Happy 2014 to each of you!
As you may have noticed, the Save OBU effort has slowed considerably over the past 8 months. We got off to a fast start in late 2011 and made our biggest impact in the period from January 2012 to May 2013. I wrote more than 200 blog posts during that time, and a handful of thoughtful of writers contributed dozens more. Our blog reached tens of thousands of people and our Facebook and Twitter communities were active.
Lately, things have been quieter. The primary reason is that (as far as I know) there is less evidence of fundamentalist encroachment at OBU today than there was in 2010 and 2011. I claim no credit, of course. I'm just glad that OBU administrators and trustees have wisely chosen to avoid the path of Baptist colleges like Shorter and Cedarville, where newly-empowered presidents forced out dozens of faculty members.
The time has come for new leadership to emerge in our movement. I was never the right person to lead this effort. I am too far away. I am too liberal. I have never been a Southern Baptist. My particular background made it difficult to be a credible spokesman for the overwhelming majority of Save OBU supporters -- conservative-to-moderate alumni who value academic freedom at OBU. I am grateful for the opportunity to publicly stand up for the things I love about my alma mater. I am proud to have put my name to this effort. For a while, I tried my very best. I hope it made a difference. But I obviously do not have the time or inclination to carry this movement forward. There are surely people "closer to home" that will do a better job standing up for academic freedom at OBU the next time it comes under attack (a question of when, not if).
Later this month, I plan to feature some guest blog posts that will emphasize the role a Christian college like OBU can and should play in forming a vital piety and authentic spirituality that is true to the best of the Baptist tradition. Beginning immediately, I call on all of our supporters to be in prayer and discernment about the future of "Save OBU." (The name should probably change -- I'm not sure the implication that OBU needs to be saved from something is helpful at this point.)
I can share some of my own reflections on what I have learned through this process and offer some ideas about the future. But I hesitate to say too much -- you have heard enough of me.
There are so many great things happening at OBU. I want to make sure I acknowledge that. All I have ever criticized were a handful of policy and personnel decisions that implied an unmistakable break with the parts of OBU's heritage that make it great. Aside from those few decisions (and their implications), I have great pride and confidence in OBU. The university has two trajectories that are going to be in tension with one another. First, there is a majority among the trustees, faculty, and alumni that wants OBU to remain academically strong, respected, and rigorous (while, of course, being true to its Baptist heritage). At the same time, there is a powerful force within Southern Baptist life today that wants doctrinal conformity, is more trustful of authoritarian leadership, and is less tolerant of dissenting perspectives (while also wanting, if possible, academic respectability). These two forces will continue to collide. Those of us who cherish the norms and values that made OBU a first-rate Christian liberal arts university have already lost enough. We need a strong voice to hopefully ensure that we do not lose even more.
If you wish to confer with me about how you think we should move forward, please contact me. My email address is my first initial and last name at gmail dot com.