ARCHIVE: The Battle on the Brazos


On Sept. 21, 1990, Baylor University President Herbert Reynolds orchestrated a change to the school’s charter, thereby ensuring that the university would be shielded from fundamentalist control in the event the Baptist General Convention of Texas ever fell to the Patterson-Pressler coalition. The trustee chairman, Amarillo pastor Winfred Moore, presided over the meeting when — in a surprise move — a motion was made to sever the school from the state convention and elect a new slate of self-perpetuating regents. The vote was 30-to-7, with one abstention.

The day of the vote, Baylor had shut off all the campus fax machines to prevent delivery of any emergency court injunction that would short-circuit the move. As soon as the vote was final, a Baylor representative immediately filed the charter change with the Texas secretary of state. The deed was done.

The secret plan had been in the works for more than two years, with Reynolds working behind-the-scenes with university lawyers to engineer the move. By the time of the 1990 trustee meeting, the legal framework was ironclad. For the next year, Baptists weighed in from all sides. For some, Baylor had been stolen by thieves. For others, the school had been saved from fundamentalism. A committee was formed to broker a separation agreement between the BGCT and Baylor, and two sides began lining up for the state convention meeting in Waco to either ratify or reject the agreement.

In a fiery sermon at the First Baptist Church of Dallas, then pastor Joel Gregory launched a broadside opposing Baylor’s charter change. Reynolds was furious, alleging the Baylor alumnus and former state convention president had “slandered the reputations of elected leadership of the Baptist Convention of Texas, the Baylor regents, all of whom are faithful Texas Baptists, as well as [Reynolds himself.]” Gregory’s opposition, according to Reynolds, was more about aligning himself “with the Presslerites to make sure he stayed in tune with those folks so he could fulfill his personal ambitions” than about saving his alma mater. For his part, Gregory put a fine point on the conflagration: Reynolds and the Baylor trustees were “foxes” trying to “protect the hen house from the interference of the farmer.”

On Nov. 14, 1991, a record 10,000 messengers descended onto Baylor’s campus and crowded into the university’s basketball arena to decide the matter. Houston pastor Ed Young made a substitute motion to force the school into binding arbitration. His motion failed by more than 1,200 votes. By the time the convention was over, 59 percent of the messengers endorsed the new relationship proposal that gave the Baylor board authority to elect three-fourths of its own regents, with the BGCT approving the remainder.

We found a tape-recorded copy of Gregory’s sermon, “Texas Baptists and Baylor” in our files the other day and and have digitized the audio.

To read a Baptist Press article about the Baylor charter change, click here.
To read about Gregory’s sermon and Herb Reynolds’s response, click here.
And to read about the 1991 BGCT convention in Waco, click here.

And to listen to Gregory’s sermon, “Texas Baptists and Baylor,” click below: