Monday, August 16, 2010

Keith Bruce, Ben Price, and the BGCT

In 1998 many Texas conservatives, frustrated at the moderate leadership of the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT), formed the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC). Since then, the SBTC and the Southern Baptist Texan have grown, the BGCT has had financial difficulties. During the last 10 years or so, the BGCT has had to lay off a number of their employees. Some of the layoffs have been public, some behind the scenes.

Recently I was especially sorry to see laid off Dr. Keith Bruce, Director of Institutional Relations, BGCT. I and my family have a very high opinion of Dr. Bruce. Let me explain.

About 1986 my dad, Joe Brumbelow, and I visited the Texas Baptist Historical Collection (TBHC), then housed at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

We have a journal and some documents left to dad by his uncle Ben Price. Ben Price was a circuit riding Texas Baptist preacher in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Joe Brumbelow never knew it, but after his death his older sister Myrtle told us that Ben Price had said that Joe would be a preacher and that was why he wanted to leave this material to him. Ben Price died in 1935 when Joe was five years old. Price’s journal dates back over 100 years. Of course, Joe Brumbelow did become a preacher and pastored for years.

Ben Rogers was then director of the TBHC. We showed the documents to Ben Rogers and he seemed very interested. He even mentioned that one of the brochures from about 1920 contained a photo of a preacher that he did not have. He said he would love to have a copy.

We told Rogers we did not want to give them to the TBHC, but we would be happy to leave them there and allow him to make copies of the documents. He later sent us a letter acknowledging the loan and itemizing most of the documents.

In 2006 dad had already gone on to be with the Lord. Ben Rogers was now working at Baylor University. My mother, Mrs. Joe E. (Bonnie) Brumbelow talked with me about getting the Ben Price / Brumbelow documents back.

I contacted the new director of the TBHC and he informed me the Price/Brumbelow documents had been gifted to them and we could not have them back. Over numerous emails, he never wavered in saying they were the property of TBHC. He even said they had a document to prove it; a document he never produced.

I contacted Ben Rogers and he said while he did not remember all the details he agreed that the documents should be returned to us and sent an email to TBHC to this effect. Still the TBHC director did not budge. At one point the said that if we would sign a document declaring the Price/Brumbelow documents were their property they would then loan them to us. The director bluntly told us the documents would be displayed in the new museum they planned to open.

Finally we wrote a statement telling how the TBHC had refused to return our property and had it notarized December 6, 2007. We sent the statement to Dr. Keith Bruce, Director of Institutional Relations, BGCT. Dr. Bruce seemed ready and willing to help us. After Keith Bruce got involved, the TBHC director apologized for what he had done.

To have our property returned we were required to sign a document absolving the TBHC of responsibility. We did not want to sign anything, but a lawyer friend told us if we did not plan to sue, we should go ahead and sign it. All we wanted was the return of our property.

I sent a letter to Dr. Bruce stating, “Having received your assurance that ‘release the Texas Baptist Historical Collection from any responsibility or liability related to these items’ is, ‘simply an acknowledgment- once you have the materials- that TBHC is no longer responsible / liable for them’ I am now ready to sign the statement below upon receipt of the Price / Brumbelow Documents.”

The documents were sent to us, and several days later we sent them the signed statement.

To make a long story short, Keith Bruce was instrumental in getting our property back; property that had been improperly held from us for months.

We’ve heard and read other good things about Dr. Keith Bruce. We've enjoyed reading his writing.  The BGCT will be poorer without him. I pray God’s blessing upon him and his family in the days ahead.

Note: Ben Price is mentioned in The Wit and Wisdom of Pastor Joe Brumbelow, Hannibal Books, p. 154-155.
Related Articles: 
Brief History of SBC Conservative Resurgence
Q & A on SBC Conservative Resurgence, part 1
Q & A on SBC Conservative Resurgence, part 2
Difference Between the 1963 and 2000 Baptist Faith and Message
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-David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, August 16, AD 2010.

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