Belmont University and the Tennessee Baptist Convention -- after failing to agree on changes in Belmont's board -- are moving to loosen their ties.
Under a plan expected to receive final approval this week, the Tennessee Baptists will relinquish to the university control over board appointments. While the university has nominated board members, final approval of them and rules regarding who can be a board member have been determined by the convention. At the same time, Belmont will give up the $2.3 million it receives each year from the convention.
Belmont and Baptist officials have been talking for years about whether the university's board should retain a requirement that all members be Baptist. Last year, Belmont made a formal proposal that up to 40 percent of board slots could go to Christians who are not Baptist. The convention rejected the idea, leading to the discussions about ending the formal relationship between the university and the Baptists.
Jason Rogers, vice president for administration and university counsel at Belmont, said that the university attracts students and faculty members of many faiths, and wanted its board to reflect some of the diversity on the campus. "The motivation was a desire to broaden our Christian mission," he said. "We have always welcomed Christians who are not Baptists to our student body and faculty, and we have benefited from that."
Rogers stressed that Belmont "would continue to proclaim its Baptist heritage," and said that the university and the convention would still have a "fraternal relationship."
The move by Belmont follows similar changes in the relationship between Averett University and the Virginia Baptist Mission Board, and Georgetown College and the Kentucky Baptist Convention. In other cases, the move has been in the opposite direction. The Georgia Baptist Convention recently won a long court battle to regain control of the board of Shorter College.