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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Re: Southwest Baptist University fires Theology prof.

Postby Rvaughn » Tue Apr 23, 2019 9:37 am

Here is an interesting follow-up concerning Southwest Baptist University posted at SBC Voices:
Doctrinal Concerns of Southwest Baptist University Alumni
We have read a recent press release from SBU stating that there has been a “previous affirmation of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 that has been made by all faculty of the Courts Redford College of Theology and Ministry.” This report has invoked incredulity and bewilderment from all of us, as we consider our own experience in the Redford College alongside recent statements that have surfaced from an on-campus forum.

We have read a recent press release from SBU stating that there has been a “previous affirmation of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 that has been made by all faculty of the Courts Redford College of Theology and Ministry.”...The incredulous response from alumni in reaction to this report arises from our experiences at SBU, where at times our professors were unclear on doctrines expressed in the BF&M 2000, or were teaching in direct opposition to it. While our experiences were not the same, we can collectively affirm that our instruction from some Redford professors was not in accord with the BF&M 2000.
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Re: Southwest Baptist University fires Theology prof.

Postby Sandy » Tue Apr 23, 2019 2:56 pm

The blog post at SBC voices was signed by a small group of former students, most of them fairly recent graduates. I've seen similar statements being circulated by other groups that I would only describe as "random," since there isn't any noted pattern, defending the university and the Redford school's professors as being thoroughly consistent with any interpretation of the BFM 2000. My wife is an SBU alum, but that's been a while back. Among her friends who are still connected with the school, you'll get similar opinions, from complete support and claim that they are consistent with the BFM 2000, to those who insist that Dr. Bass was within his rights and there's been a problem at the school for a long time. I served in a Missouri SBC congregation in the early 90's and there was muttering and fussing about doctrinal purity at all four of the colleges supported by the MBC then. But then, that happens in every state convention with a college that has a Bible department. "They oughta be a teachin' what we tell 'em to" is a long standing Baptist cry when it comes to higher education.

A few observations.

1. Belonging to a church affiliated with CBF is much more of a flash point for measuring worthiness to be employed by an institution receiving cooperative program funds than the actual theological position of that person. You cannot assume that someone who belongs to a church that is CBF affiliated holds to a liberal theological position that denies the BFM 2000 point by point. The trustees at Southwest Baptist University have not enacted a school policy forbidding professors to be members of churches affiliated with CBF, even though the convention severed ties with churches that did so. BTW, when the state convention cut ties to dually affiliated CBF congregations, they lost five of the top ten CP supporting churches in the state convention.
2. The Baptist Faith and Message is a confessional statement, not a comprehensive doctrinal statement. Those who claim to support it seem to think that their interpretation and application of it to their ministry work is the ONLY interpretation that is valid. A friend of mine who pastors a Bible church in Phoenix and has a ThM and MDiv from Dallas Theological Seminary told me once that you could drive a proverbial "theological truck" through the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 and not hit anything. I would guess that the theological and doctrinal guidelines that are required of professors at SBU's Redford School are far more comprehensive, have been reviewed and approved by the trustees and are part of each professor's evaluation.
3. Though most of my teaching and school administration experience is at the grade school and high school level, I can tell you that even among those parents, Bible classes and the teaching of theology and doctrine draw ten times more critics and make far more people angry and upset than any other course. I'll say it because it needs to be said, conservative Christians are the most intolerant people you will ever meet and on top of that, they are intolerant and angry at everyone who doesn't conform to their thinking.
4. You won't find a college or university affiliated with the SBC that has a Bible department or a theology school that doesn't stir up ridicule and criticism among pastors and church leaders in the pews of SBC affiliated churches.

My alma mater exited its state convention affiliation as a matter of financial expediency after a financial scandal in the convention subjected its property and endowment to seizure to pay bad debts made by the convention's foundation. It was the best thing that could have happened to them. They transformed from a struggling, financially strapped school with 1,300 students on a crumbling campus into a dynamic, booming institution initially labelled the "premier Christian university in the American West," and now into the World's Largest Christian University. It's doctrinal statement and theological instruction is probably equally conservative with that of the SBC schools it left behind. It has its own theological seminary that is less expensive than attending an SBC-related school these days.
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Re: Southwest Baptist University fires Theology prof.

Postby Tim Bonney » Tue Apr 23, 2019 3:32 pm

Sandy, from your perspective what is the difference between. creed and a "confessional statement?" From all you have said above it appears to me that the BFM 2000 is being used the way I'd expect denominations to use a creed.
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Re: Southwest Baptist University fires Theology prof.

Postby Sandy » Tue Apr 23, 2019 4:27 pm

Tim Bonney wrote:Sandy, from your perspective what is the difference between. creed and a "confessional statement?" From all you have said above it appears to me that the BFM 2000 is being used the way I'd expect denominations to use a creed.


From my perspective, a confessional statement is simply a statement that declares specific things that you believe. The BFM is not comprehensive enough to be a creed, though I would agree that in some cases, especially when it comes to SBC seminaries, it is being used that way. A creed is a prescribed set of beliefs handed down from ecclesiastical authority which the SBC doesn't have. Part of the problem here is that SBU's administration and trustees see the BFM 2000 as a confessional statement, while the critics of the Redford school professors see it as a creed.
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Re: Southwest Baptist University fires Theology prof.

