Friday, July 13, 2012

Jacob's Interview with Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists (w/Video)

Yesterday's post discussed how the group Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists was formed largely over concern for OBU's future.  In 1997.  They didn't make much headway on OBU issues, unfortunately.  But I am pleased to say that the group, under the leadership of Executive Director Rev. Dr. Bruce Prescott, has been a powerful, prophetic witness for social justice, historic Baptist distinctives, and the separation of church and state for nearly 15 years.

Bruce has followed the Save OBU movement with some interest and provided key insights and analysis for us along the way.  I had the pleasure to meet Bruce and spend some time with him when he was in Washington for a conference in June.  He generously offered to interview me for his blog, which will hopefully get our message out to a broader Baptist audience.  The interview is broken into four parts.

Part 1: Who is Jacob Lupfer?
This is mostly biographical.  You can view it here if you're interested.

Part 2: What's Going On at OBU?
I explain why I started the Save OBU blog and offer my opinion about the effect of recent changes on the Christian witness of OBU.

What is Going On at OBU? from Bruce Prescott on Vimeo.

[UPDATE Monday, July 30, 2012: I said in the video that SWBTS doesn't have any women faculty.  This is not true.  They have a few professors of homemaking, submitting to your husband, and stuff like that.  Also, one of Professor Dorothy Patterson's past research assistants is now on faculty as "Assistant Professor of Theology in Women's Studies."  Sorry for the technical inaccuracy.  But really, my point doesn't really change until SWBTS and the other SBC seminaries have some female deans or professors in homiletics or branches of theology that aren't explicitly gender-focused and committed to a sexist position on women in church, family, and public life.  Who knows, maybe they have black professors of Confederate studies.]

Part 3: How Does the BGCO Influence OBU?
I discuss the repercussions of the Fundamentalist Takeover of the SBC and the BGCO on OBU.  I also describe how the percentage of OBU's budget being contributed by the BGCO has declined as the convention's influence over OBU's affairs has increased.

On OBU's Relation to BGCO from Bruce Prescott on Vimeo.

Part 4: Were is OBU Headed?
I comment on the change in the kind of books offered by the OBU bookstore, describe the turn away from classical instruction in philosophy, and talk about parallels between OBU and Shorter University in Georgia.

Where is OBU Headed? from Bruce Prescott on Vimeo.

Thanks for being on this journey with me.  We may fail in the end.  The people men aligned against us are very powerful.  Win or lose, though, I obviously believe it's important that we fight this battle.  Hopefully these videos will help you get to know me a little better and provide some context for our struggle.  Barely more than twenty years ago, Southern Baptists proudly ran many of the finest universities in the South.  I shudder to think about the state of Baptist higher education twenty years from now if current trends continue.  It's absolutely vital that we spread the word, raise our voices, and fight to protect the distinctively Baptist liberal arts tradition that meant so much to us.  The prospects for future generations of students to experience anything even comparable to the education we received are grim... unless something changes.

Headline: "Future of OBU Prompts Baptist Group to Form"

The Daily Oklahoman did a nice write-up (text below) that will alert tens of thousands of readers to our struggle!  Here are some quotes from the article:
  • "Saying they fear 'fundamentalists' will take control of Oklahoma Baptist University, some state Baptists who are unhappy with their denomination's leadership are trying a new tactic."
  • "Said two alumni, 'Our concern for the future of OBU has been triggered by the controversial takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention by a few powerful fundamentalist leaders.'"
  • "A proponent added that the group is being formed 'to protect academic freedom at OBU, to uphold historic Baptist principles, to promote full inclusion of Baptists in state convention activities and to promote a free, responsible and fair Baptist press in the state.'"
  • "When asked if he was frustrated, BGCO Executive Director-Treasurer Rev. Anthony Jordan said, 'I don't get too frustrated, simply because I care about these people.  I have a desire to do all I can to help them to come along with the rest of Oklahoma Baptists.'"
Not bad, eh?

Well, don't get too excited.

The article "Future of OBU Prompts Baptist Group to Form" ran in 1997.

