Tuesday, May 22, 2012

From the Archives: Downward Spiral Series

In mid-April, just days before my daughter was born, we did a series of posts on the Georgia Baptist Convention's successful effort at engaging its three colleges in a race toward Bible-academy status and academic irrelevance.  We began and ended with arguments for how Save OBU will have a vital role in preventing the same pathetic fate in Oklahoma Baptist life.

First, we examined the case of Truett-McConnell College in Cleveland, GA.  Though never as prominent as Mercer or even Shorter, TMC is newly invigorated with fundamentalist leadership.  Its new president, Emir Caner, was the founding dean of the College at Southwestern, an undergraduate program at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth.  Caner's book Unveiling Islam (coauthored with his brother) was the source of former SBC President and Pastor Emeritus of FBC Jacksonville, FL Jerry Vines's 2002 assertion that the Prophet Mohammed was a "demon-possessed pedophile."  Caner, an adult convert from Islam, is considered a rising star in what remains of Southern Baptist academia.  Caner happily obliged the GBC's desire to institutionalize fundamentalism at TMC, instituting a policy that all faculty sign the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message.  TMC even staged a huge celebration of their descent into creedalism during which Rev. Dr. Paige Patterson, architect of the Fundamentalist Takeover, was the keynote speaker.  Somehow we ran afoul of Caner, though, as evidenced by the fact that he blocked Save OBU from his Twitter feed.  Oh well.  I guess the truth hurts.

Next, we looked at Brewton-Parker College in Mount Vernon, GA.  If TMC was willing to accede to fundamentalist designs for the school, BPC has been willing to one-up TMC in every way.  Whereas TMC still has designs of being a legitimate, accredited college, BPC has pretty much given up and become a fundamentalist Bible academy.  There seems to be little evidence that anyone in the GBC or in BPC leadership even cares if the college loses its accreditation, which seems a near certainty at this point.

Our Downward Spiral post on Shorter University in Rome, GA was one of the most widely-read in the Save OBU blog's history.  We've discussed Shorter's situation at length elsewhere, but in this series we discussed the notion that the GBC's direction and the other two schools' willingness to abandon academic freedom and all semblances of legitimacy has made it even more difficult for Shorter.  In the fight for finite GBC funds, these colleges seem to be locked in a race to the bottom.

Moving on from Georgia, we have elsewhere suggested that the race-to-the-bottom dynamic is now at work in Tennessee.  Tennessee Temple University, an Independent Baptist college affiliated with Highland Park Baptist Church in Chattanooga now wants back into the Tennessee Baptist Convention. But the TBC already subsidizes two Baptist colleges, Union University in Jackson and Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City.  TTU's president, Rev. Dr. Steve Echols, has even suggested that by forcing all faculty to sign the Baptist Faith and Message, TTU is "theologically safe," implying that Tennessee's other Baptist schools are not.  We'll keep you posted as this situation develops.

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