Southwest Baptist University fires Theology prof.

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Southwest Baptist University fires Theology prof.

Postby Sandy » Wed Dec 19, 2018 6:23 pm

A professor was dismissed at Southwest Baptist University for apparently tattling on fellow professors, accusing them of not teaching in accordance with the wishes of Missouri Baptists and other violations related to the BFM 2000. It is hard to tell from the information posted on the petition website, or from the school's correspondence, what actually happened. What appears to have happened is that this particular professor had a diary with notes from conversations he said he had with other profs in the theology school who supposedly were teaching a whole string of "liberal" stuff. When confronted with his notes, they denied it and many of them said he'd never discussed the matter with them.
https://sbcvoices.com/theology-professo ... on-friday/

Part of the problem here seems to be that the school's theological parameters are not as tightly defined as some conservative Missouri Baptists think they are. The various websites and information are linked in the blog post that I linked.

The relationships of many of the undergraduate colleges and universities connected to state conventions are different than the seminaries and the SBC. Depends on the state, but in many cases the schools are not as closely tied to the state convention. In Missouri, one of the schools that declared self-perpetuating trustees and left convention control, Missouri Baptist University, lost its legal battle to do so and may have to return to convention-elected trustees. In other states, Tennessee, North Carolina, Arizona, the conventions were either bought out or the right of the school to be self-determining was upheld in the courts.

SBU was one of two of the Missouri schools that benefitted from claiming affiliation and agreement with the conservatives in the state convention when the other two colleges went their own way. One of them, William Jewel, did not have any problem because it was older than the convention and its relationship was defined in a different way than the other schools.

From an ethical perspective, it does not appear this professor had the right to divulge the information from his conversations with colleagues and violated the school's employment policy. Those who think he's right theologically and he's sniffing out liberalism don't think he did anything wrong.

Southern Baptists seem bent on destroying their institutions and driving church members away.
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Re: Southwest Baptist University fires Theology prof.

Postby Haruo » Wed Dec 19, 2018 6:31 pm

Sounds like "He said, He said", but that makes it sound like it involves something approaching rape. I
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Re: Southwest Baptist University fires Theology prof.

Postby Rvaughn » Thu Dec 20, 2018 9:45 am

Definitely convoluted, with different sides saying contradictory things. In the Letter of Dismissal the University president talks a lot about hearsay and the professor's unwillingness to engage his colleagues. On the other hand, this Overview of Evidence mentions times when the professor directly communicated with his colleagues about these matters.

The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.
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Re: Southwest Baptist University fires Theology prof.

Postby Jon Estes » Fri Dec 21, 2018 5:00 am

The link to the letter of dismissal makes it sound as if no first-hand evidence was presented. The link to the emails tells a different story. The audio link is troubling.

These links are in the article of this subject on sbcvoices.

I have a problem with CP dollars going to support those who teach no hell or no eternal hell... among other things. Things which are a contradiction of scripture. I have a problem with spending CP dollars on those who gladly teach outside of Baptist parameters set by Baptists. I think this applies to those who get a check from CP... not those who do not.
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Re: Southwest Baptist University fires Theology prof.

Postby Tim Bonney » Sat Dec 22, 2018 9:37 am

Once when I was at Missouri Baptist College (now Missouri Baptist University) a non-tenured professor was let go by the administration (before the school took a more moderate turn) for "being perceived as not being conservative enough." Honestly, that was one of reasons given. NOT even not being conservative enough but not be perceived as conservative.

Theological orthodoxy determined by the perceptions of the peanut gallery isn't a way to run a school.
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Re: Southwest Baptist University fires Theology prof.

Postby Dave Roberts » Sat Dec 22, 2018 9:49 am

Makes me glad to be out of the SBC fold and not have to live where the outcome of all inquiry is already prescribed. This is an old debate rooted in scripture and most succinctly studied in Oscar Cullmann's writings. I had a pastor who did his dissertation in this area, and I am reminded that conditional immortality is one option in certain biblical passages. Of course, perhaps the most hellish punishment to imagine is to get nothing but yourself for all eternity.
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Re: Southwest Baptist University fires Theology prof.

Postby Tim Bonney » Sat Dec 22, 2018 10:36 am

Dave Roberts wrote:Makes me glad to be out of the SBC fold and not have to live where the outcome of all inquiry is already prescribed. This is an old debate rooted in scripture and most succinctly studied in Oscar Cullmann's writings. I had a pastor who did his dissertation in this area, and I am reminded that conditional immortality is one option in certain biblical passages. Of course, perhaps the most hellish punishment to imagine is to get nothing but yourself for all eternity.


So was the professor's views on eternal punishment/hell part of the controversy?
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Re: Southwest Baptist University fires Theology prof.

Postby Sandy » Sun Dec 23, 2018 1:31 am

Jon Estes wrote:The link to the letter of dismissal makes it sound as if no first-hand evidence was presented. The link to the emails tells a different story. The audio link is troubling.

These links are in the article of this subject on sbcvoices.

I have a problem with CP dollars going to support those who teach no hell or no eternal hell... among other things. Things which are a contradiction of scripture. I have a problem with spending CP dollars on those who gladly teach outside of Baptist parameters set by Baptists. I think this applies to those who get a check from CP... not those who do not.


CP income at Southwest Baptist University is less than 5% of the school's income. Most of the revenue comes from tuition, fees, and the school's endowment and investments. About a third of the students are members of Missouri Baptist Convention churches with about half coming from SBC congregations. So there's not much CP money paying salaries there. And like most Baptist state conventions, the elected trustee board is the only governing body of the school, and decisions about staffing are left completely up to them.

