Last week, I suggested that some conservative Baptist theologians are finding Baptist denominational colleges inhospitable. Though probably dismissed for different reasons, Jarvis Williams at Campbellsville University and three professors at Louisiana College were all let go in spite of the fact that they affirm all the standard Baptist statements of faith.
One Baptist leader has decided to do the right thing. This weekend Paul Chitwood, the executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, announced that he and other leaders would look into the situation at Campbellsville University. On his blog Chitwood wrote:
In the next few weeks, a group of judicious and respected Kentucky Baptist leaders will engage representatives from Campbellsville University in what we trust will be an open and honest dialogue. The purpose of this undertaking is to better understand the theological convictions that chart CU’s course and whether or not those convictions are still compatible with the mission our Lord has given the churches of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
Recent news that the university will not tenure a popular professor in their school of theology has solicited both an outpouring of support for the professor and swirling accusations about the university. For most Kentucky Baptists, a personnel matter at one of our nine agencies or institutions is a matter that should be handled privately by the administration without interference by the public.
Claims, however, that CU retains other professors in the school of theology who reject biblical authority and professors in other disciplines who affirm evolution, are difficult for many Kentucky Baptists to swallow. This is especially true when well over $1 million of their missions offerings are helping pay the salaries of those professors every year.
He notes that Kentucky Baptists are concerned over the things that they are hearing about Campbellsville University, and he suggests that “open and honest dialogue is necessary.”
Chitwood should be praised for promoting transparency in this situation because Kentucky Baptists deserve open and honest dialogue. The leadership of the convention and the leadership of the university should work quickly to resolve the concerns of the churches. Read the entirety of Chitwood’s announcement here.
Unfortunately, not every state convention of the Southern Baptists values open and honest dialogue. In spite of appeals for him to get involved in the debacle at Louisiana College, David Hankins, the executive director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, has declined to demonstrate any leadership. Hankins’s silence in the face of LC’s theological battles, financial woes, and accreditation difficulties is bewildering.
Louisiana Baptists deserve open and honest discussion just as much as Kentucky Baptists do, but instead it appears that Baptist churches in Louisiana should expect the backroom meetings of the good ole boys’ network. I spent most of my life as a Louisiana Baptist, and this situation, which is all too familiar, grieves me.
Perhaps we should expect this situation because Louisiana has a reputation for shady politics. But should Christians really settle their problems using the methods of Huey Long?
Let me end on a positive note. Kudos to Paul Chitwood and Kentucky Baptists.