Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Save OBU Outreach: Other Baptist Colleges

This week, we are focusing on outreach to friends and supporters outside our main constituency of students, parents, faculty, and alumni.  We looked at what OBU means to the Shawnee area and what its likely decline under fundamentalism would mean for the community.  Realizing that OBU is not a unique victim of SBC fundamentalists' aggressive lust for power and control over institutions, we want to reach out to other Baptist colleges to see if we find parallels or can offer solidarity.

Formerly Southern Baptist Colleges
When I first started the blog, I began studying formerly SBC colleges, believing that their battles for independence from fundamentalist-controlled state conventions might offer insights as to how to proceed. We looked at William Jewell College, Stetson, and Furman.  We will eventually examine the situation at the University of Richmond, Mercer, and Wake Forest.  As difficult as those schools' battles for independence were, we found out that OBU is at a distinct disadvantage because the BGCO's legal stranglehold over OBU is so all-encompassing.  (Not only does the convention elect all of the trustees, it literally owns the buildings and grounds.)

Along with their newfound independence, expanding constituencies, and broadening missions, these schools have become less exclusively and intentionally Baptist in character.  To fundamentalists, this change reinforces their fear that without strict convention control, Baptist universities will inevitably drift away from their explicitly religious founding.  While we do not believe that is necessarily the case, we have certainly maintained that we do not envision a future for OBU that is secular or less Baptist.  In fact, we have argued emphatically that the very changes we are protesting represent a radical and disappointing departure from the Baptist freedoms we hold near and dear.  If anything, we believe that an OBU free from BGCO control could be more authentically Baptist than it has been under the Norman-Whitlock administration's disappointing policy and personnel changes which, let's not kid ourselves, BGCO elites have noticed and applauded.  It is we, not they, who have held fast to Baptist distinctives.  They are the ones who have embraced authoritarianism, creedalism, and worldly politics and abandoned liberty of the conscience, local church autonomy, and the separation of church and state.

Currently Southern Baptist Colleges
The SBC maintains a list of nearly 60 colleges that are related to Baptist state conventions.  We have already heard from alumni and staff at Shorter University in Rome, GA.  Like OBU and the BGCO, Shorter's ever more fundamentalist state convention is attempting to impose its narrow agenda on the university.  If you think things have gotten ugly at OBU, take a look at Shorter's situation.  At the current rate, this appears to be the direction the BGCO wants to take OBU.  We hope it's not too late for Shorter's students, faculty, and alumni to be heard.  We've also looked at Louisiana College in Pineville, LA, which fundamentalists have taken over.

Now, we turn to the several dozen other Southern Baptist colleges in the U.S.  While they have all lurched toward fundamentalism since the 1980s and there are undoubtedly demoralized moderates at all these institutions, we believe that Save OBU is one of the largest and most comprehensive efforts to defend academic freedom and protect against fundamentalist encroachment at a Baptist college.  Even as we hope to inspire simliar efforts at these sister schools, we are seeking information we can use for our own battle.

Please forward this post to friends, colleagues, and potential supporters who are students, faculty, or alumni of these institutions.  We want to know about the relationship between the school and the state convention, whether the convention owns the university, how the trustees are elected and by whom, and what violations of academic freedom or basic ethics have taken place since fundamentalist (or fundamentalist-appeasing) leaders took over.

Colleges and Universities Affiliated with Baptist State Conventions

Judson College
Samford University
University of Mobile

Ouachita Baptist University
Williams Baptist College

California Baptist University

The Baptist College of Florida

Brewton-Parker College
Shorter University
Truett-McConnell College

Campbellsville University
Clear Creek Baptist Bible College
Georgetown College
Mid-Continent University
University of the Cumberlands

Louisiana College

Blue Mountain College
Mississippi College
William Carey University

Haniibal-LaGrange College
Southwest Baptist University

Yellowstone Baptist College

North Carolina
Campbell University
Chowan University
Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute
Gardner-Webb University
Mars Hill College
Wingate University

Cedarville University

South Carolina
Anderson University
Charleston Southern University
North Greenville University

Carson-Newman College
Union University

Baptist University of the Americas
Baylor University
Dallas Baptist University
East Texas Baptist University
Hardin-Simmons University
Houston Baptist University
Howard Payne University
University of Mary Hardin-Baylor
Wayland Baptist University

Bluefield College
Virginia Intermont College

Alright, Save OBU supporters!  It's time to get active.  We are NOT alone in our fight.  It's true that some of these schools are avowedly fundamentalist and almost all faculty and students would be hostile (and are irrelevant) to our mission.  But many of these places were once bastions of Christian liberal arts education in the best of the Baptist tradition.  Like OBU, recent (or not-so-recent) fundamentalist-inspired changes have threatened their proud heritage.  Tap into your networks and let's use this opportunity not only to reach out in solidarity to Baptists in exile in our own denomination and schools, but to glean information that can help us as we pave the path toward OBU independence from the BGCO.

Remember, here is what we need to know:
1. What is the relationship between the school and the convention like?
2. Does the convention own the school?
3. Who elects the trustees?
4. What abuses of academic freedom have taken place? How has the school become less a place of learning and inquiry and more a place of indoctrination?

Please post responses to our Facebook page or email

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