It appears that most of the evidence gathered regarding what was being taught in the classroom came from a few students and a few second-hand sources, all of them with connections to a few influential conservative Missouri Baptists. It's a trustee governed institution and it doesn't appear they are inclined to support this professor at this point.
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Re: Southwest Baptist University fires Theology prof.

Postby Tim Bonney » Sun Dec 23, 2018 8:10 am

Having read the linked documentation, I think it would be pretty hard for anyone from the outside to determine what happened. As Sandy said above, the trustees certainly have the right to terminate someone’s employement as long as they follow the schools own rules and policies for faculty dismissals. Though, at least a surface reading seems that this is more about behavior than theology. I serve on the committee of the Board at Simpson College that hears such appeals and there is often more to the story than gets reported publically.

On the side topic of CP giving as a determining factor in the theology of faculty, I can’t imagine, as a Trustee of a college, letting a 5% budget contribution dictate faculty choices. I’d be just as likely to vote a 5% budget cut and untie the hands of what is an independent board. But, then neither the ABC/USA or the UMC contribute funds to related colleges as a means of control so such an expectation is outside of my experience.
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Re: Southwest Baptist University fires Theology prof.

Postby Sandy » Mon Dec 24, 2018 8:55 pm

https://www.wordandway.org/item/4536-sb ... ther-profs

Story from the Word & Way, the independent, non-affiliated Baptist newspaper in Missouri. It appears that this controversy not only involves some finer points of theological interpretation, but also church membership. Some profs are criticized because of the church they attend. I get that there might be some concern about churches affiliated with CBF, though I am not aware that the things some of these professors were accused of teaching are widespread or popular among CBF congregations. But SBU does not have a requirement that its professors can only attend Baptist churches of a certain affiliation and the MBC can't dictate that policy to the school. But the other church mentioned, First Baptist Church in Bolivar, which is not too far from campus, is fully cooperating with both the MBC and the SBC and its pastor is a convention nominated and elected member of the trustee board. The professor who was fired is a member of Southern Hills Baptist Church, a small congregation located across the road from the university. The difference is in the particular BFM version that each church has adopted.

There's also a reference at the end of the article to recent court decisions regarding a former state convention school, Missouri Baptist University in the St. Loius suburbs, and the long running lawsuit to attempt to bring it back under convention control after its trustees declared themselves self-perpetuating. The initial court decision returned the school to convention control, but it appears that the apellate courts took a longer look at the case.

Timothy Bonney wrote: But, then neither the ABC/USA or the UMC contribute funds to related colleges as a means of control so such an expectation is outside of my experience.


From previous cases in different states, it appears that this is done in different ways depending on how the school was originally chartered. My Alma Mater, Grand Canyon University, declared itself independent from the convention in 1998 I believe, because the convention had put its endowment at risk with a scandal in its Baptist Foundation. The convention didn't contest the move, because its funds were tied down by legal holds due to the scandal. The percentage of CP funds there was even less, about 2.5%, and only a third of the students were from SBC churches, less than a fourth from in the state. Was it a good move? Well, since 1998, enrollment has climbed from about 1,300 to 20,000 on campus, with over 70,000 in its online graduate program and it bills itself as the West's premier Christian university. That's quite a contrast to some of the state convention related schools that are still owned and operated by conservative-controlled state conventions. And while you can't characterize GCUs theological position as being exactly in line with the BFM2000, it is mainstream Evangelical conservative enough to be affiliated with the Association of Christian Schools International as one of the 8 or 9 schools offering continuing education to teachers in private Christian schools.
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Re: Southwest Baptist University fires Theology prof.

Postby Dave Roberts » Thu Jan 10, 2019 9:51 am

In some materials I have seen today, it may be that all this is about accusing other professors of not following the BFM2K. I am very unfamiliar with the school, but I am intrigued by the fact that this prof was accusing other profs of having CBF leanings. If so, CBF certainly knows nothing about that. Guess he wanted to paint with a broad brush. Sounds a little like what was being done when I was a seminary student in that it was rumored that some students were being paid by conservative pastors to record the lectures of profs at SBTS and send the tapes to prominent CR folks for analysis. I always loved Dale Moody's response. He told a couple of students in his theology classes to sit on the front row. He said, "I don't want your patrons to get poor tapes or mistake what I have said."
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Re: Southwest Baptist University fires Theology prof.

Postby Tim Bonney » Thu Jan 10, 2019 12:39 pm

Dave Roberts wrote: He told a couple of students in his theology classes to sit on the front row. He said, "I don't want your patrons to get poor tapes or mistake what I have said."


I never had Dr. Moody for a class. He retired as I was starting seminary. But I enjoyed his books. His views on apostasy sound almost Methodist. <wink>

Just from casual reading over the years the impression I get is that more conservative evangelical schools try to control the theology of the institutions that their students attend while mainline denominations that are more connectional (UMC, PCUSA, and Episcopal) examine the theology of the student before ordination. After all, I went to conservative schools and ended up being a liberal. Controlling the theology of the school is no guarantee of know the theology of the clergy.
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Re: Southwest Baptist University fires Theology prof.

Postby Rvaughn » Thu Jan 10, 2019 12:57 pm

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Re: Southwest Baptist University fires Theology prof.

Postby Tim Bonney » Thu Jan 10, 2019 2:36 pm

My connections to SWBU are only that I had an uncle who graduated from there who is now deceased and that I was a member of several couple of Missouri Baptist Convention churches during my growing up years and seminary.

My recent experience have taught me that colleges do have policies for removal of professors that has usually been previously voted on by the trustees and faculty. If the trustees have worked within those bounds then the firing my be controversial but if they violated their own internal policies that can get you in trouble with accrediting agencies as with supporters and donors.
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