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 ...1
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