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GBC Executive Committee votes Dec. 13 to discontinue relationship with Mercer University

Terms of dissolution of relationship approved

 

The GBC Executive Committee, meeting in Atlanta on Dec. 13, heard a motion from Wayne Robertson, pastor of Morningside Baptist Church in Valdosta, to discontinue the Convention’s relationship with Mercer University. Robertson, representing the Administration Committee of the Executive Committee, reminded those present of the action of the Convention regarding Mercer at the annual meeting in Columbus on Nov. 15.

Joe Westbury

Mercer University President R. Kirby Godsey, left, and GBC Executive Director J. Robert White, right, explain the details of the dissolution of the relationship between the two entities. Standing in the background is Fred Evers, chairman of the Executive Committee’s Administration Committee. Seated to the left is newly elected Executive Committee Chairman Mike Everson; seated to the right is Committee Vice Chairman Jerry Speer.

Robertson stated, “At our Convention we voted to discontinue our relationship with Mercer University and in accordance with Article VIII, section 2 of our Constitution we requested Dr. Robert White, the executive director of the Convention, and Dr. Kirby Godsey, president of Mercer University, to pursue an orderly discontinuance of the relationship.”

The Valdosta pastor indicated that White and Godsey had met and based on their conversations and a mutual agreement the Administration Committee was prepared to make a motion that would satisfy the Constitution’s requirement for a separation of the two entities.

Tom Duvall, Convention attorney, was recognized and presented a seven-point outline incorporating the points of agreement. Those points were articulated as follows:

1. Since 1955 the Convention has had a Capital Improvement and Endowment Program. Through decisions made in previous Convention annual sessions portions of the CIEP funds have been allocated to Mercer University. Mercer’s portion of those funds amounts to $19,572,959 and will be released to the University.

2. The 2006 Convention budget, which has already been approved, includes $3,551,000 designated to Mercer University. Those funds will be made available to the University in the normal form of distribution.

The 2007 Cooperative Program budget formula would typically have approximately $3,400,000 (based on number of students) allocated for Mercer University student scholarships. That money would be made available to the university and paid in accordance with the normal distribution process.

3. The Convention will approve a change in the Mercer University charter so that Mercer can elect its own trustees.

4. Mercer University holds historic Baptist documents and will continue to give the Convention access to those documents and the right to copy any document pertaining to the Convention.

5. The Convention will continue to have access to the College of Nursing students to provide recognition and appropriate gifts.

6. The Baptist campus minister will continue in the present relationship with the University and the Convention, but that relationship may change as initiated by either party upon a 30-day notice.

7. Mercer University may seek student scholarship support from individual churches in 2006.

8. Mercer University and the Georgia Baptist Convention will employ their best efforts in implementing the discontinuance of the relationship in an orderly fashion.

When called upon to comment White stated, “Dr. Godsey and I met on two occasions and our meetings were very cordial. Neither of us got everything we wanted. I don’t want to hurt the University. My daughter received a great education there, but I want to help bring about an orderly discontinuance of the relationship.”

Although tensions have existed between the Convention and the University, Godsey agreed that the conversations with White had been marked by courtesy and that they had been both good and constructive.

Godsey remarked, “I regret the discontinuance of this relationship. Jesse Mercer, the founder of the University, brought the Columbia Star to Georgia and called it The Christian Index. I want to express gratitude to Georgia Baptists. The Convention has made a grand difference in the University. Mercer is a Baptist university and will continue to be so. We will also continue to give scholarships to Baptists students.”

Godsey continued, “I didn’t want to see it (the relationship between the school and the Convention) come to a conflict that would leave Mercer and the Convention tattered. I will be retiring in June. Bill Underwood will be coming as the president of Mercer from Baylor University in Waco, Texas.”

After some orderly discussion the Executive Committee seemed to be convinced by White that every avenue to a reconciliation of the relationship had been exhausted and Robertson was once again called upon to read the formal motion to discontinue the aforementioned relationship. Sensing that White and Godsey had reached an amiable agreement the Executive Committee registered what appeared to be a unanimous vote to separate the Georgia Baptist Convention from its 172-year history with Mercer University. ?The trustees of the University will meet in April and are expected to likewise approve the discontinuance of the relationship. To formalize the decision the Convention will have an opportunity to affirm this action when the Executive Committee gives its report at the next annual meeting in November when messengers gather at the Gwinnett Civic Center Nov. 13-14.

Wayne Hamrick’s recent election as Convention president precluded his privilege to serve a second term as chairman of the Executive Committee so he started the meeting by calling for nominations for chairman and vice chairman. Mike Everson, pastor of Prays Mill Baptist Church in Douglasville, was elected chairman and Jerry Speer, pastor of Northside Baptist Church in Columbus, was elected vice chairman.

White announced that Cooperative Program giving is up 2.07 percent over the same period last year and that Georgia Baptists have given $1,065,998 to the State Missions Offering and $4,649,140 to the Katrina Disaster Relief Fund.

The Executive Committee also adopted the 2006 State Missions Budget of $14,977,016 presented by Wayne Bray, newly elected pastor of Beulah Baptist Church in Douglasville.