BGCT approves renegotiated agreement with Baylor University

Texas Baptists


AMARILLO—Messengers to the Baptist General Convention of Texas annual meeting approved a renegotiated agreement with Baylor University, replacing a 20-year old agreement that sets the terms for the relationship between the university and the state convention.

The renegotiated agreement—approved with only a smattering of dissenting votes at the Oct. 24 meeting— gives Baylor greater influence in determining the composition of its governing board.

Texas BaptistsFor 20 years, the BGCT has related to Baylor through a special agreement the convention and university reached after Baylor changed its charter. That agreement included the stipulation, “All members of the board of directors shall be Baptists.”

However, the 1991 agreement also stated, “The BGCT recognizes that Baylor is an independent, nonprofit, nonmember corporation under the laws of the State of Texas with the full legal right, power and authority to amend or rescind its articles of incorporation or bylaws without approval or consent of the BGCT or any other party.”

In February, Baylor opened membership on its board of regents to non-Baptist Christians. In response, the BGCT Executive Board in May directed Associate Executive Director Steve Vernon to invite Baylor University President Ken Starr to develop a process for renegotiating the relationship agreement.

A six-member committee—with Roger Hall, Ed Jackson and Bill Brian representing the BGCT and Buddy Jones, David Harper and Ramiro Peña representing Baylor—negotiated the revised agreement.

Brian, an attorney and member of First Baptist Church in Amarillo, pointed to the preamble of the new agreement that placed a renegotiated agreement within the context of a desire on the part of both Baylor and the BGCT to “continue and enhance their longstanding and mutually beneficial relationship.”

Jackson, a retired engineer from First Baptist Church in Garland, acknowledged the negotiating process as “not a Pollyanna assignment” but had its share of “low points and rough spots.” However, he presented the final outcome as a positive way to move forward.

Roger Hall, retired BGCT treasurer from First Baptist Church in Midlothian, emphasized the negotiating team’s desire to simply and streamline the agreement and provide a framework to “foster future cooperation.”

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Since 1991, Baylor University has elected 75 percent of its board of regents, and messengers to the BGCT annual meeting have elected 25 percent.

Under the revised agreement, the school’s BGCT-elected regents will be nominated by a five-member committee composed of two people designated by the convention, the president of Baylor or a person the president designates, the chair of the Baylor regents or a person the chair designates and one additional member designated by the regent chair, with the stipulation that individual must be a member of a BGCT-affiliated church.

Previously, the five-member group that nominates BGCT-elected Baylor regents consisted of four people named by the BGCT Committee on Nominations for Boards of Affiliated Ministries and either the chair of the Baylor regents or a person he designates.

After originating with the five-person committee, the nominees for regents will go to the Committee on Nominations for Board of Affiliated Ministries and then on to the state convention annual meeting for consideration.

The revised agreement also states Baylor has the right to confirm —“or not to confirm with good cause”—regents elected by the BGCT as set forth in the university’s governing documents.

“Because the BGCT’s authority is a delegation of authority from Baylor and because of issues related to Baylor’s accreditation, the BGCT agrees that it will consider Baylor’s best interests as the only criterion in the selection of Baylor … (regents), subject to a requirement that the individual person elected shall be a member of a BGCT church,” the agreement states.

Les Hollon, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in San Antonio, asked what necessitated the change from a four-to-one BGCT/Baylor ratio in the group from which regent nominees originates to a three-to-two Baylor/BGCT ratio, with the Baylor regents retaining the right to reject an elected regent.

In terms of the change in composition of the nominating group, Brian explained, “Baylor wanted more input into nomination” of regents at that early stage.

Both he and Jackson pointed out a BGCT-elected regent could be rejected only for substantive cause. Jackson also noted that while Baylor will have an advantage in step one of the process, the second and third steps—the Committee on Nominations for Board of Affiliated Ministries and the state convention annual meeting—are 100 percent BGCT.

David Lowrie, pastor of First Baptist Church in El Paso and past president of the BGCT, spoke in favor of the renegotiated relationship agreement. He compared it to a couple who renew vows after many years of marriage.

Just as changes in those renewed vows reflect how the husband and wife have changed since their wedding, the renegotiated agreement with Baylor acknowledges that both the university and the state convention have changed in the last two decades, Lowrie said.

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