BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Samford University will refuse an anticipated $3 million annual budget allocation from the Alabama Baptist State Convention next year, university officials said.
The university’s Board of Trustees executive committee approved the decision Friday after consultation with state convention leaders. The move is effective Jan. 1.
“I believe the action taken by our trustees is something that both parties have been anticipating for some time and will serve the best interests of both Samford and the Alabama Baptist State Convention,” said Samford President Andrew Westmoreland in a news release. “Our longstanding educational and ministry relationships with Alabama Baptists have always been more significant than money, and these relationships will continue and flourish.”
Al.com reports Westmoreland said recent tension between Samford and state convention leaders over a proposed student organization to discuss LGBT rights and issues was a factor.
Samford faculty voted April 27 to recommend approval of “Samford Together,” a student organization that would “provide a forum for SU students who want to discuss topics relating to sexual orientation and gender identity” in “an open-minded and accepting environment.” The proposed group still needs approval from the Samford board of trustees to form.
The idea of a student group to discuss lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues did not sit well with Alabama Baptist leaders who have historically supported Samford University.
State Convention President John Thweatt and State Board of Missions executive director Rick Lance said they were “saddened” by the faculty’s vote, “which provides recognition of an agenda that we believe to be contrary to Scripture.”
The intent and purposes of the proposed student organization were widely misunderstood, Westmoreland said. He advised the university’s faculty and other employees on Friday that, even prior to receiving this communication from convention leaders, he already had determined that he would not seek formal recognition of the proposed student organization by trustees but would work to accomplish each of the group’s goals.
Samford was founded by Alabama Baptists in 1841.
Samford had an annual budget in 2016 of more than $166 million. Samford recorded its eighth consecutive record enrollment in fall 2016 with 5,471 students.
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