The Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has again asked the Tarrant Baptist Association to leave its Fort Worth campus, indicating in a second letter sent Tuesday to the association that it will pursue its claims to the property.
The Rev. Al Meredith, moderator-elect of the association, which has been accused of having member churches that tolerate homosexuality, told The Christian Post that seminary president Paige Patterson had agreed to reconsider the issue after an in-person meeting with Meredith in late December.
But on Jan. 18, Meredith received a letter indicating the seminary still wants the association to vacate the office building on campus.
"Basically, they view the property as being theirs – though we hold the deed – and that as an institution they hold the right to who occupy their property," said Meredith regarding the contents of the letter.
The letter also stated it would be more convenient for both the seminary and TBA if the association moved out, he added.
The seminary, which is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, had sent a letter dated Dec. 10 contending that the association violated the terms of an affiliation agreement to the property by having member churches outside of the Baptist Faith & Message's position on homosexuality. The seminary also said the association did not help with job placements for professors and students and gave the association six months to vacate the property.
But in the latest letter, Meredith said the seminary was willing to allow a "reasonable amount of time" for the association to relocate if the association agreed to leave.
The executive board of the Tarrant Baptist Association, which represents nearly 400 churches, is expected to discuss the matter during a regularly scheduled meeting on Jan. 24.
Meredith said about 50 to 75 leaders are expected to attend.
He said the affiliation agreement in the deed calls for the a three-member arbitration panel – one representative from the association, one representative from the seminary, and one person that both agree on – to resolve any disagreements.
There are three options that TBA faces, according to Meredith: turn over the keys and move out; sell the property at fair market value to the seminary; and subject the complaints to an arbitration.
The association's board will take a vote if a motion is made.
It is believed that Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth is the TBA member church that the seminary referred to in its letter.
The Rev. Brent Beasley of Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth told the Dallas Morning News that his church is the one "being referred to."
The SBC voted in 2009 to sever ties with Broadway Baptist over its policy to welcome LGBT members. Last fall, the church ended its 125-year-old affiliation with the General Baptist Convention of Texas rather than face a challenge over its policy at the annual convention.
When asked if Broadway Baptist Church is the church at the heart of the dispute between the seminary and the association, Meredith said that Broadway Baptist Church has never espoused a gay agenda.
"They don't have any gays that are leaders, deacons or staff members," he said. "It is a church in good standing with Tarrant Baptist Association and they are one of the 12 founding members of the association."
Meredith said above all, the association will be praying for the steps ahead.
"My only concern is that this will become another public fight and people will think this is what Christianity is about," he lamented.
"Jesus and his followers will be known by their love for each other ... Our desire is for the seminary to prosper and more than anything that the cause of Christ not suffer."