Tenn. Baptists approve sale of property
The Executive Board has been in its present location since 1969.
David Green, president of the Executive Board and pastor of First Baptist Church in Greeneville, said the meeting was historic for Tennessee Baptists.
The two buildings which comprise the Baptist Center (the original structure and the conference center added in 1989) along with 5.25 acres will be purchased by Franklin Land Associates LLC.
Rich Wallace, an attorney and member of First Baptist Church in Sevierville, brought the recommendation to sell the property from the administrative committee which he chairs.
The Executive Board began a feasibility study of selling the property in 1996, Wallace said. In 2005, a committee was formed to deal with inquiries arising from the sale of an adjoining property. Three years later the Executive Board approved the sale of the Baptist Center for $13 million, but the sale did not occur, Wallace told board members.
Stewardship was the major reason for selling the property, Wallace said.
Since 1989 when the conference center was added, the number of full-time employees has dropped from 135 to 105. Eighty-eight of those positions are assigned to the Brentwood office and about half of them work with churches in the field, board members were told.
In addition, Wallace said nearly $1.5 million in capital improvements would have to be made should the board remain in its present location.
Wes Turner, an attorney and member of First Baptist Church in Nashville, chaired the subcommittee that handled negotiations for the property sale.
The property will be purchased for $9 million. The purchaser will have an inspection period of 90 days after the signing of the contract (May 17), Turner explained. At the end of the inspection period the buyer can terminate the agreement and receive a refund of the $270,000 earnest money that was deposited with an escrow agent.
The buyer also has the option of extending the inspection period for up to five additional 30-day periods upon direct payment to the Executive Board of $45,000 for each extension. Those funds are nonrefundable but will be applied to the purchase price, Turner said.
Escrow closing will take place within 15 days at the end of the inspection period. Before the closing of the sale, the Executive Board will have up to eight months to vacate the property, Turner said.
During the occupancy period, the Executive Board will pay for all utilities and perform routine maintenance but will not be required to perform any capital improvements, Turner said. The Executive Board also will maintain its property casualty and liability insurance, he added.
The board will retain the stained glass, furniture, equipment and the "Tennessee Baptist Convention" portion of the rock sign on the corner of the property. If the chapel is torn down in any manner, the Executive Board also has the right to secure the rocks from the chapel, Turner said.
The Executive Board does not have to pay any closing costs or commissions, so it will receive the entire $9 million, Turner said. Discussion was relatively brief as only questions of clarification were asked.
One board member asked, "Can we comfortably replace this building with $9 million?"
TBC Executive Director Randy Davis responded, "From everything I have seen, we can."
Following the unanimous vote to sell the property, Davis characterized the milestone as "a significant, historical, game-changing day in the life of the Tennessee Baptist Convention."
For 43 years, "we have called 5001 Maryland Way home," Davis said.
"But, motivated for the right reasons, it is time to go in another direction."
Davis expressed appreciation to previous Executive Board members and to his predecessor, James Porch, for "beginning to cast a vision of a more efficient and effective way to do missions as an Executive Board."
He also expressed appreciation to the subcommittee of Turner, Wallace, Roy Gilleland and Randy Vineyard and for the Executive Board staff.
"The months ahead will be months that will require the very best our staff has to offer," Davis said. "They must continue to possess a 'whatever it takes' attitude that's willing to go the extra mile." While stressing that the Executive Board does not know where it is going on a temporary or permanent basis, "We know why we are going," Davis said. "We understand very clearly why we are selling the building. Stewardship and strategy have driven this decision."
The decision, Davis said, did not stem from financial difficulties, because Tennessee Baptists are giving faithfully.
"We are on solid financial footing thanks to prudent decisions such as the one made by our Executive Board today," he said.
If the sale closes, Davis said, the Executive Board "will become a more efficient missions organization."
"We will be able to put more Great Commission Cooperative Program dollars into better serving our churches, thus reaching more Tennesseans [with] the Gospel of Jesus Christ," he said.
While "we may not know the next physical address of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, we know exactly where the work will be done," the executive director said.
"It will be done in the highways and hedges, hand-in-hand with associations, churches and Great Commission partners across this state, across North America and around the world."
Davis told Board members that though the action they took was "a brick and mortar decision," it was "eternal to the core."
"I commit to you that we will do everything in our power to be wise stewards of this investment for the sake of the Kingdom. This is going to be a productive, exciting and fun road trip," Davis said.
Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist & Reflector newspaper, online at www.tnbaptist.org/BRNews.asp.