In recognition of its traditional Baptist ties, the Board approved the establishment of the Baptist Studies Center for Research, which will centralize and support Baylor faculty's contributions to Baptist scholarship (see more on page 9), and endorsed a plan to increase scholarships for children of Baptist ministers and missionaries by more than 300 percent beginning this fall.
But the most notable action was the vote to amend the university's by-laws and allow up to 25 percent of the Board to be composed of fellow Christians who are active members of a church in a historic Christian tradition other than Baptist.
"Baylor is immensely proud of its longstanding relationship with Texas Baptists and will remain forever grateful for the remarkable foresight of our Baptist forefathers who envisioned an unparalleled university education, distinct in both its commitment to high quality academics as well as the spiritual growth of the students entrusted to its care," said Regent Chair R. Dary Stone, JD '77.
"But we know there are many within the Baylor family and outside of it who are deeply committed fellow Christians and share Baylor's mission, vision and core theological principles, but who are not currently affiliated in their church life with a Baptist congregation. The addition of such individuals to our governance model will empower the entire Baylor nation, strengthen our Board, help Baylor to broaden its reach and impact, and open new doors of cooperation and collaboration with those who share with us a love for Christ and a profound appreciation for the mission of Baylor University."
The change in the by-laws is recognition of the changing demographics of Baylor's constituencies, as a strong Christian commitment is expressed in a variety of denominational and nondenominational Church traditions and affiliations. Of Baylor's 14,900 students, Baptists remain the largest single denomination with 5,287 students, according to the most recent data. Other large groups include Catholics (2,128), non-denominational Christians (2,091) and Methodists (1,156).
"For more than 166 years, Baylor University has represented the best of what it means to be a Baptist and Christian institution of higher education and the largest Baptist University in the world," said Dr. Albert L. Reyes, president of Buckner International and former president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. "Baylor's efforts to reach out to fellow Christians, who would add value to its governing structure and influence, positions Baylor as a leading citizen in the global village and a bright light in the Redeemer's Kingdom."
At least 75 percent of the Board will continue to be comprised of Regents who are active members of Baptist churches. The by-laws also now include a provision that assigns exclusive voting rights to Baptist Regents on certain Board actions that apply to the religious affiliation qualifications of Regents and theological matters of Baylor's George W. Truett Theological Seminary.
"Baylor's commitment to its Baptist heritage and the traditions that have set it apart for more than 166 years will be embodied in the Christian convictions and demonstrations of faith that characterize the fellow Christians who will be appointed to Baylor's Board of Regents," said Baylor Regent Ramiro Pena, BA '88, who also is pastor of Christ the King Baptist Church in Waco.
In regards to the other Board actions, the increased scholarship offerings for children of Baptist ministers and missionaries is expected to award more than half a million dollars annually and will provide support to encourage the children of Baptist ministers and missionaries to attend Baylor.
Baylor's Board also approved hiring an architectural firm to begin the design process on new student housing called the East Village Residential Community. The project will provide housing for 1,000 students and include retail space. The facility will open new on-campus housing options to new and current students. Currently, 39 percent of undergraduates live on campus, but existing residential facilities are operating at capacity.