That's right.  The quotations above and text below are from an article about the formation of a group called Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists.  You may know of the group through the work of its executive director, Rev. Dr. Bruce Prescott.  Bruce has been a leader on theological, social justice, and church/state issues in Oklahoma for almost 15 years.  He's also a prolific blogger who you should follow on Twitter.

But a lot of people may have forgotten that Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists was formed largely over concern for OBU.  Though broadly a response to the Takeover that had, by then, engulfed most state conventions including the BGCO, one major event provided the impetus to get Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists off the ground: In July 1997, Rev. Dr. Bob Agee announced his retirement from the OBU presidency.  Agee, as we have said before, did a masterful job of shielding OBU from the nasty politics of the Takeover.  During his tenure, OBU dramatically increased its reputation for excellence in Christian liberal arts education.  Agee had the trust of the faculty and, equally important for the job, he knew how to play nice with the fundamentalists.  He was a tireless advocate for and vociferous defender of academic freedom, open inquiry, and all the things about liberal arts universities that might make fundamentalist Oklahoma Baptist pastors nervous.  Agee was more than the right person for the job.  To many, it seemed he might be the only person for the job.  Who else could protect OBU from outside interference while still navigating the folkways of Oklahoma churches and the institutional politics of post-Takeover SBC and BGCO life?

Against the backdrop of Agee's retirement was the fact that a prominent fundamentalist from Oklahoma, Rev. Dr. Tom Elliff, had just been elected to his second one-year term as SBC president.  Would the SBC try to meddle in the presidential search?  Could the same BGCO that censured the legendary Joe Ingram be trusted to elect trustees that would find a qualified leader -- rather than a fundamentalist ideologue -- to fill Agee's post?  There was a lot of fear on Bison Hill about these issues, and the fear resonated with Baptists throughout Oklahoma who opposed the Takeover crowd and their tactics.

Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists did, in fact, form in 1997, as the Oklahoman article states.  But while the group has gone on to do absolutely wonderful work on a number of fronts, it has not been active in advocating on behalf of OBU in many years.  Bruce quickly became persona non grata among the BGCO elites, and even a lot of OBU people were pretty tight-lipped around him.  I feared I might have the same problem -- no one at OBU would tell me what's really going on -- but luckily I have earned my sources' confidence by prodigiously guarding their anonymity.  Years ago, Bruce tried to place an ad in a facebook OBU produced for incoming students.  Apparently that went over about as well as if I tried to place an ad for Save OBU in The Bison.  Correctly sensing that his considerable knowledge and talents could be better utilized in important work elsewhere, Bruce has helped make Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists a significant, prophetic advocate for historic Baptist principles.

Sorry to disappoint those of you who thought maybe there was a significant news story about Save OBU.  To this point, we have not sought media attention.  While I want people to know about our struggle, I don't want the world to know what has happened at OBU in recent years.  It's embarrassing. So I'm torn about whether media coverage would help or hurt our cause.

But please do read the 1997 article.  Some of you will recognize many of the names.  Fifteen years later, the challenge is even greater.  But we remain committed.  For now, we are still trying to raise awareness among current students, alumni, and people who may have written off OBU years ago but would be surprised to learn that things were actually going pretty well until Provost Norman got there.  (OBU was ranked #109 in the U.S. by Forbes that year.)  Save OBU has no staff, no budget, and no media consultants.  We are completely dependent on concerned constituents to spread the word to classmates and friends.  If you're new to the site, please take some time to check out the other posts and links.  And please share our blog as widely as possible.

Future of OBU Prompts Baptist Group to Form

The Daily Oklahoman - Monday, November 10, 1997
Author: Pat Gilliland, Religion Editor
Saying they fear "fundamentalists" will take control of Oklahoma Baptist University, some state Baptists who are unhappy with their denomination's leadership are trying a new tactic.

Bob Stephenson, a member of First Baptist Church in Norman, said a new group, Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists , will hold its first official meeting Tuesday in Oklahoma City.

Stephenson said that although a steering committee was formed in January to study creation of such a group, OBU President Bob Agee's announcement in July that he will retire next year makes the work of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists more crucial.

In a letter on Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists stationery, OBU graduates Charles Montgomery and Lisa Todd expressed their concern that academic freedom would be stifled at the Shawnee college after Agee retires.

