BGCT board seeks OK to explore sale

Actions do not guarantee a sale of the building, but BGCT leaders seek OK to negotiate one if deemed in the convention's best interests.

By Ken Camp

Messengers to the Baptist General Convention of Texas annual meeting in San Antonio this summer will consider a recommendation to grant the BGCT executive board authority to sell the Baptist Building in Dallas.

The board at its May meeting approved a proposal that – if approved at the state convention’s annual meeting July 14-17 in San Antonio – would grant the board and an ad hoc committee authority to negotiate the possible sale of the BGCT board staff office building.

If a sale were determined to be in the BGCT’s best interests, the board would be authorized to approve the sale and to purchase or lease new property for staff offices.

The board also recommended an amendment to the state convention’s constitution, removing a specific reference to the Baptist Building address.

“This is a not a vote to sell the building. We do not have an offer on the building,” explained Van Christian, chair of the board and the ad hoc committee appointed in February to study the possible sale of the staff office building.

Instead, it would provide freedom to negotiate a sale “if it benefits the mission of the BGCT” rather than delay any action until the next BGCT annual meeting in November 2014, said Christian, pastor of First Baptist Church in Comanche.

Baylor University approached BGCT board staff leaders early this year about buying the Baptist Building to house Baylor’s Louise Herrington School of Nursing. The nursing school’s building on the Baylor Health Care System campus is at capacity, and several faculty members already use office space in the Baptist Building, located adjacent to the health care system campus east of downtown Dallas.

The staff headquarters was built in 1988 at 333 N. Washington on land leased from Baylor Health Care System. The executive board used proceeds from the sale of property in downtown Dallas, combined with trust funds, to pay for construction. Ten years later, the health care system’s board of directors voted to give the land, valued at $2.5 million, to the BGCT board.

Consequently, Baylor Health Care System has first right of refusal on any sale of the building, but President Joel Allison already has given verbal approval to the proposed sale to Baylor, according to a report from the board’s administration support committee.

In other business, the board voted to postpone until its Sept. 23-24 meeting consideration of a recommendation that would grant the Texas Baptist Missions Foundation status as a nonprofit corporation affiliated with the BGCT. 

The foundation has raised about $110 million for Texas Baptist missions causes since 1985, and it has operated since its beginning within the board staff structure.

Bill Arnold, president of the foundation, noted status as a nonprofit corporation with its own governing board would give theTexas Baptist Missions Foundation greater visibility and make it easier to apply for grants from other foundations.

However, several executive board members expressed concern about specific provisions in the governing documents for the foundation. After extended discussion, the board approved a motion to postpone consideration until its fall meeting.