NOBTS & Sole Membership

The 2005 Southern Baptist Convention convened in Nashville this week. Several interesting things took place, but I have not had time to blog about them yet. I’ll try to catch up over the next few days. Steve McCoy collected a helpful list of links to those blogging the convention.

I regret not being able to attend as a messenger and vote against the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary sole membership issue, not that my one ballot would have made a difference. The messengers voted 5,627 to 1,528 to overrule the council of NOBTS trustees, the seminary’s bevy of Louisiana lawyers, and the reasoned appeal of president Dr. Chuck Kelley.

In a nut shell, the issue dealt with the best way to ensure the seminaries ties to the Southern Baptist Convention in perpetuity. The Executive Committee (the entity charged with doing the conventions bidding while the convention is not in session) felt that making the SBC the “sole member” of the NOBTS corporation would provide the security they desired. The NOBTS board of trustees disagreed citing the uniqueness of Louisiana law, ascending liability, and other concerns. See the NOBTS web site for more on the Sole Membership Issue.

Many expressed a fear that if the SBC didn’t force sole membership on the current loyal trustee board, then perhaps one day a more hostile board would be in place who would wish to break away from the SBC. Some people cited Baylor and the Missouri Baptist entities as examples of what could happen at NOBTS one day. These scare tactics seemed to work even though president Chuck Kelly explained that the comparison didn’t apply. The legal issues between those colleges and the NOBTS situation were like apples and oranges. NOBTS could not pull away from the SBC even if it wanted to.

When Baylor broke away, the school did not depend on the baptist state convention for support. A very different situation exists with NOBTS and the SBC. The majority of the seminary’s operating budget comes from the Cooperative Program of the Southern Baptist Convention. Breaking ties to the SBC would be financial suicide. NOBTS could not survive without the SBC.

Also, no one seemed to acknowledge the fact that the NOBTS board of trustees gets appointed by the SBC itself. In order for NOBTS to ever have a board antagonistic to the SBC, the SBC itself would have to appoint it. A friend of mine said that anyone who believed that a hostile board with nefarious motives could never sneak into place was being “foolhardy.” That may be true, but I think its just as likely that a hostile board could one day take over the executive committee – and that’s the main reason I opposed the sole membership deal. Now that all our eggs are in one basket, a rogue Executive Committee board wouldn’t be in control of one entity, they would be in control of them all. The SBC has taken a dangerous step toward an unbaptistic centralized hierarchy. Only history will tell, but I’m afraid one day future generations of Southern Baptists will look back at this action as one of the conventions most tragic mistakes.

11 Comments

Don,
Did anybody stand up for Dr Kelly other than NOBTS folks? I would have thought that someone like Patterson or another “heavy hitter” might have spoken up for Kelly and NOBTS and made a difference in the vote.

Mark

Mark,

Tommy French and one other guy from Louisiana spoke in defense of NOBTS. Rumor has it that a few of the other entity heads had second thoughts about sole membership after adopting it, but no one stepped up to the plate to admit it publicly. No matter what anyone thinks of Chuck Kelly, you have to give him his props for going head to head with his fellow conservatives. The man has guts.

Amen,
It seems sad that someone with Kelly’s track record and pedigree as a conservative wouldn’t carry more weight. It’s also a little disheartening that more folks didn’t come to his defense.

It seems that Kelly presented his views in a clear manner and was very convincing to me. I was a bit disappointed by the vote but in a way I should have expected it. One would think that the fear would have subsided my now.

Take care.

Don,

I think you hit the nail on the head with this. I am really disappointed in the convention and the EC. I don’t understand how those who opposed the sole membership issue privately could just stand by and let this happen with no advisement to the contrary. Now we have to fear a centralize power in the EC executing its will in whatever way it sees fit. That is truly scary.

Well I fear I am the odd duck in the pond here but I would have to say that I was not convinced at all by Kelly and his presentation. I heard his side of the story both last year and this year. I have several very serious key issues with the way Kelly handled the situation. Both last year and this year Kelly said he wanted to come up with an alternate plan, but did he? Where is this plan? The convention has been working on this for 10 years and Kelly continually said sole membership is bad for NOBTS but never offered an alternate solution. They had no problem printing thousands of pages of information about sole membership and why it is wrong for NOBTS, why didn’t they also take that opportunity to print some alternatives? Don’t just say you are going to come up with alternatives; come up with them, show them to us, and get the ball rolling to change the issue instead of just standing up to say no to the SBC proposed plan. If NOBTS could come up with a valid alternative I think the convention would have seriously considered it.

