Wednesday, October 17, 2012

New Trustee Leadership at OBU Seems Promising

As we mentioned earlier in the week, OBU's Board of Trustees had its fall meeting last Friday.  Among other vital business, the board elected officers for the year:
Board officers for the 2012-13 year were elected at the close of the meeting. They are David Lawrence, Weatherford, Okla., chair; Jarrod Frie, Tulsa, Okla., vice chair; Todd Fisher, Shawnee, Okla. secretary, and Nadine McPherson, Oklahoma City, Okla., treasurer.
We will definitely miss the very fine leadership of Dr. Reagan Bradford, who rotates off the board this year.  He served two years as chair.  During his tenure, longtime Edmond pastor and board vice chair Rev. Dr. Alan Day tragically died.  Bradford also had to contend with the uproar caused by the administration's botched dismissals of two well-respected professors in the College of Theology and Ministry.  With vociferous faculty protests, last fall's alumni petition, and the emergence and growth of Save OBU, Dr. Bradford has certainly contended with many challenges as he guided the trustees.

I frankly don't know a lot about OBU trustee politics.  When I began the Save OBU project, I thought the first order of business would be finding out how the BGCO uses the board to control OBU.  But much to my pleasant surprise, that isn't how things work at all.  In fact, OBU has great trustees who care about the university's growth, success, independence, and continued flourishing.  Unlike the seminaries, whose boards reek of insider SBC politics, and many state convention-run colleges, whose trustees actively abet fundamentalist takeovers of once-proud institutions, OBU's trustees are quite outstanding.

But make no mistake.  The trustee board is the linchpin.  As the architects of the original SBC Takeover well knew, if you control the trustees, you control the institution.  Fortunately, that hasn't happened at OBU yet.

We welcome to the chair Rev. Dr. David Lawrence, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Weatherford.  The vice chair, Jarrod Frie, is a layperson.  I don't know if this means Frie will acede to the chair.  But while we definitely have some great non-fundamentalist clergy, I tend to think we're definitely safer with a layperson.  For one thing, laypeople don't have as much to lose from not engaging in BGCO politics.

We dodged a bullet in that Rev. Dr. Todd Fisher will not chair the board (unless the BGCO elects him to another 4-year term sometime in the future).  The main reason I say this is that he is an officer on the board of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY.  Southern is thoroughly fundamentalist, and it is likely that Fisher sees many of the things SBTS does as normal.  For instance, the seminary tolerates no moderates (let alone liberals), and has a fundamentalist ethos on everything from the Bible to politics to gender roles.  The last thing we need is someone who might be tempted to think it's God's will to make OBU more like a monolithic, extremely homogeneous post-Takeover SBC seminary.  Dr. Fisher, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Shawnee, states on his blog that you can't be a Christian if you don't believe in a literal Adam and Eve.  Nothing against the man personally, but I'm glad he's too busy with SBTS's board to be an officer on OBU's.

We're lucky to have people who actually believe in God and science chair OBU's board.  Dr. Bradford, a M.D. research physician and Dr. Lawrence is a Ph.D. mathematician who entered the ministry as  a second career.  I can't imagine that either of them are happy about Provost Norman's and Dean McClellen's antics.  In fact, last winter some faculty were hopeful that a group of trustees might try to help President Whitlock realize that Provost Norman should move on.  Our sources never found out whether such a meeting took place.

Let's hope and pray that OBU's trustees stand strong against any further fundamentalist encroachment!

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