Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Center Cannot Hold

Cedarville University Series
Part 1 - Cedarville: A Very Brief Introduction
Part 2 - The Worst are Filled with Passionate Intensity
Part 3 - Things Fall Apart
Part 4 - The Center Cannot Hold

On Saturday, the Board of Trustees ruled in favor of Carl Ruby’s forced resignation and the elimination of the philosophy major. Trustees Chris Williamson and Bill Rudd have resigned from the Board in protest of this ruling. At the moment, Michael Loftis remains on the Board, but Provost John Gredy has announced that the university is conducting an internal review about his failure to investigate sexual abuse allegations at ABWE, and an official statement will be released when the review is complete. Donn Ketcham, the pedophiliac missionary doctor responsible for the abuse, still held an honorary doctorate from the University as of last week; that doctorate has been officially revoked. 

As far as we know, there is also no investigation into the sexual abuse of male students by retired professors Ed Spencer and David Robey.

The Board of Trustees and the Cedarvilly faculty also
voted unanimously to approve the following doctrinal statement:
“We believe in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as verbally inspired by God and inerrant in the original writings, embracing all matters which the biblical authors address, and believe that they are of supreme and final authority in faith and life. This unwavering commitment to the Word of God and testimony of Jesus Christ binds together our past and present and must shape our future so that we might be a beacon for, and not a pale reflection of, the world around us.”
These decisions are the result of a fraught weekend that witnessed frantic final appeals for justice and transparency by concerned alumni and students. With few exceptions, these appeals were not well received. Dr. Robert Sumner, trustee emeritus, authored a long-winded reply to my own email to the Board. In it, he bragged of his fundamentalist credentials and his continued influence on the board, and accused me of not understanding what ‘fundamentalism’ really means.

When I explained that I did in fact understand what fundamentalism means, and that I had chosen to reject it specifically because I understood it, Dr. Sumner told me that he hoped my parents died before they found out about my decision.

If Sumner’s email to me is any indication of Cedarville’s future trajectory, then it is likely that Cedarville University will continue to sacrifice academic freedom in favor of Biblical literalism. The faction steering this shift do not see this as a substantive change in the university’s character. According to Robert Sumner, Cedarville has always been a fundamentalist institution; he wrote of its former presidents in heroic terms and expected that heroism to be shared by students and recent alumni. Here, the generation gap is most glaring. I, and the majority of my class, did not choose Cedarville for its fundamentalist reputation. Mentions of Cedarville’s former presidents largely met with apathy, when these mentions were made at all.

The well-organized opposition to the administration’s decisions ought to demonstrate how little support exists for a fundamentalist university. We organized to defend the robustly evangelical university we actually encountered, not the politicized, reductionist vision of men like Robert Sumner.

Last week, thousands of Christians flocked to the annual
Justice Conference, held in Philadelphia this year. The Justice Conference is true to its name: its emphasis is social justice, particularly economic and racial justice. This year, speakers included Shane Claiborne, once decried by fundamentalists as being ‘too liberal’ to speak on the campus of Cedarville University. Despite this history a delegation of Cedarville students attended the conference. A Cedarville professor who accompanied them reported the average age of all conference attendees to be no more than 27. Robert Sumner, Lorne Scharnberg and their fellow ideologues have already lost the war. They have lost my generation.

Dr. Carl Ruby cared deeply about social justice. Dr. David Mills and his colleague Dr. Shawn Graves combined their own concern for social justice with serious philosophical enquiry. That’s why petitions to reinstate them received over 2000 signatures combined. And as long as fundamentalists associate that same passion for justice with doctrinal heresy, they doom themselves to failure. This controversy at Cedarville is America’s culture war in microcosm. It’s a one-sided affair, waged by fundamentalists against the rest of the world. Academic freedom, transparency and even simple compassion are collateral damage in their crusade to control the definition of Christian identity in the 21st century.

But today, I informed the Board of Trustees that alumni would not surrender. We will continue to speak out against fundamentalism. We still wait for answers about Michael Loftis, Dave Robey and Ed Spencer. And I wait, too, for answers about the assault that irrevocably changed my life.

In the meantime, I recall the Cedarville Admissions team’s promise to all freshmen: that at Cedarville University, you become part of a family. You gain ‘friends for life.’ And that is not a lie. My Cedarville family is motley: intelligent and impassioned, compassionate and curious. Its members are truly my friends for life. For this much I give thanks, and I keep the faith, in humanity if not in God.

Editor's Note: Thanks to our guest blogger, Cedarville University alumna Sarah Jones.  Sarah had complete editorial control over the series and we thank her for her thoughtful, passionate writing.  Article titles are derived from ‘TheSecond Coming’ by William Butler Yeats. On behalf of the entire Save OBU community, I warmly welcome to you our little corner of the web. Check out other parts of the site and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.  See especially our recent post asking, in light of problems at many member institutions: Where is the CCCU?!  Over the past 15 months as we've documented fundamentalist encroachment at Oklahoma Baptist University, we've learned that some of our peer institutions have it far worse. Our thoughts and prayers are with each of you. Please join us in standing for academic freedom and ethical administration in evangelical higher education.


  1. "Robert Sumner, Lorne Scharnberg and their fellow ideologues have already lost the war. They have lost my generation."

    I read these sentences over and over and savored their truth. They have lost ground, and they are clawing in panic. Fundamentalism is corrupted by selfish tribalism; only love and justice will win.

    I almost want to say that I can't believe he said that about your deceased parents...but that would be false. I can believe it. I've heard "good Christian" people say and write similar things to others and to myself.

    Thank you for writing this excellent series.

  2. I can't imagine how that comment about your parents could be interpreted in any way as a "pastoral" thing to say.

  3. Thought people would like to know the following:

    "Current Cedarville students were informed that, while they are welcome to express their own personal opinions on changes at Cedarville University, any posts on FB, Twitter, blogs, etc. asking for specific protest actions (people to e-mail trustees, transfer from the university, etc.) would be considered a violation of the student handbook and would be subject to disciplinary action."

    This is a statement from the administrators of Let There Be Light, a protest group founded by current students.

    --Sarah J.

  4. Bill Williams is no longer on the board at Cedarville (at least he is not on the webpage). So that 's something. Now for Scharnberg and especially Loftis.

  5. Sarah,
    Wow. I'm not an alumnus of CU or OBU, but I had a couple of classes taught by David Robey at TTU in Chattanooga. I knew he went to CU in 1980. So glad I ditched the fundamentalist / dispensationalist nonsense 25+ years ago. Also glad that there is more and more exposure of the hypocrisy and coverups within fundamentalism. Keep up the good work.

    - Bob


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