It’s just plain wrong what is going on at Glorieta

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GlorietaBy KEN CAMP / MANAGING EDITOR of The Baptist Standard https://www.baptiststandard.com/
Note from Pastor Dewey: We get a lot of inquires on the situation at Glorieta. This is the latest from The Baptist Standard. I visited a bit with my Dear friend Pastor Glenn Strock at the prayer meeting last week with Governor Martinez. The Strock’s live in a house at Glorieta. Pastor Glenn said it is just not a good situation and he and his wife are standing strong and not giving in. For myself, I cannot figure how a Christian organization can do what they are doing to the residents of Glorieta, like Pastor Glenn and his family. It is just plain wrong. Let us cover this situation in our prayers. Lord we pray for your justice for the residents.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.—An Arkansas couple who own a house on land leased fromGlorieta Conference Center filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court seeking a temporary restraining order or injunction to prevent the transfer of property from LifeWay Christian Resources to Glorieta 2.0.

Kirk and Susie Tompkins of Little Rock, Ark., allege LifeWay lacks authority to dispose of the conference center without the approval of messengers at two consecutive annual meetings of the Southern Baptist Convention annual.

The legal complaint—filed Sept. 4 in the U.S. District Court in Albuquerque, N.M.—asserts the original 1950 warranty deed grants the conference center property to the SBC Executive Committee, and no other transfer of deed is on record. The suit names as defendants a long list of officers and employees of the SBC Executive Committee, LifeWay and Glorieta 2.0.

Opened in 1952

Glorieta Baptist Assembly opened as Southern Baptists’ second national conference center in 1952 and has been operated since then by the Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, which changed its name to LifeWay in 1998.

The conference center reported financial difficulty for more than two decades, and LifeWay agreed to sell the property for $1 to Glorieta 2.0 in a deal scheduled to close this month.

The suit alleges LifeWay acted in violation of the SBC charter when its trustees voted to transfer property to Glorieta 2.0, which the court documents characterize as “a non-Baptist, non-related group of businessmen operating for profit children’s camps not legally affiliated with SBC or LifeWay.” Individuals involved in Glorieta 2.0 also operate Camp Eagle in Rocksprings, in Southwest Texas.

Leaseholders’ options

Glorieta 2.0 gave current leaseholders three options regarding their houses:

• A one-time buyout for $30 per square foot, with a minimum $40,000 and maximum $100,000 payment, regardless of the appraised value.

• A new 12-year lease. At the end of the lease, the building would go to Glorieta 2.0 for no compensation.

• Donate the building to Glorieta 2.0.

The legal complaint characterizes those options as unfair and unreasonable.

As of Sept. 5, LifeWay had not received notice of the suit from the court, said Marty King, director of corporate communications.

“However, we are confident Southern Baptist Convention approval is not required for the transaction,” King said. “LifeWay’s bylaws do require approval for such action by our SBC-elected board of trustees. LifeWay’s trustees approved disposition of the Glorieta property two years ago and sale to Glorieta 2.0 for a camping ministry later this year.

“We will review the court document when we receive it and respond to the court.”

Filing as individuals

The lawsuit includes as exhibits signed affidavits by several other leaseholder families who registered dissatisfaction with the actions of LifeWay and Glorieta 2.0. However, Tompkins emphasized he and his wife filed the legal action as individuals, and they are not seeking monetary damages.

“We don’t harbor any ill will. We just want truth and justice,” he said.

About 65 individuals and organizations own houses built on property leased from Glorieta.

Before filing the complaint, Tompkins sent an Aug. 17 enjoinment letter to leaders of the SBC Executive Committee, LifeWay Christian Resources and Glorieta 2.0 demanding the parties involved “cease and desist all actions involving any disposal of Glorieta Conference Center.” The letter gave notice of “appropriate lawful action” if all parties failed to confirm in writing by Aug. 31 they were halting the transfer of property.

Tompkins said he received an email from Augie Boto, general counsel and executive vice president for the SBC Executive Committee, but no further correspondence.

