This week I had the privilege and responsibility to attend the Board of Trustees meeting of Howard Payne University in Brownwood. I wanted to take a moment to reflect upon life in a small Baptist school in the heart of Texas.
Excitement hangs in the air around this small campus community of slightly more than 1000 resident students as they celebrate the first National championship in the history of the school. The Lady Jackets basketball team made history in Holland, Michigan as they soundly defeated Messiah College to capture the championship by a score of 68-54. The Lady Jackets were led to victory by National Division III player of the year Meia Daniels and two unsung senior leaders Kimberly Hoffman and Stacey Blalock. The Lady Jackets finished the season as the only NCAA team in the nation with an undefeated record at 33-0! Coach Chris Kielsmeier captured the essence of Lady Jacket basketball and the spirit of Howard Payne when he said, “I coach truly great people, not just great players!” This is a proud moment for collegiate athletics because a team of non-scholarship athletes competed valiantly together and won. Needless to say everyone associated with Howard Payne is holding their “stingers” just a bit higher because of the “perfect swarm”.
The celebration was tempered by the harsh realities of trying to higher Christian education on a shoe string budget. Howard Payne suffers like many small conservative schools around the nation with the battle of trying to stay above water. While many schools are thriving and expanding, Howard Payne continues to provide quality Christian education at great sacrifice by its facility and administration. Once again the staff will not receive a raise because the money is simply not there.
Howard Payne University works in cooperation with the Baptist General Convention of Texas. As many of my readers know the BGCT too has had its financial woes that has hurts it ability to support the mission of its colleges and universities. Once again the financial support of the BGCT had to be reduced. The reduction was minimal but was still felt. One lesson I have learned is the small financial role the BGCT actually plays in the life of its school. Only 5% of the HPU budget comes from the BGCT. There was a day when the BGCT did more. I pray as the BGCT gets back on track that we will be able to give more each year rather than less. The education of the next generation of Baptist leaders is a critical mission we cannot abandon.
A “Currie” Moment
David Currie, leader of the Texas Baptist Committed, and I had the opportunity to sit side by side at the board meeting. In the course of the day, Currie commented to me about comments that I have made about wanting a seat at the table. He noted that I was at the table with him and that my wife Robyn was now on the Worldconnex board. I must acknowledge things are changing and for this I am grateful. I believe good days of dialogue and cooperation are ahead in the days ahead.
Over the past twelve months, David Currie and I have had a number of frank and open conversations and communiqués. I have found David to be forthright and direct. I have found him to be passionate and committed to the health and vitality of the BGCT as much as any person I know. David and I do not always see things eye to eye, but I have found him to be someone willing to listen and to share his perspective. Much like an airplane needs both wings to fly, I believe the BGCT needs its moderate and conservative leaders to work together to get our mission airborne. David and I have committed ourselves to keep talking and to keep looking for ways to work together. I pray you will join us in this effort.