Two Truett Seminary students who attend Lake Shore Baptist Church will lose much of their scholarship money in the wake of the Baptist General Convention of Texas removing the church because it allows LGBT members.
The two Baylor University George W. Truett Theological Seminary students and a Baylor undergraduate student who attends Lake Shore will lose BGCT-funded scholarships in the fall, but the church and another Baptist group plan to step in to cover some of the loss.
The convention voted this week to remove Lake Shore Baptist and two other churches that accept LGBT members, saying the churches are “outside of harmonious cooperation” with the convention.
The BGCT covers at least 70 percent of tuition for all Truett students who attend a BGCT-affiliated church, Lake Shore senior pastor Kyndall Rothaus said.
“Their church is their family, and they don’t want to have to choose between their education and their church family, which I understand,” Rothaus said.
For Chris Williamson, 23, a Truett student who will lose money that covers his full tuition, the needs of his church family are a key factor. He intends to remain at Truett and Lake Shore Baptist.
“The people that we were thinking of when we were making this vote and making this decision (to accept LGBT people), what they’re going through is much greater, in my mind, than me losing funding,” Williamson said. “So it was a fear. It was a risk that was possible, but I in no way wanted my situation to stop us from being true to ourselves and being there for those in my community who just want somewhere to feel welcome.”
The convention’s decision to remove the church was not a surprise after the church’s vote in December to formally state its acceptance of LGBT members. Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas and First Baptist Church in Austin were also removed this week because of their acceptance of LGBT people.
Truett students seeking a master of divinity or a doctor of ministry degree receive a $150 per semester-hour scholarship from the BGCT, Truett Dean Todd Still said in a statement. Students seeking a master of arts in Christian ministry or a master of theological studies receive a $100 per semester-hour scholarship from the BGCT.
All other scholarships and tuition discounts are provided by the university and Truett donors, Still said.
“Truett Seminary will work with students impacted to address their needs and concerns,” Still said in the statement.
Williamson said he also expects a second, smaller scholarship he gets from BGCT to disappear this fall.
Lake Shore students will continue receiving BGCT funds this school year, but they will be ineligible in the fall, BGCT spokesman Joshua Minatrea said.
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship will provide scholarship relief to the students, Rothaus said.
Lake Shore Baptist will also give scholarships of up to $1,000 per academic year, depending on fund availability, and Baylor will match those, making it $2,000 per student, she said.
She said donations to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship scholarship fund and Lake Shore’s scholarship fund are encouraged.
Williamson, a second-year student who aspires to be a minister, said his main goal is to remain a committed member of Lake Shore.
“But I also love Truett,” he said. “There are professors I admire, mentors I’ve met, friends I’ve made, and ministry opportunities I’ve gotten to be a part of. I didn’t want to give up attending this place that I love and worshiping with the people I’ve come to be friends with, and I feel like they’re family to me.”
Rothaus said BGCT’s vote to exclude the churches has hurtful consequences, though BGCT officials have no intention of hurting anyone.
“I don’t think they will change course anytime soon, but I think this is the movement of the church,” she said. “And eventually, just like it took the church a long time to figure out women could be ministers, or it took a long time to embrace other races, I think eventually this will be a non-issue and most people will be embarrassed that we ever sort of had this debate.”