"Our concern for the future of OBU has been triggered by the controversial takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention by a few powerful fundamentalist leaders," they wrote in a letter to OBU alumni.

The letter included an invitation to Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists ' organizational meeting at noon Tuesday at First Baptist Church, 1201 N Robinson, Oklahoma City.

But the Rev. Anthony Jordan, executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, said he sees the "new" group as nothing more than a different - and questionable - name for the same people who have been fussing about changes in the denomination for more than 15 years.

Stephenson, Dan Hobbs, Rick McClatchy and other steering committee members also are involved with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, formed earlier this decade by Southern Baptists upset with what they considered the fundamentalist takeover of the denomination.

Jordan also scoffed at concerns about selecting a replacement for Agee.

The committee, which was selected by OBU's board of trustees to search for a new president, is from the mainstream of Oklahoma Baptists, Jordan said.

The new president may have different leadership skills, "but it is unlikely he will be different in his theological commitments," he said.

Jordan said he thinks real "mainstream" Oklahoma Baptists support the traditional avenues of the denomination's leadership, including the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO) and the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).

The annual meeting of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma will begin tonight and continue through Tuesday at Council Road Baptist Church, 2900 N Council Road in Bethany.

In past years, state Baptist leaders have maintained an image of cooperation and harmony during their annual meeting, even when controversy emerged in other states or on the national level.

Stephenson said the Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists organization would like to challenge the status quo and "hopefully pull the Oklahoma convention back to what we consider its basic Baptist roots."

Stephenson, a member of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship's national coordinating council, said the experiences of Baptists in other states indicate the need for two organizations to counter the denomination's fundamentalist leadership.

One group is needed for people who don't want to look at the past, he said.

"And then there are those of us who want, not really to retake the Southern Baptist Convention - as far as we're concerned it's gone - but we feel we have a duty: The Baptists of Oklahoma do have a right to know what has happened."

Rick McClatchy, coordinator of the Cooperating Baptist Fellowship of Oklahoma (CBFO), agreed.

"Some people will be involved in both organizations, because they like the missions and ministry of the CBFO but are still actively involved BGCO and want (it) to practice Baptist polity and principles," McClatchy said.

"Other people will belong only to the CBFO because they have no desire to be involved any longer in the work or politics of the BGCO."

In their letter to OBU alumni, Montgomery and Todd contend the leadership change in the past 18 years transformed the Southern Baptist Convention from a nonpolitical religious denomination that defended academic freedom and local church autonomy into a "right-wing political organization with little tolerance for dissent."

They said Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists is being formed to protect academic freedom at OBU, to uphold historic Baptist principles, to promote full inclusion of Baptists in state convention activities and to promote a free, responsible and fair Baptist press in the state.

The Rev. Ted Kersh, president of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, said he, like Jordan, thinks most Oklahoma Baptists would disagree with the new group's position about what is mainstream.

"I think the rest of Oklahoma Baptists are saying, `We don't have time for this; we want to get on with the work,' " Kersh said.

"We're going to stay strongly committed to the word of God. That will never be questioned."

Southern Baptists make up the largest religious denomination in Oklahoma, with about 700,000 members in 1,600 churches.

Stephenson said he thinks Oklahomans who generally don't get care or get involved with denominational politics will regret it if a fundamentalist becomes OBU president.

Stephenson tied some of his concern about OBU to the election of the Rev. Tom Elliff, pastor of Del City First Southern Baptist Church, as president of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1996 and 1997.

Underlying Stephenson's concern about Elliff's influence is the firing of a Southern Baptist Theological Seminary reference librarian who wrote a personal letter to Elliff questioning the accuracy of statements Elliff made in a speech.

Elliff has said he routinely forwards to the appropriate agencies, including the seminaries, copies of correspondence he receives involving them.

He said he did that with the librarian's letter but did not register any criticism, complaint or offense against the librarian.

Regarding OBU, Stephenson said he thinks the search committee would come up with an acceptable president .

"My concern is that the Southern Baptist Convention leadership will get involved," Stephenson said. "All over the SBC, anytime the fundamentalists have partial control, they find a way to get total control. That's our concern."

