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OPINION

Vanderbilt BCM to decline registered status

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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This story originally was posted Monday, May 7.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- Even though Baptist Collegiate Ministry was approved as a recognized student organization on the campus of Vanderbilt University, the BCM will decline that status.

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Randy C. Davis, executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, informed members of the TBC Executive Board of the decision to not accept the recognized status in a letter e-mailed to them Monday (May 7).

Originally, the Vanderbilt BCM planned to seek the recognized status and remain a registered organization on campus though many other religious organizations said they would not seek to be registered on campus after the policy was announced.

The issue surrounds the decision announced by Vanderbilt earlier this year that the university intends to enforce its non-discrimination policy and a new all-comers policy. The all-comer policy means that any student at Vanderbilt is entitled to become a member and to seek a leadership position in any registered student organization on campus.

In a nutshell, if a non-Christian wanted to seek leadership in the BCM at Vanderbilt, he or she could do so under the university policy.

In his letter to the board, Davis wrote that he was originally supportive of the decision to seek recognized student organization status at Vanderbilt.

Davis noted that the Vanderbilt BCM applied as it has over the years and was accepted.

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"However, on April 22, it came to my attention that the application included our representatives signing the revised non-discrimination policy," he wrote. "It is our understanding now that 'to abide by,' means 'to accept without objection' and 'to accept as our own.'"

Davis noted that signing onto the policy would require the BCM "if the occasion should ever arise, to open the leadership to those who were not Christian. Perhaps we should have known this earlier, but we did not," he wrote.

The BCM, Davis said, has for many years ministered on the Vanderbilt campus in a non-discriminatory manner. "Anyone who walked through the doors was welcomed."

But he stressed in the letter that after "understanding the full extent of this new policy, we have no choice but to ask our local leadership to remove us from the status of recognized student organization. I have reached this decision after much prayer and wise counsel," he shared with board members.

Davis noted that Bill Choate, collegiate ministries coordinator for the TBC, and Thom Thornton, BCM director at Vanderbilt, are supportive of the decision.

"Bill and Thom have tried very hard to preserve relationships that have made effective ministry possible in the past and will continue to do so."

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In his letter, Davis noted "there have been no winners in the hurt, confusion, division and pain that have been caused by this policy.

"The Vanderbilt BCM has been active on and good citizens of that campus for well over 80 years," Davis wrote.

"Make no mistake about it. We are not leaving campus. We will continue to have a vibrant ministry there. Our mission has not changed."

Choate told the Baptist and Reflector newspaper, "We have and will continue to make an effort to have an impact for the gospel at Vanderbilt University."

The Tennessee Baptist Convention owns the BCM building which is located in the middle of the Vanderbilt campus.

Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist & Reflector newspaper, online at www.tnbaptist.org/BRNews.asp

Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net

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