When Paul M. Stevens announced his early retirement in February as president of the Southern Baptist Radio and Television Commission, he pledged himself to generating an investigation of “charlatans” in religious broadcasting. During Stevens’ twenty-six years as president, the commission grew from one radio program, “The Baptist Hour,” to thirty programs aired on 3,000 radio and television stations. He promised to use his long-time influence and expertise in efforts to force “the glamour boys of religious broadcasting” to make full financial disclosure.

Stevens’s plans haven’t changed and have been lauded by some. But in recent weeks, Stevens himself has been subject to scrutiny—by the Baptist and secular press who discovered that his retirement may not have been entirely voluntary. Commission trustees told the Dallas Times-Herald that they were prepared to force Stevens from his position if he had not stepped aside voluntarily. They expressed dissatisfaction with Stevens’s administrative policies, substantial retirement benefits, and lack of evangelistic emphasis in programming. They may grasp a firmer rein on the agency, which has clearly borne Stevens’s stamp.

Frederick W. Isaacs, chairman-elect of the commission and chairman of a committee to find a successor for Stevens, said there were complaints that Stevens often acted on his own authority without prior trustees’ approval. He said the commission questioned certain Stevens-directed expenditures, such as $30,000 to film the symphony in Fort Worth, where the commission has its headquarters. (Stevens said the filming was a good will gesture to the city, since the commission pays no taxes for police and fire protection.)

The trustees also were embarrassed by Stevens’s retirement benefits. A special nonparticipatory retirement fund, established by the commission’s trustees in 1966, will give him 60 percent of his annual salary, or $27,000, per year after his retirement. The commission in 1972 also granted him full use for life of a commission-owned home, now valued at $185,000, upon retirement. With social security and other funds to which Stevens contributes, he reportedly would receive more than $55,000 per year upon retirement. While established through legitimate channels, the benefits, said Isaacs, would disturb “a whole lot of grassroots Baptist pastors.” He promised that the commission would make full disclosure of information to its trustees and the general public. If Stevens had been fired, he would have lost the $27,000 payment and use of the commission-owned home.

Finally, Isaacs and certain other trustees said commission programming often reflected too little emphasis on evangelism. Stevens responded by saying the trustees wanted “preachers preaching to preachers and preachers preaching to Christians.” The 63-year-old Stevens, who is credited with creating a number of Baptist media programs, including the popular program for teen-agers, “Powerline,” said he was more interested in producing quality programming aimed at the “noninterested, nonreligious audience.”

Stevens, who could not be reached for comment, was relieved immediately of all administrative duties following his retirement announcement, though he would retain his president’s title until October 31. All parties involved hoped that ill feelings would be avoided. Isaacs told the Baptist Press, “We don’t want to destroy the credibility of a man who has done so much for Southern Baptists over the years. I wish none of this had happened.”

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