Jordan said he thinks the likelihood of a fundamentalist becoming president of OBU is the same as the chance of a liberal.

"Oklahoma Baptists are not fundamentalists. We are conservative."

Jordan said he's not frustrated by the detractors as much as he is saddened.

"I don't get too frustrated, simply because I care about these people. I have a desire to do all I can to help them to come along with the rest of Oklahoma Baptists," Jordan said.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

CCCU Selects a New President

The Council for Conservative Christian Colleges and Universities, a trade organization that includes many evangelical colleges and some that are inching toward fundamentalism, has selected a successor to retiring President Paul Corts.

The CCCU's Board of Directors announced this week that it has selected Dr. Ed Blews as the council's sixth president.  I don't know whether Blews insists on being called "doctor" (I doubt it), but most people I know with law degrees and honorary doctorates but no earned doctorate tend not to go by "doctor."  Yet the CCCU wants us to know that "Dr. Ed Blews" is its new leader.

We've written about the CCCU before.  Veronica did some impressive research showing that female professors and administrators fare much worse at CCCU institutions, which should come as no surprise given that many of the member schools are affiliated with sexist denominations or organizations.  The CCCU purports to represent "intentionally Christ-centered" institutions.  Of the more than 900 religiously affiliated colleges and universities in the U.S., the CCCU would have you believe that only its members are intentionally Christ-centered.  By implication, most of the rest are just nominally Christian or somehow lacking when it comes to Christian commitment.  I know of hundreds of Catholic and mainline Protestant schools that would beg to differ, but the CCCU continues in its arrogant role of being the arbiter of which schools are intentionally Christ-centered.

The CCCU publishes a newsletter, sponsors conferences, and coordinates its cash cow -- student programs.  Its more than five dozen full-time employees include a government affairs staffer (lobbyist?) who monitors federal legislation and regulations.  Though ostensibly nonpartisan, the CCCU has a decidedly pro-Republican bent (though not as blatant as, say, the Southern Baptist Convention).  Of course, this reflects the increasingly rightward shift of the religious and cultural elites who serve as presidents of the CCCU's member institutions.  Blews himself has donated over $5,500 to many Republican candidates and committees at the federal level over the years (and, in fairness, $200 to one Democrat 22 years ago).

The good news is that Dr. Blews does not appear to be a Baptist or have any background with Southern Baptist higher education.  He attended CCCU member institution Seattle Pacific University and the controversial Thomas Cooley Law School.  Since then, he has spent most of his career running the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Michigan.  So he probably doesn't see himself as having a dog in the fight over the fundamentalist takeover of the remaining Southern Baptist-affiliated institutions.

If anything, I would expect Blew and the CCCU to side with us and our friends at other Baptist schools.  There are two reasons why they should.  First and most obviously, the path the fundamentalists are on will eventually take all our schools down a road that leads to diminished standards, loss of accreditation, and ultimately financial problems -- all of which will disqualify them from CCCU membership.  CCCU dues are not overly expensive, averaging a little over $11,000 per institution per year (though dues probably vary depending on member schools' enrollments).  But the CCCU would not want to lose its Baptist schools -- or their money.  Second, the CCCU has a number of schools that are "intentionally Christ-centered" without being operated by pesky, meddling, and often amateurish state convention elites and convention-elected trustees who are wont to run these schools in the ground (see: Georgia Baptist Convention).  So there is nothing about state convention control that would make Baptist schools better bets for membership and active participation in the CCCU.  Frankly, I bet people in the CCCU's Washington, D.C. headquarters who know anything about the Baptist battles see state convention control as more of a liability than an asset for these schools.

Now, personally I'm no fan of the CCCU.  The claim to extra-special holiness (only its member schools are "intentionally Christ-centered") is offensive, blatantly anti-Catholic, judgmental, and factually untrue.  But the CCCU has a few member schools who have built stellar academic reputations and remained faithful to their mission (Christian liberal arts education) without trampling all over academic freedom.  We've discussed this issue before here and here.  So we actually are much better off following the lead of CCCU colleges like Gordon, Wheaton, and Whitworth than the post-Takeover SBC seminaries and state convention-related schools that are going down the fundamentalist path.

