Are the Baylor Bears a Dealbreaker for the Pac-10's Expansion Plans?

Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas and affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas, Baylor is both the state's oldest institution of higher learning and the world's largest Baptist university. Established to be a servant of the church and of society, Baylor seeks to fulfill its calling through excellence in teaching and research, in scholarship and publication, and in service to the community, both local and global. The vision of its founders and the ongoing commitment of generations of students and scholars are reflected in the motto inscribed on the Baylor seal: Pro Ecclesia, Pro Texana-For Church, For Texas. . . .

Baylor is founded on the belief that God's nature is made known through both revealed and discovered truth. Thus, the University derives its understanding of God, humanity, and nature from many sources: the person and work of Jesus Christ, the biblical record, and Christian history and tradition, as well as scholarly and artistic endeavors. In its service to the church, Baylor's pursuit of knowledge is strengthened by the conviction that truth has its ultimate source in God and by a Baptist heritage that champions religious liberty and freedom of conscience. Without imposing religious conformity, Baylor expects the members of its community to support its mission. Affirming the value of intellectually informed faith and religiously informed education, the University seeks to provide an environment that fosters spiritual maturity, strength of character, and moral virtue.

From the Baylor University mission statement.

Full disclosure: I am a member of the United Methodist Church, where I serve as a lay leader in my home church and as a certified lay speaker in my district. I have attended Baptist services, and I have a number of family members who are Baptists. I have never been a Baptist, but my theological quibbles with the Baptists are scant and irrelevant to the present discussion. I have no meaningful quarrel with the above-quoted passage.

That said, I am neither a president nor an athletic director at a Pac-10 institution, which is pertinent because the Texas state legislature is pushing for Baylor to replace Colorado in the proposed expansion of the Pac-10 to the Pac-16 by adding six Big 12 schools to the league. That this switch represents a probable dealbreaker for the Pac-10 has received less ink (or, I guess, fewer pixels) than I would have expected; quite apart from the self-evident fact that the Buffaloes represent the best geographic and cultural fit for the Pac-10, the fact is that Pac-10 schools were skittish---needlessly so, in my opinion, but skittish nonetheless---about adding religious-affiliated BYU.

Yes, I understand that Baylor University and Brigham Young University are different institutions associated with different churches; I am not trying to equate them with one another or to argue that criticisms applicable to one necessary are applicable to the other. In particular, critics of BYU as a potential Pac-10 expansion target alleged a lack of academic freedom in Provo, and the mission statement cited above certainly seems to suggest that this would not be a problem in Waco.

Still, one has to wonder how comfortable the Pac-10 powers that be would find themselves with a school that places the Pro Ecclesia ("for church") ahead of the Pro Texana ("for Texas"), and certainly ahead of the Pro Placitum ("for conference"). I don’t see a problem with the Baylor mission statement, but some of the folks who had a problem with BYU might, provided they placed the emphasis where I have placed it here:

[T]he University derives its understanding of God, humanity, and nature from many sources: the person and work of Jesus Christ, the biblical record, and Christian history and tradition, as well as scholarly and artistic endeavors. In its service to the church, Baylor's pursuit of knowledge is strengthened by the conviction that truth has its ultimate source in God and by a Baptist heritage that champions religious liberty and freedom of conscience. Without imposing religious conformity, Baylor expects the members of its community to support its mission.

That strikes me as a perfectly reasonable Christian position. Then again, I am a Southerner and a Protestant. Might I feel differently if I were neither of those things, and I was the president of a Pac-10 university who already was squeamish about admitting the likes of BYU into the fold? Yeah, I might, at that. For instance, Baylor is affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas, whose rather ecumenical position on abortion contains the following statement: "Abortion as birth control is not compatible with the gospel's call to reverence life."

My purpose is not to stake out a position on any theological or social issue, nor is it to start a discussion on such subjects. My point is simply that the religious affiliation of the Big 12 South school being pushed for inclusion in the possible expansion might be a bigger deal than some seem to suppose. Don’t discount the possibility that Baylor could be a dealbreaker for the Pac-10.

Go ‘Dawgs!

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