In his email to Tompkins, Boto wrote: “We presently see no legal basis for the proposition that Executive Committee or convention permission is required before LifeWay may dispose of the Glorieta property.”

In response to questions from the Baptist Standard, Boto underscored that LifeWay, not the SBC Executive Committee, owns Glorieta.

“The only sale of property by an entity of the Convention which would need Convention approval—in one meeting—would be if the entity proposed to sell all or substantially all of its property.  This sale does not rise to that level,” he said.

Boto added his belief that that the lawsuit is “without any legal merit, and that the court will concur.”

14 COMMENTS

  1. For a time the New Mexico State Police conducted its “rookie” training.

    The staff at Glorieta were so kind and attentive during my and my fellow rookies stay there, that we never cease to speak favorably of that time.

    I certainly hope folks will be treated in the spirit with which they entered their contracts and I pray the Spirit of our LORD will guide the resolutions.

  2. For a time the New Mexico State Police conducted its “rookie” training at Glorieta Baptist Assembly

    The staff at Glorieta were so kind and attentive during my and my fellow rookies stay there, that we never cease to speak favorably of that time and the facilities.

    I certainly hope folks will be treated in the spirit with which they entered their contracts and I pray the Spirit of our LORD will guide the resolutions.

  3. Yes, it is just plain wrong. Glorieta was publicized to be on the up-swing and definitely not closing when my friends’ homes were purchased. It seems a lease can protect a landlord, but laws protect consumers also. Where are the consumer protections here?
    If I were Lifeway, I would be so sorry this happened and would insist on paying a fair price for homes-to honor God and impart justice.

  4. It’s also plain wrong how Christians are treating other Christians in this whole Glorieta matter. I live there. I see and hear it all the time. I love everyone that’s having to go through this ordeal, but the bottom line is they all signed the contract knowing they could one day lose their home. And it needs to be reported that out of nearly 70 homeowners only a handful have not accepted any of the option offers and are protesting. Why not sign on for 12 years and see what happens? Potentially this lawsuit could end up not letting them have any options at all.

    I believe God knew this day was coming and He has used the homeowners as a vessel in blessing a ministry with a building they can use to further the kingdom. We cannot store up our treasures in heaven.

    My prayers are for everyone involved, that everyone remembers that their negative actions and words have a potential to turn people away from God and Christians. It is worth it in the big picture? Is it?

  5. Even though a judge has dismissed this case primarily on procedural issues my prayer is the appeal will allow for the facts to be presented to a jury. The greed of Lifeway leadership brought down Glorieta Retreat Center. For over 35 years I personally experienced Glorieta as a ministry. For countless evenings in the summers I experienced worship services in that beautiful sanctuary packed with ministers of music and church choir workers, doors open often with overflow seating outside. I remember as a child thinking that the roof would literally fly off the sanctuary from the hymns of praise during worship. Glorieta Retreat Center was a place where pastors and church workers could come to the various conferences and retreat, recharge, and plan for the upcoming years ministry. It was a place of untold beauty staffed by the most wonderful people I have ever met. The conference experience was totally focused on experiencing God. But something changed and within a few short years the focus changed from ministry to profit. Instead of experiencing God, it was about experiencing Lifeway. In order to pursue profitability the costs became on par with the commercial resorts that I supposed Lifeway leadership frequented. Did Lifeway not realize that most SBC churches are 300-400 in size. Lifeway leadership making hundreds of thousands of dollars in salary and benefits a year and are so out of touch with what an average pastor with family survives on that apparently they saw no problem with the skyrocketing costs of attending a Lifeway conference. The numbers of attendees quickly dropped and with it the support of Glorieta. I watched over the years at the many failed attempts to convince people to invest in timeshares, golf course, and all the other crap that are a dime a dozen in our society. Lifeway even turned to a Las Vegas hotel employee to lead Glorieta to profit. Lifeway was clueless, ministers and church workers wanted a retreat not a resort. I watched the wonderful staff of local New Mexico residents, many having made a career of enabling the ministry of Glorieta, being treated like dirt. Many fired with less than a year before retirement and then threatened with lawsuits by Lifeway if it was brought to light. I shed tears over those friends that Lifeway wronged in pursuit of PROFIT! Once again Lifeway has proven incapable of treating people with even the simple decency and rightness that prevails in society, much less what one would expect of an organization profiting on Christ.

