church in Carrollton.
Sympathy for the homeowners
Rainer expressed sympathy for the owners of about 65 homes at Glorieta standing on property typically secured through one-year leases, anticipating the day might come when the agreement would change.
The buyer, a Christian camping organization out of Texas called Glorieta 2.0, was under no legal obligation to compensate the lessees in any way, but offered options including purchase for a maximum of $100,000, Rainer said.
Part of the problem in determining a fair market value is the fact the properties on which the lodgings were built are leased and not owned by the homeowner, he added.
“Some would say very little,” Rainer said. “They (homeowners) would certainly say more.”
In a statement issued after the annual meeting, Yarbrough said, “The obligation to provide a fair market value to homeowners was not the responsibility of the new buyers but LifeWay, who had a relationship with homeowners for nearly 60 years.”
Rainer responded to criticism that the new owners are not Southern Baptists by reminding messengers: “We offered Glorieta to every national entity in the Southern Baptist Convention for a dollar. We made it available to any state convention, including New Mexico, for the same.”
LifeWay’s ‘tough decision’
After exhausting options for keeping the camp under the Southern Baptist umbrella, Rainer said LifeWay leaders were left with a “tough decision.”
“Do we continue to lose millions of dollars, because we get no Cooperative Program money and continue to find ways to underwrite that where we do not have funds, or do we go on and sell it to a Christian ministry?” Rainer asked.
“We made the decision to sell it to what was then called Camp Eagle, a Christian camp out of Texas, and now called Glorieta 2.0, for the very reason that they want to continue the ministry that is there.”
One of the Glorieta homeowners went to court seeking to nullify the sale. A hearing on several motions is scheduled June 19 at the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico.