On March 10, 2011, the board of trustees of Houston Baptist University voted to allow up to one-third of their trustees to be “active members of non-Baptist Christian churches.” This action was taken by the board after the messengers of the Baptist General Convention of Texas rejected this proposal at the 2010 Annual meeting in McAllen.
For some this action sends up a huge red flag that HBU has put both feet on the slippery slope and in time will be lost to the Baptist family and possibly to the Christian family. I personally disagree strongly.
Clearly this action by the board of trustees is a very serious matter, and either very courageous or fool hearty. I personally believe it was a very courageous act. One of the interesting twists of serving on a board of an institution is that your primary loyalty must be to the institution one serves rather than another governing body like the BGCT. I suspect it was out of this sense of duty and obligation that the board voted as they did.
It appears the trustees at HBU believed it was in the vital best interest of the school to broaden the scope of its board. HBU is distinctly a “Baptist” university, but its student body is only one-third Baptist. I suspect this trend has been in place for more than a decade. The Christian world in Texas has dramatically changed as local churches under younger leadership have moved away from the “labels” of mainline denominations. However, I suspect there are some students at HBU who are members of Baptist churches but don’t know it because their home churches dropped the name “Baptist” years ago.
In this rapidly transitioning environment, I believe it is wise for HBU to broaden the reach of its board. It will give us as Baptists the opportunity to network beyond our tight family circles and to expand our influence within the Kingdom of God. We must remember we are members of one Kingdom–under one King.
Personally, I believe the “Baptist” recipe as Dr. Bill Pinson likes to refer to our unique Baptist distinctives are key principles for the future of the Kingdom. Our commitment to soul competency, religious liberty, and separation of church and state are key principles for the world we live in today. I believe these principles have the potential to be “contagious” and to spill out of our Baptist schools and to influence what the Kingdom of God looks like for the generations to come.
It is critical that our Baptist universities to train a generation of young leaders who understand what it means to be a Christ-follower in a very flat world of pluralism. We must embrace our future with faith to claim the mountain not fear of the slippery slope.
Granted in American history we have seen great religious institutions like Harvard and Yale wander from their moorings, but this is a new day with new challenges. We need not fear strong Christian leaders from other denominations, we would be wise to partner with them. On the mission field, missionaries of all backgrounds work together in great cooperation because Christ binds them together beyond their differences. We would be wise to take on such a mentality in Texas.
At the end of the day, I would encourage us to trust the trustees of HBU. These men and women have prayerfully made a bold courageous decision, and I pray God will bless them as they seek to move HBU into the future.