This week we have looked at some of the other Baptist universities who have stayed with their conventions after the fundamentalist takeover. Some of these colleges are not much like OBU. Some of them are a little bit closer. And some of them may as well be OBU if a few things had gone differently.
But each gives us an interesting look at the same question. What does it mean to be a Baptist-- specifically with regards to higher ed?
For our friends at Shorter, they will be waiting until December to find out if their addition of a lifestyle statement to the requirements for continued employment there will ruin their accreditation visit from SACS. Because although it is their prerogative as a private institution to institute such a statement, it is a big no no in the world of higher ed accreditation to do anything which denies the value of tenure-- i.e. firing professors for refusing to sign even if they are tenured. It's estimated that one third of their faculty will leave before they sign.
Is that what it means to be a Baptist? Making sure that all of the people we associate with act a certain way, hold certain political views, and above all, not to take seriously the requirements of an institution for higher learning?
We have seen this week that that is certainly what it can mean to be a Baptist.
But something we here at Save OBU have said from the beginning is that the recently fundamentalist state conventions do not have the last word on what it means to be Baptist. And perhaps, in 1910, when our forerunners decided to build a co-ed, liberal arts university for their newly incorporated state instead of a seminary, it was because they knew that to be Baptist could mean a celebration of learning and truth seeking in all disciplines.
So this week, we say Baptists should be known for what they are for, not for what they are against.
I look forward to exploring each of the historic Baptist freedoms in turn and their implications on higher education. Perhaps we will see that the future is not so bleak after all.
There is another possibility for the future-- one for which Save OBU will continue to advocate before it is too late.
For those who are curious, I take number and outline of the four Baptist freedoms from Walter Shurden's book, The Baptist Identity.