Baylor President Says He’s Ready for Battle With Baptist Fundamentalists
HOUSTON (AP) _ The head of the nation’s largest Baptist university said Monday he’s tired of being monitored and second-guessed by fundamentalist extremists and he’s going to fight to keep the school independent.
Control of Baylor University will be the focal topic when the Baptist General Convention of Texas kicks off Tuesday, said university President Herbert H. Reynolds.
″As I understand the Bible, one day I am going to face the Lord. I’m not going to meet 13 other people standing around to take authority. Therefore, I don’t need them down here,″ Reynolds said.
″For the first time in 12 years, as far as I’m concerned, on Sept. 21, action was taken to thwart the juggernaut that we have seen in the Southern Baptist Convention,″ Reynolds said.
On Sept. 21, Baylor’s board of trustees voted 30-7 with one abstention to revise the school’s charter, establishing a new board of regents to govern the school.
The new board, which eventually will have 24 members, will be elected primarily by the board members themselves with a quarter of the members coming from the board of trustees, which would continue to be elected by the Baptist General Convention.
At a news conference Monday, Reynolds said the decision came as a result of continued friction from overzealous conservatives who were threatening to take control of Baylor, the nation’s largest and oldest Baptist university.
″We did not seek in any way whatsoever to remove ourselves from the lives of Texas Baptists,″ Reynolds said.
″We have been disenchanted and unhappy with those in this extremist movement and we definitely have sought to distance ourselves from them,″ Reynolds said. ″We simply came to the point that we thought the danger was too great that we might lose our opportunity to exercise the kind of religious freedom that we want as an institution.″
A 25-member committee reviewing the relationship between the Baptist General Convention of Texas and Baylor met for several hours Monday to assemble a report to the convention.
″We’re simply trying to get our minds together,″ said Robert Naylor, chairman of the panel and retired president of the Southwest Seminary in Fort Worth. ″I think we’ll come out of this beyond our crisis.
″Baylor and the Convention of Texas have existed for 100 years in a bilateral relationship,″ he said. ″Our people support Baylor through the Baptist General Convention of Texas. The relationship has been as identical as family.″
Naylor said the school’s action in turning its board of trustees into a self-perpetuating panel, rather than one which had been controlled by the convention, was done unilaterally.
″And that has created much of the chaos,″ he said. ″We were not notified and it was in direct contradiction to the constitution of the Texas Convention, which provides specifically that no agency of the Convention shall change its charter without the prior approval of the Convention.
Naylor said the convention over the past 40 years has given the school some $78 million. He said many of the endowments given to the school were made under the belief that the convention would continue to control the school.
Reynolds said the school was not going to be bullied over funding to rescind the charter change.
″There’s about $6 million a year we have been getting from the Texas Baptists, which is about 5 percent of the money we’ve been getting from all sources,″ Reynolds said.
″We have been extremely grateful to the Texas Baptist for this money. But we will not subject ourselves to the kind of focus that exists today just to save the money,″ he said.