My personal misgivings about the entire CCCU enterprise aside, Ed Blews has an impressive record of service that prepares him well for this new venture.  We here at Save OBU hope that in the years to come, the Council will not be shy about supporting Baptist schools that need to break away from their state conventions in order to remain faithful to their missions and to norms like academic freedom and independent governance.  Certainly the calls for separation (represented now by groups like Save OBU and Save Our Shorter) will grow louder, stronger, and more unified in the years to come.  Hopefully, the CCCU will be a resource for intentionally Christ-centered Baptist institutions that need to alter their relationships with their state conventions in order to fully realize their missions and potential.

In any event, we wish Ed Blews all the best in his stewardship of the CCCU.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Brewton-Parker's Fledgling Accreditation: Even if It Wins, It Loses

A couple weeks ago, we shared reports that Bretwon-Parker College, a Georgia Baptist Convention-related school, was again denied a 10-year renewal of its accreditation and placed on probation by SACS, the regional accrediting body.

Since B-PC is already thoroughly fundamentalist and is widely believed to be on the road to loss of accreditation, irrelevance, and, eventually, ruin, media reports on the debacle have been scarce.  However, since our last post, the SACS report on B-PC was made public.  The report found that, even after being on Warning for a year, Brewton-Parker

failed to demonstrate compliance with Core Requirement 2.5 (Institutional Effectiveness), Core Requirement 2.8 (Faculty), Core Requirement 2.11.1 (Financial Resources), Comprehensive Standard (Institutional Effectiveness: Educational Programs), Comprehensive Standard 3.5.4 (Terminal Degrees of Faculty), Comprehensive Standard 3.7.1 (Faculty Competence), Comprehensive Standard 3.10.1 (Financial Stability), Comprehensive Standard 3.10.3 (Control of Finances), and Federal Requirement 4.7 (Title IV Program Responsibilities) of the Principles of Accreditation. The cited standards expect an accredited institution to provide evidence that it (1) engages in ongoing, integrated, and institution-wide research-based planning and evaluation processes, (2) has an adequate
number of full-time faculty, (3) has a sound financial base and demonstrated financial stability, (4) identifies expected outcomes of and shows improvements in the area of student learning and educational programs, ( (5) ensures a sufficient number of faculty
members holding appropriate terminal degrees, (6) employs qualified faculty, (7) exercises appropriate control over all its financial resources, and (8) ensures compliance with Title IV program responsibilities.   (To read the full statements for the standards cited above, access the Principles of Accreditation at

Now, B-PC's administrators will rightly argue that the school had been in bad shape for quite a few years.  Our only point is that B-PC's selling out basic norms such as academic freedom and basic Baptist distinctives such as liberty of the conscience in order to get back into the good graces of the Georgia Baptist Convention cannot possibly help the school's desperate predicament.

Unsurprisingly, though, the administrators remain upbeat.  President Mike Simoneaux, who is on loan from fellow GBC institution Truett-McConnell College, points to progress made (apparently in areas other than the SACS' laundry list above).  Failing schools always say they want to remain accredited... Until they lose accreditation.  Then they change their tune and talk about being faithful to the Lord's standards instead of some manmade bureaucracy, etc etc ad nauseam.  For now, there is absolutely no mention anywhere on the college website about being on Probation, SACS' most serious sanction.  There is a notation at the bottom of the home page with a number you can call with questions about B-PC's accreditation status.  I'm tempted to call just to see how they spin it!

The unspoken truth in all this is that SACS isn't even B-PC's biggest issue right now.  The problem remains: Even if Brewton-Parker somehow comes out of this with its accreditation intact, it really won't matter.  It's already given up on being a legitimate liberal arts college.  The fundamentalist takeover of B-PC is already accomplished.  As a number of schools vividly illustrate, accrediting bodies can't do much about fundamentalism.  They are only concerned with ensuring minimal levels of academic rigor, instructional quality, and financial stability.

