Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Progress Report on Save OBU Updates and Changes

So much has been happening at Save OBU, it's hard to keep track of it all.  About two weeks ago, I announced some changes to the blog designed to give voice to a new generation of OBU alumni.  Today I'll briefly report on some new initiatives and lay out a sketch of our vision going forward into the spring.

New Contributing Editor
After researching and writing 72 blog posts and generating more than 12,000 pageviews on the website, I invited Veronica Pistone ('11) to join me as a Contributing Editor.  Already, Veronica has impressed our readers with her knowledge, insight, and clarity.  She has not shied away from difficult topics, and her commitment to Baptist freedom and her love of OBU shines through in every post.

Veronica receiving an award for outstanding academic
achievement from SCS Dean Mark McClellan in 2011

Guest Bloggers
On Sunday, we ran our first in a series of occasional guest blog posts.  Caitlin Dacus ('11) shared an informative and passionately written essay on early Baptist hero John Leland.  Her connections to OBU's current situation show how far our alma mater has fallen.  Tomorrow and Friday, I am pleased to welcome Clayton Mauritzen ('06) as he shares his OBU story.  Look for more guest posts in the weeks and months to come.  If you have a perspective or story and would like to be considered for publication here, be sure to email us at SaveOBU@gmail.com.  Remember, our focus is on protecting academic freedom at OBU and advocating for independence from the BGCO.

Spotlight on Recent OBU Disasters
In giving voice to a younger generation of OBU alumni, we are hearing from people who had a front row seat for the Norman-Whitlock administration's authoritarianism, new fundamentalist-inspired direction, and assaults on Baptist freedom.  If you missed it last week, take a look at our three part series on administration at OBU.

A Broad View of Evangelical Academia
Initially, I invested a lot of time in learning about other Southern Baptist colleges that parted company with their state conventions.  As inspiring as those stories are, OBU's situation is unique in that the convention literally owns the university.  The BGCO has OBU in a legal straitjacket from which we cannot easily escape.  That's why they are able to advocate for a fundamentalist agenda with such impunity -- we really have no recourse (which is why our protests must be loud, passionate, and unyielding).  For now, we just have to hope and pray that current leaders will not do any more damage to OBU and its reputation than they already have.

But it occurs to me that while many Baptist schools were fighting battles from which Joe Ingram, Bill Tanner, and Bob Agee wisely and deftly shielded OBU during the Fundamentalist Takeover era, OBU quietly established itself as one of the premier evangelical colleges in the U.S.  Sadly, we are losing ground to other fine colleges like Wheaton, Gordon, Biola, and Whitworth -- institutions that do not have to kowtow to fundamentalists like OBU unfortunately does.  Some are suggesting that we are witnessing an "evangelical renaissance" in academia.  Not only is OBU not taking part, we are actually regressing.  In fact, we just received word that Wheaton hired an outstanding young New Testament professor that OBU passed over for a job in 2009 in spite of her being unanimously recommended by the search committee.

Next Steps
Now that I have help with the daily blogging duties, I am going to start assembling an advisory board for Save OBU.  I'm looking for a handful of people with ties to SBC churches (both BGCO and CBFO) in Oklahoma.

Then, we'll work on compiling a dossier of issues that we can submit to OBU trustees later this spring.

One idea that seems fun and might be effective is to hold a Save OBU rally in Shawnee sometime this year or next.

And we'll begin investigating the politics and processes involved in trustee selection.  With luck and extensive planning, we'll be able to influence trustee election at the BGCO meeting in November.  Given all the student, faculty, alumni, and retired faculty protests, Anthony Jordan is not going to let any non-fundamentalists on the Board from now on.  We need to make sure OBU continues to have good trustees who understand Baptist freedom, academic freedom, and the importance of not ruining an institution's hard-earned and well-deserved reputation for excellence just to satisfy a few Baptist power brokers in OKC and Nashville.

A Word of Thanks
We have received invaluable support and encouragement from Bill Jones ('73) of Texas Baptists Committed.  Bill featured Save OBU on the TBC blog yesterday and we really appreciate all he's done.

And, of course, thank to all of you for your kind words and assistance in spreading the word.

God bless OBU!

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