By Ken Camp
Some Baptists who lease property at Glorieta Conference Center recently received notice from the new owners — Glorieta 2.0 — they have until mid-August to make major decisions about houses built on that land.
In mid-June, LifeWay Christian Resources announced it found a buyer for its 2,100-acre property near Santa Fe — a group of businessmen and camping professionals associated with Camp Eagle, a Christian camp in the Texas Hill Country near Rocksprings.
The certificate of incorporation filed with the New Mexico secretary of state lists three directors for Glorieta 2.0 — David Weekley, a Houston homebuilder; Terry Looper, founding president and chief executive officer of Houston-based Texon; and Leonard Russo, Texon’s chief financial and administrative officer.
In a June 25 letter to leaseholders of Glorieta property, Glorieta 2.0 notes about 80 percent of existing leases end Sept. 30. People who lease property have until Aug. 15 to choose one of three options.
The first option offers a new 12-year lease that imposes new restrictions on the use of conference center facilities. At the end of 12 years, the individual has up to six months to remove his or her home, or it becomes the property of Glorieta 2.0.
The second option offers a one-time $40,000 buyout to people with homes on the conference center property, regardless of their appraised value. Leaseholders who accept that option have 90 days to vacate after the lease goes into effect in mid-August.
The third option invites leaseholders to donate their homes to Glorieta 2.0 as a charitable contribution.
Charles Goodyear of Arlington, Texas, learned about the change at an inopportune time.
“I thought I was retiring yesterday,” he said, noting his employment ended June 30. “We were looking forward to enjoying retirement in our cabin at Glorieta.”
As LifeWay struggled financially in recent years, people who leased property at the conference center received reassurances, Goodyear said.
“All along, they told us they would take care of us. They said: ‘Trust us. We’re family,’” he insisted.
When the conference center changed owners, Goodyear anticipated a possible buyout, but not under the terms proposed.
“I expected to take a haircut, but not a $100,000 haircut,” he said.
Some residents at Glorieta find themselves in an even more vulnerable position, Goodyear insisted.
“Some of them are retired missionaries and ministers. Glorieta is their home. There is no way they could buy a replacement home for $40,000,” he said.
Marty King, director of communications for LifeWay Christian Resources, offered a different perspective.
“Public characterizations of new lease options offered to Glorieta lessees are inaccurate and unfortunate,” he said. “Every lease at Glorieta is clear that lessees do not own — and have never owned — the land on which their structures were built. Most of the leases are now being renewed annually, and have been for several years.
“The new owners of Glorieta are offering lessees generous alternatives to expiration of their leases, including 12-year extensions or outright purchase. We’re confident the options far exceed expectations of current leases.”
Churches and organizations
In addition to individuals, several churches and organizations also lease property at Glorieta. The Baptist General Convention of Texas Executive Board owns a lodge built on leased land at the conference center.
“We are evaluating our options and do not know yet how we will respond,” said Jill Larsen, BGCT treasurer and chief financial officer.
Representatives from LifeWay and Glorieta 2.0 will meet with people who lease property at Glorieta July 9. Larsen noted she plans to attend the meeting.
Glorieta Baptist Assembly opened in 1952 as a conference center operated by the Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. It grew to become one of the largest Christian camps in the nation, but it faced financial challenges the last two and a half decades.
June 25 letter
The June 25 letter to leaseholders states: “As you may or not be aware, the original concept at Glorieta was to lease property to individuals and organizations for a period of 25 years. This ensured that when a leaseholder paid to build improvements, the leaseholder would be able to use and enjoy those improvements for 25 years. After the 25-year lease ended, the leaseholder would be given six months to remove the improvements. If the improvements were not removed, they would become the property of Glorieta.”
The letter from the Glorieta 2.0 “donor group” to leaseholders also says, “Please know that the lessees being treated on terms that are fair to all involved was an important concern for LifeWay.”
Anthony Scott, executive director of Camp Eagle and Glorieta 2.0, was en route to Glorieta July 3 and planned to visit individually with several leaseholders prior to the July 9 meeting.
“We love Jesus, and we believe in a God of reconciliation and redemption,” he said. “I want to be available to talk with the people to ask: ‘What is your situation? What is it about your circumstances that may be unique? How can we help you?’”
Some residents indicated they believed Glorieta’s new owners wanted leaseholders to leave the property so Glorieta 2.0 could move its employees into the homes on the grounds — an assertion Scott refuted.
“We do not want or need 85 homes,” he said.
Some longtime leaseholders also have voiced concern about new restrictions included in the 12-year lease from Glorieta 2.0. It bars residents and their guests from conference center facilities during planned events unless they are registered for the event. It also prohibits the use of all-terrain vehicles on Glorieta property and requires leaseholders to submit to criminal background checks and complete child-safety training.
Those restrictions simply reflect a desire to protect children and youth, Scott emphasized.
“Our primary concern is child safety,” he said.