Friday, July 19, 2013

Cedarville (OH) Purge Intensifies

It's likely that few people noticed, but I've taken the past six weeks off from blogging.  As I explained last month, I feel that we have raised enough awareness and that the situation at OBU has stabilized significantly since this blog began in December 2011.  OBU's fundamentalist encroachment, though disappointing, has actually been quite minor in comparison to other colleges affiliated with Baptist state conventions.

To cite just one example, our worst fears about Cedarville University have been confirmed.  This spring, I invited a Cedarville alumna to discuss how fundamentalist trustees and administrators were transforming the Ohio liberal arts college.  In the wake of national press coverage of the Cedarville situation, Sarah Jones's four-part series reached many thousands of readers in a matter of a few days.

After a popular administrator was forced out and the entire philosophy major was gutted, we figured Cedarville would soon experience a fundamentalist takeover similar to the one we saw at Shorter University (GA) in 2012, when dozens of faculty were forced out for declining to affirm Shorter's new, fundamentalist direction.

To oversee the purge at Cedarville, trustees unanimously elected the Reverend Dr. Thomas White as president.  White has spent his graduate student and professional careers at post-Takeover SBC seminaries, serving most recently as vice president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, TX.

How quickly will President White move to purge Cedarville of moderates and complete the fundamentalist transformation of Cedarville?  Only time will tell.  For the moment, faculty are obviously very anxious and students are uncertain of what is to come.  Will White merely bring in a few of his own (male) friends and colleagues for important administrative positions?  Or will he lead a Shorter-style implosion?

In the tradition of Save OBU, Save Our Shorter, and Louisiana College student Joshua Breland's very fine blog, a blog called Let There Be Light (@fiatlux125) is monitoring the situation.

I welcome Cedarville constituents to the Save OBU blog.  Next week, I'll have more to say specifically about OBU and where we should go from here.  But now, while students, faculty, and alumni/ae of several Baptist colleges are paying attention, I want to say this:

Many evangelical colleges are flourishing without a hint of fundamentalist encroachment.  Wheaton, Calvin, and Gordon would not tolerate unethical administrative actions or violations of academic freedom.  But Southern Baptist colleges are falling apart before our eyes.  OBU (my alma mater) is actually in much better shape than many Baptist colleges, as administrators there dare not do any more damage than they have already done to OBU's faculty morale and academic reputation.  We need to stand together.  We are all fighting slightly different versions of the same battle.  We must stand for integrity and rigor in Christian higher education.  The reputations, faithfulness to fearless scholarly inquiry, financial health, and even accreditation of our schools will soon be in jeopardy if present trends continue.

Blessings to all of you,

Jacob Lupfer
OBU Class of 2002
Silver Spring, Maryland
Founder and Contributing Editor, Save OBU Blog