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.