Students at the largest Baptist university in the world are worried about allowing non-Baptist groups to meet on school grounds with concerns that the school may change into a secular university and initiate theological debates.
The Senate at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, will vote today on a controversial bill recommending that the school board charter non-Baptist Christian groups. Under the current university policy, which allows only Baptist religious groups to meet on campus regularly, non-Baptist groups are limited to advertising on campus and holding one recruiting event per semester.
“The idea behind this bill is there is a need among students to meet on campus,” said Jen Kim, one of the bill's authors, as reported by The Baylor Lariat, the student publication owned by Baylor University. “Let's say a group of just 10 kids wants to meet (on campus) once a week and have a praise group. They can't do that now because they aren't Baptist.”
According to the Lariat, students say that the bill is just a way for their peers to voice their opinions to the university board to let them know that there is a need for other Christian organizations to be recognized.
Some oppose the bill, however.
Vincent Harris, a student senator, voiced his belief that if approved, the bill may guide the school in a direction which many current day secular colleges with Christian origins have taken in the past. He cited Brown University and Wake Forest University as examples.
"[Wake Forest] was chartered as a Baptist school and now they're proudly secular and every remnant of their Baptist history has gone away,” Harris said, according to the Lariat.
Student senator Will Simmons expressed similar concerns.
“I don't support the bill,” Simmons said. “I believe that by the university chartering non-Baptist organizations, there is a risk there that we begin to go down a slippery slope (toward secularism).”
Baylor’s percentage of Baptists students stands as 40.7 percent; Simmons identified this as a significant figure and that Baylor still has a strong Baptist heritage.
The student senator said he is also worried that it would be difficult to separate mainstream Christian groups from cults and that this could lead Baylor into fighting over theological issues.
Harris said he wanted to stress that he and other opponents of the bill are not against other denominations.
“We're not against Catholic groups and other groups. Baylor was chartered as a Baptist university, but it is a Christian university," he said. "Baptists are Christians. Catholics are Christians.”
Harris, who has dubbed the bill the “Anti-Baptist bill,” also said he isn't convinced the bill expresses the wishes of the student body.
“I think student government has a lot of outspoken people that don't reflect the university as a whole,” he said.
Non-Baptist Christian groups have expressed approval of the bill. According to the Lariat, a campus minister for Reformed University Fellowship, a Presbyterian group, expressed his delight that they would be able to meet on campus. RUF currently pays around $2,000 a year to rent meeting space near campus.
Bill co-author Jen Kim said she feels Baptists could gain much from learning about other denominations.
“It will provide an opportunity for non-Baptist Christians who attend Baylor to grow spiritually,” the Lariat quoted her as saying.