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Seminary gives association 6 months to vacate
Ken Camp, Associated Baptist Press
January 19, 2011

Seminary gives association 6 months to vacate

Seminary gives association 6 months to vacate
Ken Camp, Associated Baptist Press
January 19, 2011

FORT WORTH, Texas — Southwestern Baptist Theological

Seminary notified Tarrant Baptist Association before Christmas it had six

months to vacate its offices on the edge of the seminary campus. The seminary

asserted the association was in violation of its affiliation agreement — in

part because of perceived toleration of homosexuality by a member church or

churches.

But while Tarrant Association Moderator Al Meredith contends the seminary lacks

authority to take unilateral action, he expressed hope the situation can be

resolved and the association’s longtime fraternal relationship with the

seminary be maintained.

The association office received a registered letter from Southwestern Seminary

Dec. 10. The letter stated the association was in violation of its 1997

affiliation agreement, and it directed the association to vacate its property

on James Avenue within six months. It also stated title on the property should

revert back to the seminary.

In 1982, the seminary provided Tarrant Baptist Association land and the funds

to build its office building, granting a 99-year lease on the property,

Meredith explained. At that time, the seminary and association entered into an

affiliation agreement stipulating the property would not be used for commercial

activity, and the association and seminary would commit to remaining in

theological harmony.

In 1997, the property agreement was renegotiated, and Tarrant Baptist

Association received the deed to the property. “The affiliation agreement

remained intact,” Meredith added.

According to the agreement, if any disagreement should arise between the

association and the seminary, the matter should be resolved by a three-member

arbitration panel with one seminary representative, one associational

representative and one party mutually agreed upon by both parties, he noted.

On Dec. 20, three associational representatives — Moderator-elect Meredith,

Moderator Bobby Bridges and Leadership Development Director Becky Biser — met

with Seminary President Paige Patterson and some of his staff to discuss the

situation.

“We had a lengthy and amicable discussion,” Meredith said in an interview.

He noted during the discussion, Patterson commented that he had learned

information he did not have when the original Dec. 10 letter was delivered. He

agreed to consider the matter further and discuss it with the seminary’s

attorneys.

Patterson was not available for comment for this article.

In a Dec. 21 letter to pastors in the association, Meredith noted specific

areas in which the seminary claimed the association was not in compliance with

its affiliation agreement:

  • Toleration of homosexuality. While the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message takes

    a clear position against homosexual behavior, the seminary contends the

    association has a church or churches that do not comply with the statement of

    faith on that matter. “They feel this places them in a contradictory

    situation,” Meredith’s letter stated.

The Southern Baptist Convention cuts its historic ties with Broadway Baptist

Church in Fort Worth, Texas, in 2009 over its perceived acceptance of

homosexual members. Last year, Broadway also withdrew its affiliation from the

Baptist General Convention of Texas rather than face a challenge

  • Placement. The seminary asserted it had asked for — and had not received

    — assistance from the association office in helping students and faculty gain

    access to empty pulpits in the association.

Meredith’s letter also noted the seminary expressed the need for additional

office space or a welcome center that could be housed in the offices Tarrant

Association occupies.

“For now, the ball is in the seminary’s court,” Meredith said, adding he and

other associational leaders were praying for a win/win situation.

“If Tarrant Baptist Association wins and Southwestern Seminary loses, the

kingdom of God loses. If Southwestern wins and the association loses, the

kingdom loses. The matters of the kingdom are greater than either the seminary

or the association. My prayer is that we do nothing to bring reproach on the

name of Christ,” he said.

“Tarrant Baptist Association has enjoyed a longstanding fraternal relationship

with Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and we want that to continue.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Camp is managing editor of the Baptist

Standard.)

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