Even if Brewton-Parker wins, it's already lost.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Highlights from the 2012 SBC Annual Meeting

Earlier this week, Veronica shared a few observations from the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship's General Assembly, held a couple weeks ago in Ft. Worth.  The CBF has emerged and grown since the Takeover as a way forward for Baptists who reject the SBC's creedalism, authoritarianism, and rejection of historic Baptist freedoms.

Unsurprisingly, a number of OBU alumni and friends have affiliated with the CBF over the years -- in Shawnee, throughout Oklahoma, and all over the nation and world.  Of course, OBU graduates are still affiliated in large numbers with SBC-related churches and institutions.  But as we'll detail soon, a surprising number of OBU religion and ministry graduates choose non-SBC seminaries and minister in non-SBC churches.  The CBF's ministry, leadership, and lay ranks are filled with OBU faculty, retirees, students, alumni, and friends.

In fact, while fundamentalists were exerting their political power in SBC life, OBU was much more closely aligned with the moderates than with the fundamentalists.  OBU President Bob Agee worked assiduously to protect OBU from the excesses of the Takeover while still maintaining good relations with the BGCO.  Agee's successor, Mark Brister, was seen as a rising star in SBC politics.  At OBU, however, Brister was much more likely to defend OBU's mission than to accede to the fundamentalists' wishes.  He was not a perfect president, of course.  But he did little more than the requisite politicking and good 'ol boy back patting.  To my knowledge, Brister is now out of the SBC elites' inner circle for good.  Clearly, he was not impressed with or swayed by their agenda.

The SBC in OBU Life
During my years at OBU, I was never aware of the SBC annual meeting being a major event in OBU life.  I never heard of any professors (clergy or lay) serving as messengers, though there may have been some.  Given the Convention's recent history of actions that were divisive (cleansing all institutions of moderates) and bizarre (boycotting the Walt Disney Co.), the feeling I got from OBU was that it kept the SBC label and all its racial, social, theological and political baggage at arm's length.  To the extent that faculty and administrators had opinions about the Convention that they shared with students, I usually got the impression that most people thought the SBC had been hijacked by amateurs and ideologues.

OBU's motto was "Unashamedly Baptist," but I quickly learned that while OBU was indeed rightly proud of its Baptist heritage, many of its leaders and professors were indeed ashamed of what the SBC had become.  This was especially obvious the day Richard Land came to speak in Raley Chapel (c. 2001), but that's another story for another day.

Sad as it is, given the post-Takeover reality of SBC life, there is precedent for OBU having a presence at the annual meeting.  I don't know whether President Agee attended regularly.  President Brister was a regular fixture.  In fact, I saw him at the only SBC I ever attended.  At the 2000 Orlando convention, I attended the OBU dinner with my parents (we lived in nearby Kissimmee).

So I am not complaining that President Whitlock attends the annual convention.  It's a requisite schmooze-fest that comes with the territory.  I just wish institutional arrangements were such that he didn't have to.  Nothing good can come from strengthening OBU's ties to the SBC, and, as we're seeing, plenty of bad can come from it.  OBU had a booth in the convention hall, as usual.  In this video, Dean Ken Gabrielse shows some class in turning down an opportunity to compare OBU to Liberty University (starts at 4:40).  (I have no such qualms.  There is no comparison, and if OBU ever becomes enough of a joke to merit comparisons to Liberty, then we will have already lost our battle.)

Highlights from the 2012 SBC
This year, OBU sent what seemed like a large contingent to New Orleans well in advance of the convention to give incoming SBC President Fred Luter an honorary doctorate even though he has absolutely no connection to Oklahoma or OBU whatsoever except for being an old buddy of Provost Stan Norman.  This move was pure pandering and, as far as I can tell, utterly without precedent in OBU history.  Attendees included Whitlock, Norman, Fine Arts Dean Ken Gabrielse, and Dean of Spiritual Life Dale Griffin.  I don't know how many of their wives were a part of the junket.  Also, I don't know if they stayed in New Orleans for the entire ten days between the Luter presentation and the SBC meeting, or whether they made two separate trips.  Either way, it seems like a huge waste of money.  Your tuition dollars at work.

Anyway, I have not paid attention to SBC politics in many years, but this year's convention seemed pretty typical.  It was mostly white, mostly old, and (like many denominations) mostly driven by clergy and denominational staff rather than laity.

