Officials are strongly denying that former Southern Baptist Convention president Ed Young is being discussed as a prospective member of Baylor University’s board of regents.

“I have never heard Ed Young’s name mentioned by any of our regents in connection with a place on Baylor’s board,” President Robert Sloan said Tuesday through a spokesman. That came in response to a request by for reaction to a newspaper report that the pastor of Second Baptist Church in Houston was being considered for a spot on Baylor’s governing board.

Rumored for weeks, the story broke into print last week when the Waco Tribune-Herald carried Sloan’s response to a reporter’s question about Young’s possible appointment. “I don’t know how some of these rumors get started,” Sloan said. “I’m kind of amazed at these things.”

On Sunday, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, said that board chairman Drayton McLane Jr. has been promoting Young as a potential regent for two years. Both newspapers reported that Young was unavailable for comment. McLane did not immediately respond to an e-mail request by for comment.

Baylor spokesman Larry Brumley on Monday called it a “malicious rumor.”

“There is absolutely no credibility to that whatsoever,” said Brumley, associate vice president for external relations. “I don’t know where that is coming from. It is totally baseless.”

The rumor has fueled speculation and debate in the university community, however.

Sloan’s predecessor as Baylor president, Herbert Reynolds, said in an e-mail interview with the Waco Tribune-Herald that it would be a mistake to put Young on the board. “His election to the Baylor board, and anyone else of his ilk, would, in my opinion, be nothing less than a politico-religious move to Baylor’s ultimate detriment,” Reynolds said.

Houston millionaire John Baugh, a longtime fundamentalist-fighter and large donor to Baylor’s Truett Theological Seminary, took the rumor seriously enough to write an eight-page letter to McLane. While not mentioning Young by name, Baugh said asking Baylor regents to consider adding one or more prominent fundamentalists to the board would be “exceedingly ill-advised.”

Regent Toby Druin, retired editor of the Baptist Standard, told that he would never vote in favor of a recommendation to add Young to the board.

Giving legs to the rumor is division among regents, alumni and students over Sloan’s leadership.

Some opponents charge that Baylor, which changed its charter in the early 1990s to protect the school from takeover by “fundamentalists” controlling the Southern Baptist Convention, is now being taken over from within. Critics say Sloan’s announced 10-year plan to move Baylor to a top-tier university while maintaining a Christian identity is in reality a fundamentalist agenda.

Sloan supporters say such talk is absurd.

“Having recently written two books on American fundamentalism, I find such charges baffling,” Barry Hankins, associate professor of history and church-state studies at Baylor, wrote in the Waco Tribune-Herald. “What is happening at Baylor is not even remotely related to fundamentalism in the SBC or elsewhere.”

Joel Gregory, the former pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas who chronicled his rise and fall in ministry in a 1994 book, Too Great a Temptation, wrote in Sunday’s Fort Worth Star-Telegram that Sloan’s critics were a “cabal” of “senior, tenured professors and older alumni.” Newer professors and younger alumni “conspicuously support Sloan,” he said.

“I know fundamentalists,” Gregory said. “They tried to destroy me. Sloan is no fundamentalist. I have known him since he was a teen-ager. A purer heart, nobler spirit or finer mind never served the school.”

SBC leaders are viewing the Baylor situation with interest, however. Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and co-founder of the SBC’s “conservative resurgence” is among those to voice support for Sloan’s efforts to infuse more religion into the school.

“What Dr. Sloan has made an effort to do is take Baylor in the direction of the most intense academic achievement, while at the same time recapturing something of its evangelical heritage,” Patterson is quoted as saying in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Also quoted in the same article is Miles Seaborn, a leader in the Southern Baptists of Texas, a group that broke ties with the Baptist General Convention of Texas over the established convention’s resistance to fundamentalist reforms. Commenting on the battle over Baylor’s soul, he described what he views as the central question: “Is the president going to prevail in his desire for this to be more of an evangelical-type college?”

In another recent development, a professor who sparked a campus protest when he announced last week he intended to call for a no-confidence vote against Sloan by the faculty senate was removed from the body the next day because of a little-known bylaw that says senators cannot miss four meetings in an academic year.

“To say the least, I’m mad as hell,” computer science professor Henry Walbesser told the Waco Tribune-Herald.

Walbesser said he expects the no-confidence vote to go on without him when the faculty senate meets Sept. 9.

In an Associated Press story, Walbesser accused Sloan of retaliating against professors who oppose him by refusing to give them raises or tenure. He said he was demoted as a graduate school dean a few years ago when he publicly criticized Sloan’s direction of the university

“He makes himself out to be a pious person with Christian values, but he doesn’t practice it,” Walbesser said. ” … He has done so much damage to this institution in the name of Christian faith.”

“He is an evil person,” Walbesser said.

Sloan supporters, meanwhile, have created a forum in the Web site to counter criticism of the president. Scott Moore, a member of the philosophy department, said the site is independent, run by faculty and alumni, and paid for with private funds.

Bob Allen is managing editor of

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