Tenn. Baptists to Vote on Belmont University Departure

Belmont University, a school established with the help of Baptists 50 years ago, may break all financial ties with the Tennessee Baptist Convention to secure more freedom.

The Associated Baptist Press reported that school officials have already told convention members they intend to elect their own trustees. This would break financial bonds with the TBC, which has served as a “sponsoring” body for the school for decades.

Tennessee Baptist delegates are expected to vote on the “Resolution of Relationship” that will define this new arrangement with Belmont during their annual meeting, Nov. 15-16. Should the resolution be approved, all affiliate ties between the two organizations would be broken.

According to ABP, the new proposal comes after the Tennessee Baptists’ Executive Board voted in September not to accept a new agreement with Belmont that would have allowed the college to elect up to 40 percent non-Baptist trustees.

Under the new proposal, Belmont will have the freedom to choose all of their trustees. However, the school will not receive the two million dollars that is typically donated by the Convention each year.

In lieu of such changes, convention leaders also drafted a new budget that would reallocate the funds intended for Belmont. The Southern Baptist Convention, the national body of Baptists to which Tennessee Baptists belong, will receive $825,940 of those funds. One million dollars will be split between the other two convention-affiliated colleges – Union University and Carson-Newman College. The remainder will be divided among other Tennessee Baptist affiliated groups.

Roger Freeman, president of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, explained that it is appropriate for most of the funds to be routed to the Southern Baptist Convention and the two universities.

"In 1952, Tennessee Baptists reduced giving to the SBC worldwide causes by 10 percent to begin a mission program called Belmont College," he said. “[It] is right and appropriate for a large portion of these mission funds to go to Union and Carson-Newman, Christian institutions which are seeking to strengthen their commitment to Baptist identity in biblical beliefs, Baptist leadership and Cooperative Program support."