Postby Tim Bonney » Tue Apr 23, 2019 4:35 pm

Sandy wrote:
From my perspective, a confessional statement is simply a statement that declares specific things that you believe. The BFM is not comprehensive enough to be a creed, though I would agree that in some cases, especially when it comes to SBC seminaries, it is being used that way. A creed is a prescribed set of beliefs handed down from ecclesiastical authority which the SBC doesn't have. Part of the problem here is that SBU's administration and trustees see the BFM 2000 as a confessional statement, while the critics of the Redford school professors see it as a creed.


I'm not sure why you are suggesting a creed has to be comprehensive. Two of the most popular creeds, the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed don't seem to be more comprehensive, and are a good bit shorter, than the BFM 2000.

While I agree that on paper the SBC officially doesn't consider it a creed, it sure appears to me that it is used with that kind of authority.

I'm not saying I have a problem with creeds, I don't. I've got an entire Book of Discipline I am required to follow. But I'm always fascinated how a supposed non-creedal statement has more force in many SBC institutions than the actual ancient ecumenical creeds do in in other denominations.
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Re: Southwest Baptist University fires Theology prof.

Postby Sandy » Tue Apr 23, 2019 8:31 pm

In this case, apparently it doesn't have the force of a creed. The professor who brought the accusations and provided some surreptitious evidence of its violation was the one fired. The administration and most importantly the all-powerful board of trustees are not enforcing the BFM as a creed.

I should say that the BFM is not comprehensive enough to stand alone as a doctrinal statement for a college or graduate level theological educational institution. There's a lot that's not covered, and frankly, very little is covered to the point where there can't be some variance in interpretation. Those who follow the most conservative path in interpreting it are unable to see that there are quite a few loopholes, especially if it is to be used to measure and enforce doctrinal purity.
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Re: Southwest Baptist University fires Theology prof.

Postby Tim Bonney » Tue Apr 23, 2019 9:49 pm

Sandy wrote:
I should say that the BFM is not comprehensive enough to stand alone as a doctrinal statement for a college or graduate level theological educational institution.


I wouldn't know. United Methodist institutions don't do that. We don't have prescribed faith statements for faculty, staff or students. Clergy are vetted by Annual Conference Boards of Ordained Ministry. The closest we come to anything like that is that there are three prescribed courses for persons seeking ordination in the UMC (UM doctrine, UM history and UM polity.) In those courses our doctrines are taught. But there is no requirement that the institution subscribe to them. In fact we have a deal with a Presbyterian seminary in north eastern Iowa to train Methodist clergy by making sure they provide the 3 required classes taught by a Methodist studies professor.
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Re: Southwest Baptist University fires Theology prof.

Postby Dave Roberts » Wed Apr 24, 2019 5:37 am

Once the BFM2K included in its preamble that it was a statement for "doctrinal accountability," it met the classic definition of a creed. Prior BFM's studiously avoided language like that. It also, IMHO, became heretical when Christ was no longer the standard by which scripture was to be interpreted. Been down this road before.
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Re: Southwest Baptist University fires Theology prof.

Postby Rvaughn » Wed Apr 24, 2019 10:26 am

Dave, is THIS what you are talking about:
Baptists cherish and defend religious liberty, and deny the right of any secular or religious authority to impose a confession of faith upon a church or body of churches. We honor the principles of soul competency and the priesthood of believers, affirming together both our liberty in Christ and our accountability to each other under the Word of God.

Baptist churches, associations, and general bodies have adopted confessions of faith as a witness to the world, and as instruments of doctrinal accountability. We are not embarrassed to state before the world that these are doctrines we hold precious and as essential to the Baptist tradition of faith and practice.
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Re: Southwest Baptist University fires Theology prof.

Postby Sandy » Wed Apr 24, 2019 10:45 am

The statement regarding the "Christ criterion" is explained here, in the committee report:

SBC Committee on the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 wrote:"The closing sentence of the 1963 statement on the Scriptures has been a cause of controversy. Some have used the language defining Jesus Christ as 'the criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted,' to drive a wedge between the incarnate Word and the written Word, and to deny the truthfulness of certain passages. We use stronger and more historic language in affirming the fact that 'all Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.' As Christ said of the Scriptures, 'these are they which testify of Me.' [John 5:39]


https://swbts.edu/about/what-we-believe/

And the statement itself:
Baptist Faith and Message 2000 wrote:All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.


I'm not sure that I would agree with the committee's statement that this change clarifies and states the principle "in a stronger way," but I wouldn't label it heresy, either. There is nothing in the preamble that states the BFM 2000 is an "instrument of doctrinal accountability." Does it get used that way by trustee boards who govern seminaries and agencies? Absolutely. But in the polity of the SBC, that's how it works. If they want to use it as a doctrinal statement, it's their perogative to do so.

Having said that, the state convention constitution and bylaws in Missouri are similar to those of the SBC and other state conventions when it comes to trustees. The issue at SBU is that the school's administration made a decision to fire a professor based on some solid evidence that he violated the school's employment policy. His defenders have raised the issue of the doctrinal integrity of the rest of the theology department as an attempt to either help him get his job back, which isn't likely, or to try to make this appear as some kind of injustice. The open letters and statements that they are making, uninvited by either the trustees or administration, are pure gossip.
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Re: Southwest Baptist University fires Theology prof.

Postby Dave Roberts » Thu Apr 25, 2019 6:42 am

Being in the BGAV, we kept the 1963 statement as most representing where the majority of churches are.
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