Houston Baptist University: A Matter of “Trust”

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.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Houston Baptist University: A Matter of “Trust”

  1. David, I could not disagree more with your opinions. As a trustee of a school, I believe the charter that existed between the school and the convention is a sacred trust. Baylor and HBU have both abrogated that trust by disavowing what they had earlier agreed to. Frankly, I have no problem with what they have done as long as they take the next step and refuse to take any funds from the convention. You can’t have it both ways. Either you are part of the family and live up to your agreements or you are not.

  2. "Proud" Texan

    Hello Dave and Others,

    Well, regardless of what others think, in this case I guess we’ll have an opportunity to see what ultimately happens, right? Yes, we will see what happens at a later time. Like the story in the Bible says — if it is of God, you could not stop it anwyway…. and if is is NOT of God, then it will all come crashing down in a few years. HBU could be in for a BIG, BAD surpirse later on down the line!!! Yes, we will see. If and when they change the name to H.P. (Presbyterian) U. or H.M. (Methodist) U., or H.C. (Catholic) U., we will know… LOL!!!

    While any strong and faithful Baptist knows, these decisions to remove BGCT policy slowly but surely sneaks up on you!!! It is never a good thing as far as being a Baptist and being a part of the BGCT is concerned … right?

    Let’s face it, if was a GOOD thing, we would have done it years ago, right? Yes, ALL Texas and SBC Baptist Institutions, Agencies, Boards, etc., would have done this very same thing. But, there must be a valid and good decision why we have not already done this … right? Right!

    I think it is because deep down in our souls all Baptists know that it is indeed a slippery slope that H.B.U. is now one. But, we will be able to see just how fast and how far they slide down the slope. YES, ee will SEE!!! I am afraid of what we will see, and I do not think we will like it.

    But, bottom line — it is all about the money, right? They say H.B.U. will get more donations, bigger grants, larger this and bigger that… “SHOW ME THE MONEY” the current H.B.U. leaders are saying, and to me that is the bottom line… the coffers are getting low, the donations are getting weak, and the bills and obligations are going up and up. So, they start looking for all sources of revenue, and that (in part at least) means opening the Boards up to non-Baptists — in hopes of tapping into some of that non-Baptist money. Yes, we will see, won’t we!?!

  3. Thank you for your perspectives. I appreciate your views and hope I understand the passion of your positions. I would agree that the financial pressures faced today are great and this move by HBU has been colored by those realities, but I also believe that we are living in a different world than the one faced years ago.

    I hope and pray I am not deceived. I believe Baptist need to take the lead in the evangelical community and circling our wagons would be the wrong move.

    Ken, concerning the money, I can see your point. I believe steps may be taken in this direction. I recommend that BU and HBU start the conversation. I believe if money is what holds us together then our relationships are shallow and secular. If we are truly followers of Jesus the bond needs to be far greater than financial. Like the relationship between a parent and a child, there comes a point when the child grows up and leaves home to stand on his or her own feet, but leaving home does not mean ending the relationship. BU and HBU owe a deep debt of gratitude to the BGCT churches for years and years of support. I pray this bond of love will keep the relationship strong and vital regardless if any money passes between them.

    Pray for the leaders of these two great schools–in these days of transition we need to keep our heads and keep looking to the Lord for strength and guidance.

  4. Lee

    I think it is most important that HBU retain its Christian distinctiveness. How much of that is flavored by its Baptist identity is probably irrrelevant to its future as a Christian university. We have several examples to show us that being Baptist, or having a Baptist identity, is not a guarantee that the school will remain distinctively Christian. Having board members who are directly interested in the university, and who are committed to its Christian mission and purpose is a good thing, regardless of whether or not they attend a Baptist church.

    I’ve heard the argument, “But Baptists are paying the bills.” No, they aren’t. The contribution from the BGCT is just a fraction of HBU’s expenses, which are mostly funded by tuition and fees paid by the students, two thirds of whom are not Baptist. If they are like my alma mater, a lot of the endowment funds and private contributions have also come from non-Baptists.

    As far as the relationship goes with the BGCT, well, Baylor took similar action several years ago, and the convention not only endorsed the move, but increased their convention allocation. Why treat HBU differently?

    HBU is uniquely positioned, as an evangelical, Christian university in the fourth largest city in America. It has a bright future. If it remains distinctively Christian, it will be strengthened, not weakened, by opening its leadership and vision to like-minded Christians who live and work nearby. If the BGCT doesn’t want to contribute to that out of some outdated sense of denominational exclusivity, then it needs to cut the financial cord itself. But to be fair, it should cut Baylor’s financial cord, too.

  5. Angie

    David,
    I wholeheartedly agree with your points. I feel that a good Christian, of any denomination, will respect what HBU has and will always stand for. As Christians, we are all followers of Jesus Christ. Is the vehicle that we choose to follow him in as important as the message he would like us to deliver? Christians of all denominations need to band together to strengthen that message.

  6. Well, here’s a heads up . . . the Houston Baptist University are taking up the matter of a name change for the University. So much for the “Baptist” heritage. The University is now run by a group of people “who know not Joseph.”

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