The highlight was, of course, the historic election of Luter as the first black SBC president.  The main event was the unending circle of SBC elites patting themselves on the back for finally finding a black person who will go along with their social/political agenda atoning for all the racist sins in the SBC's past.  One prominent sideshow was the kerfuffle over whether or not LifeWay stores should sell a inspirational movie about race (The Blind Side).  (With Luter's support, LifeWay discontinued selling the movie.)

There was also a debate over the efficacy of the sinner's prayer, whether it is an advisable evangelism tactic, and whether it is followed with sufficient discipleship.  I don't want to open that can of worms here, though many Baptist blogs covered the debate.

Boards, agencies, and institutions gave their typical reports.  Nothing seemed especially newsworthy (though please correct me if I'm wrong).  The demographers reported continued membership decline (the SBC is below 16 million members for the first time in over a decade).  White church decline continues and nonwhite congregations appear to be something of a growth industry in the SBC.  I don't know how many legitimately mixed race congregations there are, but a few Latinos and a black person in the choir do not make your lily white church "mixed-race."  There is definitely a trend toward acknowledging the importance of "ethnic ministry," though when white people refer to everyone else as "ethnic," you wonder how much progress will ever be made.

Unfortunately, the current leadership of OBU gives every indication that it wants to get in bed with the SBC elites at every possible opportunity (metaphorically, of course).  Provost Norman is a known denominational climber and a true believer.  President Whitlock is more of a newcomer to SBC politics.  We have no indication that he is a lifelong fundamentalist sympathizer who has been in league with the Takeover faction since the beginning.  We know he attended last year's SBC to give an award -- offensively named for the late Rev. Dr. Herschel H. Hobbs -- to a Takeover leader with OBU and Oklahoma connections.  But this may have actually been his first SBC meeting as a messenger.

We can only hope and pray that now that he has had a taste of SBC politicking and sees the vast wasteland the Takeover has left in its wake at educational institutions, he'll reject the fundamentalists' agenda and devote himself ever more fully to the cherished (and threatened) ideals on which our great OBU was founded.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

CBF General Assembly

A couple of weeks ago, I got a chance to participate in the CBF General Assembly.

Now, this was not, as some of our objectors have supposed, a political move on the part of Save OBU. I went to the assembly because I am in seminary, I am a member of a CBF church, and, because it was in Ft. Worth, my seminary paid the fees for a few of the events for Baptist Brite students. (There aren't a lot of us, but we are there!) Getting to talk with like minds about Save OBU was merely icing on the cake.

With that said, I'd like to take a post to briefly share some of my thoughts on the experience. Later this week, Jacob will share some of his thoughts on the SBC assembly.

At Save OBU, we are pushing for a split from the BGCO. We have cited many reasons why we believe the split would be beneficial for both organizations and you can click on pretty much any post in this blog to find them. But some have seen this as an argument that OBU should quit being Baptist. This is not the case at all.

Rather, we believe (and we are not alone) that the mission of the SBC and the mission of Higher Education are no longer in line. But that does not mean that OBU should not be Baptist or that we don't think Baptists care about higher education. I count myself as one such Baptist.

Being at the CBF assembly reminded me of something I have sought to say over and over on this blog. Splitting with the BGCO is not a refusal to be Baptist. It is a refusal to accept the SBC's increasingly narrow definition of what it means to be a Baptist.

I'm not arguing that OBU should join up with the CBF instead-- although I do think that OBU could benefit from partnering with organizations like the CBFO and already does many things with the two substantial CBF (I think they are both dually aligned with the SBC as well) churches in Shawnee.

No, I stand by my claim that OBU can only protect its academic inheritance if it is a free-standing body with a board of trustees, administration, faculty and staff which are loyal only to OBU and its mission. However, the existence of organizations like the CBF which has refused to allow the SBC to define what it means to be a Baptist gives me hope for OBU to stand up and do likewise.

All of this is to reiterate the point we have made all along. In order for OBU to remain both truly Baptist and an excellent institution of higher education, it must part ways with the BGCO.

For anyone who still does not see the incompatibility of the SBC and higher ed, please see Clayton's excellent post on the matter.