The Tie That No Longer Binds

Grand Canyon University severs formal link with Southern Baptist Convention

The executive director says GCU voted to create a new corporate entity and transfer all assets to the new company.

The reorganized university will pick its own trustees.

"The reasons why they did that and their motivation at this point in the game I can't speak to, because I'm not real certain," says Bass, adding that convention "auditors and bookkeepers" were not consulted, either.

So was the split friendly?

"There are a lot of emotions on either side," Bass answers.

He notes that GCU is following a national trend of denominational schools that are splitting from conventions for financial reasons.

GCU, for instance, which operates on a $24 million annual budget, got only $275,000 per year from the convention.

"I think everything related to the Baptist Foundation and plus this issue of the auditing concerns really heightened [the move to sever legal ties] at this time," says Bass.

Asked if he suspects GCU wanted to bolt from the convention because of the BFA scandal, Bass says: "I don't know. . . . I don't know what all went into their decision."

Bass says he's aware of the investors clamoring for both the state and national Southern Baptist conventions to pay them their money, but he says the clamor is misguided. The convention simply doesn't have the money to make the investors whole.

"There is no glass jar in the backyard of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention where I can go dig up these assets," says Bass. "That's the same truth with the national convention. . . . There are some people who maybe misunderstand . . . [and think] we're like Roman Catholics who have all these assets in our offices. . . . Well, that's not true."

Bass says he supports a group called "Restoring Our Integrity," composed of local pastors who are attempting to raise money in Arizona and elsewhere for BFA investors.

In addition, Bass has written articles for the national Baptist Press, explaining the Arizona BFA calamity, hoping to get Southern Baptists to send aid to oldsters who lost their life savings.

"I try to get the word out [nationally] to Southern Baptists that we are hurting in Arizona; we have a major crisis on our hands," says Bass.

To see an archive of the previously published "MoneyChangers" series, visit theNew Times Web site at http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/1998/121098/baptist.html

Contact Terry Greene Sterling at 602-229-8437 or online at terry.greene@newtimes.com

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