Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Why the Long Silence? A Brief Explanation

Many of you have reached out to me and asked why the Save OBU movement has been so quietly lately.  The "Welcome to 2013" post a few weeks ago was vague about when we would start blogging regularly again.  I thought I'd offer a few reasons why we've been so quiet, both strategically and of necessity.

  • After being on Bison Hill for Homecoming in November, I saw firsthand that >95% of what is happening at OBU is absolutely fantastic.  Enrollment is up, new programs are launching, and faculty, staff, and students' commitment to excellence is everywhere apparent.  We hit pretty hard at times over the past year.  No one likes an incessant critic.  We've made our points -- and will continue to do so.  But we are not naysayers.
  • Web traffic is down when classes are not in session.  Last January, fewer people were paying attention to Save OBU during J-Term.  So it seemed like a natural time to take a break.
  • I was traveling for 3 weeks around the holidays, and have also moved to a new (rented) basement apartment in Silver Spring, MD.  I had a series of pressing professional responsibilities.  I'm the father of a 9-month old.  And frankly, I needed a break.
  • But the most important reason we took a breather is that we could.  Whether or not we had a hand in it, the pace of OBU's fundamentalist encroachment slowed considerably in 2012, except for one instance where the new administration hand-picked a literalist, Calvinist, young earth creationist from Southwestern Seminary to teach in OBU's religion department without even bothering with the usual faculty search process (faculty input, etc).  That was unfortunate, and indicates that we will continue to see OBU's religion, philosophy, and ministry departments abandon their historic rigor and excellence and devolve into a fundamentalist preacher boy camp.  But overall, we saw more signs of progress than signs for concern.  Provost Stan Norman seems almost completely neutralized.  President Whitlock is learning that in order to rebuild trust with the faculty, he cannot sit idly by while over-zealous administrators remake OBU.  Perhaps most importantly, there is now broad awareness among faculty, students, and alumni across the generations that all who care about academic freedom and ethical administration must be on high alert, given the troubling changes at OBU since Whitlock's inauguration.

In recent days, I've begun summoning the energy to re-engage the Save OBU project.  I had a great discussion with a Carson-Newman University (TN) alum who reports that C-N is resisting pressure from the Tennessee Baptist Convention to become more fundamentalist.  On a sadder note, I'm learning that the almost unanimous consensus of moderate evangelicals in Baptist higher education is that Tennessee's other Baptist school, Union University in Jackson, is much worse off than I feared.  Behind the facade of impressive fundraising and enrollment numbers, Union and its president, David Dockery, has pretty much allowed the new guard of SBC and TBC fundamentalists dictate what goes on there.

But the real impetus to get back to work is the ongoing fundamentalist encroachment at Cedarville University, an institution of the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio.  Christianity Today has a summary of the issue here.  In the days to come, I'll be reporting on Cedarville's problems to the OBU community.  In addition, I'll be inviting the Cedarville community to learn about what has happened at OBU and at other schools like Shorter University.

I still hope to do a 2012 year-in-review post, hopefully before the end of January.

I hope all is well with each of you.

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