c. 2000 Religion News Service

The executive board of the Baptist General Convention of Texas voted Tuesday (Sept. 26) to recommend the state group of Southern Baptists radically reduce funding of agencies of the Southern Baptist Convention.

If the recommendations are accepted at the annual meeting of the state convention in October, the six Southern Baptist seminaries stand to lose $4.3 million in funding and the executive committee and religious liberty agency of the denomination could lose close to $1 million.

The votes regarding the reduction in funding of SBC agencies all passed by "at least a 4-1 margin," said Ken Camp, coordinator of the state convention's news and information service.

The proposed reallocations call for the more than $5 million allocated to the seminaries this year to be capped at $1 million next year.

Under the proposal, the executive committee of the nation's largest Protestant denomination would receive $10,000 in 2001, a major drop from the $774,956 it expects to receive from the state convention this year.

The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, which is expected to receive $356,630 from the state convention this year, would not receive any funding next year.

The final statewide decision regarding the latest controversy between moderate and conservative Baptists will be made during the annual meeting of the state convention Oct. 30-31 in Corpus Christi, Texas. If approved at that time, individual churches still could choose to give more to Southern Baptist agencies.

Morris Chapman, president of the SBC Executive Committee, issued a statement voicing "extreme disappointment and profound regret" at the decision by the executive board.

"It represents nothing less than a breach of the historic relationship the Southern Baptist Convention has had with the BGCT," Chapman stated.

"Fractious elements in Texas have driven an extremely poor decision that is bad for the Baptist General Convention of Texas, bad for the Southern Baptist churches in Texas, bad for the Southern Baptist Convention, and bad for the common mission causes dear to our hearts."

Moderate leaders of the state convention have differed with the theological and political stances of the national denomination, whose leaders have grown more conservative since a resurgence began in 1979.

"In seeking to eliminate the perceived problem of liberalism, they have willingly sacrificed liberty," Charles Wade, executive director of the state convention, said of the conservative SBC leadership in his report to the executive board.

The action by the board follows previous recommendations by the state convention's seminary study and administrative committees.

The seminary study committee, in its recommendations, noted what it considered to be significant theological changes at the seminaries.

"Political agendas, fundamentalism, faculty attrition, and the redirection of resources and teaching have left the SBC seminaries a shadow of their former selves," the seminary study committee said.

If the executive board action is approved, money previously sent to SBC seminaries would be used at seminaries in Texas affiliated with the state convention. Money previously sent to the SBC Executive Committee and Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission would be used for ministries involving Texas Hispanics; social services for mentally disabled, elderly and young people; and ethical concerns of the state convention's Christian Life Commission.

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