It also seemed fishy to me that NOBTS sited a couple other entities that did not adopt sole membership due to legal council in Louisiana and the SBC lawyers pointed out that after first hand discussion with that council they found out that they didn’t adopt sole membership because they were not a legal corporation, not because of the law NOBTS is worried about. Kelly tried to compare apples and oranges all the while accusing the SBC of doing the same.

I would also disagree with Kelly’s assessment of the MoBap entities being an “apples to oranges” comparison. Being a staff member of a church in the MoBap convention and being someone who has witnessed the entities being taken over in our convention first hand, one of them being the school that I am an Alumni from, you can well imagine my reservations about this whole issue in the first place. While a huge chunk of NOBTS operating budget depends upon cooperative program dollars, I personally don’t think it is that far fetched to believe that they could still survive without it. Using private donations and raised tuition, just like MoBap University did, I think the seminary could survive and thrive. There are plenty of conventions that have split from the SBC that would jump in to its aid as well, such as the General Baptist Convention of Missouri that split from the Missouri Baptist Convention. I think NOBTS would in fact survive outside of SBC funding. In Missouri we thought it to be impossible and within a year we lost five agencies due to rouge trustees elected by our convention. I say it’s a smart move to recognize what could happen.

You mention the SBC using scare tactics, but what about the scare tactics Kelly used? Making the claim that the SBC executive committee is making a step towards centralized hierarchy is a big time scare tactic used by Kelly. Let us not forget who elects the president of the convention and who has ultimate control. This whole notion of taking a step towards a centralized power is a bit unfounded and if we are seriously worried about this then we need to change the way we elect and control the executive committee, not just say no to sole membership and expect that to protect us. Seriously, if the issue is really centralized control then why don’t we deal with that issue instead of just not voting for sole membership to “protect” our entities?

Sole Membership: For it or Against it?

I made a post about sole membership a few days ago, but never gave my opinion on the whole issue. To be honest I had some major reservations about much of what Dr. Kelly had to say in regards to…

Don, I think you know my sentiments on this matter. I respect and appreciate Dr. Kelly. However, I believe that “Sole Membership” is the best way to prevent what happened to Baylor and almost happened to Louisiana College. I’ll not get into a long dissertation on the matter, but there are many Louisiana Conservatives who support “Sole Membership”. I, most certainly, do.

http://www.ibcslidell.net/ponderings/

Mike,

I know I’m in the minority on this, but that’s OK. 🙂 The point is sort of moot now anyway since the Executive Committee convinced the SBC to vote their way. NOBTS will adopt sole membership despite their better judgement to the contrary.

Even mentioning what happened at Baylor in the context of this issue is sophistry. CK was right. Comparing this to what has happened in certain state convention institutions is apples and oranges. While I can appreciate that people living in Missouri might have a certain amount of fear given what’s been going on there with the five entities, their fears and comparisons here are unwarranted.

In the state institutions, there were boards who were already unsympathetic to the conservative resurgence. There were executives who were in open disagreement with conservative leaders. And there were boards and institutions with a great deal more “say” in who the new board members will be. NONE of that is the case at NOBTS. Not only is the board fully supportive of the SBC, so is the administration, and they’re ALL conservative. There is no desire on anyone’s part to in any way distance the school from the convention. Further, the convention elects the board. So the comparisons come either from the minds of the uninformed or malicious sophits. Persoanlly, I think those that spoke from the floor were the former while those who spoke from that platform were the latter.

The fact that the EC threated Midwestern’s trustees like they did a couple of years ago speaks to the folly of this plan.

One questions the EC hasn’t been able to answer. IF this really is only about “securing the relationship” between the SBC and the seminary, and NOT about centralizing EC control, then WHY was the EC so insistent that THIS is the ONLY acceptable plan. Seems if the real issue was securing the relationship, they’d be open to any appropriate language.

It’s over. I’ll get over it. But I’ll also set the over/under on the EC using this new relationship to bully an entity at 5 years.

[…] what Dr. Kelly had to say in regards to sole membership of NOBTS. I wrote a comment about this on Locust and Wild Honey which I am including here: Well I fear I am the odd duck in the pond here but I would have to say […]