      • Of course. I spent an evening at Glorieta not long ago and it just breaks my heart to see what a mess it has become. The hardest part of the collapse of Glorieta was how people that invested their lives were treated. I also doubt any of the decision makers knew a thing about the remarkable beginnings of Glorieta. I’ll never forget the summer I showed up to find the “resortification” of the retreat center. Gone were the invaluable rock and gem collection housed at Texas Hall, one man’s life’s work, as were the irreplaceable hand crafted chandelier’s from Mexico, a gift of reconsiliation between Catholic and Baptist, that illuminated the sanctuary in the evenings. In shock I found Jim Hansen and asked him where the gem collection was being housed and if the chandelier’s were being restored in some way. He told me they were directed to throw them in the trash! I knew then that those in control of the retreat center cared and knew nothing about it.

        • David, while all those things are precious, they are just that. Things. In the big picture, just trash. We can’t take them with us. What I remember most about Glorieta is the people. The lives saved, the friendships made. People are what we can take with us and matter in the big picture. I’m going back for a visit this summer and can’t wait to see the wonderful changes I’ve been hearing and reading about. I believe I will encounter the same God that was there when Glorieta was founded and who is the same God that is with me where ever I go. Isn’t that more important than buildings, rocks and chandeliers?

          • Nena, I would agree that people are what matter. And the friends I have met that worked the ministry of Glorieta and those attending conferences at the retreat center are precious. But, are you aware of the way these very people, employees of Glorieta, were treated? Some let go literally months before they qualified for retirement. You do not treat people like that unless it’s about profit. As a believer do you believe it’s right to offer someone 20% of what their home is worth because a contract says you can? Of course if it’s about profit. In my opinion Lifeway and the new owners are about profit, period. They have demonstrated it in the way they treat people. Again because of the way Glorieta 2.0 has treated residents, in my opinion profit over fairness, this is what comes to mind. God has delivered Glorieta into the hands of a very, very wealthy builder, at least a ministry that he controls. That way no “non profit” transitioning to “for profit” back taxes would be owed to the state of New Mexico, again about profit. So after several years if that ministry just doesn’t make it and goes bankrupt then the back tax issues (that would have been incurred from a “for profit” sale) go away and that property could be developed into say a luxury housing resort. Did you know that during the severe drought that Santa Fe experienced probably hundreds of millions of dollars worth of luxury mountain homes were abandoned because there simply was no water available. Glorieta apparently has an abundant water supply, while these areas were in severe drought, it’s water table remained constant. Very unique, and worth a lot of profit when one looks to develop. I hope I’m wrong. With the money behind Glorieta 2.0 and the resources of Lifeway, why would they not have treated these handful of homeowners with fairness? Weekley could have paid the families for their homes or built them new ones in one of his wonderful communities and not have changed his bottom line one bit. Lifeway could care less.

            • David, I know what I’m talking about. My husband was a manager there and was part of the last lay off. It was a terrible time, I disagreed with much of what Lifeway did and did not do. And I too would have done things differently than the new owners. I grieved as much as anyone when I had to leave my beloved mountain. I still yearn for Glorieta. But it’s time to let go. When we cling to “things” we are essentially telling God that we don’t trust Him. My advice to you and to everyone that is still trying to keep things stirred up is to let it go and trust God. Move on. For the ones who lost their summer homes, consider the possibility that God is continuing to use them through the homes they gave up to bring others to Christ in housing those that are staying there. And I think you have an exaggerated perspective of the drought/water supply issue. Unless you’ve lived there full time, I respectfully don’t think you have a clue. Keeping the Glorieta conflict alive only allows satan to continue to divide the saints and water down our commission to spread the gospel. Let it go.

  6. Ha! Sorry. My email notification did not show David’s comment. I’ll just slink away red faced…..:-)

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