By Bob Terry
The Alabama Baptist
Trustees of Samford University in Birmingham recently amended their bylaws to permit Baptists from outside Alabama to serve as trustees of the institution.
Implementing the change may take years, Samford President Andrew Westmoreland said, but it puts the university in a healthier position in light of its regional and global reach. The new trustees recently elected are all Alabama Baptists.
Several amendments to the school’s charter and bylaws were approved in September as the school contemplated changes that needed to be made in light of the altered relationship between Samford and the Alabama Baptist State Convention (ABSC) following the school’s decision to withdraw from Cooperative Program funding.
The first annoucement of the changes was made Nov. 14 during the Samford Relationship Study Group report at the ABSC annual meeting in Huntsville (see Nov. 23 issue for the article on the study group report).
The new section of the bylaws related to board members reads, “Trustees shall be professing Christians who are supportive of the university’s Christian mission, vision and values and active members of a Baptist church. No less than 75 percent of the active members and life members, in the aggregate, shall be residents of the state of Alabama.”
The reference to “professing Christians” also is new.
Previously the university bylaws referenced only membership in an Alabama Baptist church.
The new wording of “active members of a Baptist church” rather than an “Alabama Baptist Church” is meant to help the school expand its racial diversity among board members, officials explained. Specifically this wording will open the door to African-American leaders who are members of churches that may not yet be dually aligned with ABSC.
Samford President Andrew Westmoreland called the changes “minimal,” saying they were “in line with the consensus that we developed through June, July and August in consultation with Rick Lance (executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions) and the members of the study group from the SBOM.”
The vast majority of Baptist-related colleges and universities already have trustees from outside their home state, Westmoreland said. He emphasized that under the new bylaw no more than one-fourth of the trustees can be from outside Alabama.
Westmoreland said he had intended to speak to the changes in trustee policy at the recent annual meeting in Huntsville in order to convey “both the letter and spirit” of the changes but changed his mind when he realized convention rules limited responses to only two minutes per speaker.
He added that had he recognized the limited time available for responding to the study group’s report beforehand, he might have chosen other options to share information about the changes to the institution’s charter and bylaws.
While convention officials did allow Westmoreland to exceed the time limit by a minute, he still focused on sharing Samford’s commitment to Alabama Baptists in a more general fashion.
In a later interview, Westmoreland called the bylaw changes “a strong expression of our commitment to remain closely affiliated with Alabama Baptists.”
He pointed to the recently amended article on dissolution in Samford’s charter. The article specifies that in the event of Samford’s dissolution, “all of its remaining assets … shall be paid to the Alabama Baptist State Convention or … as determined by the Alabama Baptist State Convention.”
The amended charter also continues Samford’s commitment to “the promotion of the Christian religion throughout the world.” Article III of the charter lists that as the school’s primary purpose. It specifically authorizes “the training of ministers to preach the gospel, of musicians to conduct and develop sacred music and of laymen to do educational and other religious work.”
“In my brief remarks (at the recent annual meeting) I especially wanted to demonstrate our fidelity to Alabama Baptists. Everything else was secondary. Our charter and bylaw changes reflect that fidelity,” Westmoreland declared.