Saturday, July 22, 2006


A Good Sign

From the New York Times:

GEORGETOWN, Ky. (July 22) -- The request seemed simple enough to the Rev. Hershael W. York, then the president of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. He asked Georgetown College, a small Baptist liberal arts institution here, to consider hiring for its religion department someone who would teach a literal interpretation of the Bible. But to William H. Crouch Jr., the president of Georgetown, it was among the last straws in a struggle that had involved issues like who could be on the board of trustees and whether the college encouraged enough freedom of inquiry to qualify for a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. Dr. Crouch and his trustees decided it was time to end the college’s 63-year affiliation with the religious denomination. “From my point of view, it was about academic freedom,’’ Dr. Crouch said. “I sat for 25 years and watched my denomination become much more narrow and, in terms of education, much more interested in indoctrination.’’ Georgetown is among a half-dozen colleges and universities whose ties with state Baptist conventions have been severed in the last four years, part of a broad realignment in which more than a dozen Southern Baptist universities, including Wake Forest and Furman, have ended affiliations over the last two decades. Georgetown’s parting was ultimately amicable. But many have been tense, even bitter.
Think about it: They turned down taking any more money from the SBC rather than turn themselves into fundie madrassas like Bob Jones University. Then again, the SBC was coughing up less and less dough even as it imposed more and more restrictions:
In 1987, college officials negotiated an agreement with state Baptist leaders that allowed either side to end the affiliation, with four years’ notice. Both sides said that they had wanted to continue the relationship, but that the strains had recently become acute. Georgetown asked the Kentucky Baptist Convention two years ago to allow 25 percent of the college’s trustees to be non-Baptist, but the proposal was rejected. Only about half of Georgetown’s students are Baptist, and less than half of the alumni are Baptist, Dr. Crouch, the college’s president, said. “I realized that our fund-raising depended on getting non-Baptists on our board,’’ Dr. Crouch said. Then, a year ago, the Kentucky convention turned down a nominee for Georgetown’s board for the first time. Around the same time, Dr. York asked the college to look for a religion professor who would teach theologically conservative positions. “You ought to have some professor on your faculty who believes Adam and Eve were the first humans, that they actually existed,’’ Dr. York said. Dr. Crouch and Georgetown’s trustees decided it was time to exercise their escape clause.
Freed from the sheltering, encircling, constricting arms of the SBC, Georgetown now is able to do things that will lead to its being taken seriously as an institute of higher learning:
Georgetown continues to pursue serious academic ambitions, like pursuing a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the college honor society. Only 270 colleges and universities have Phi Beta Kappa chapters, and there are rigorous standards for new ones. Among the most important requirements are freedom of inquiry and expression on campus, along with respect for religious, ethnic and racial diversity. A Georgetown requirement that tenured professors be Christian could pose problems with the honor society. The college must also improve on a number of specific standards, including increasing the number of books in its library and reducing professors’ course loads. Phi Beta Kappa considers applications over a three-year cycle, and Dr. Crouch hopes Georgetown will be ready to reapply in 2009. “Phi Beta Kappa is the gold standard,’’ said Rosemary Allen, the Georgetown provost.
This passage sums it all up:
“The convention itself in its national and state organizations has moved so far to the right that previous diversity on the faculty and among the trustees is no longer possible,’’ said Bill Leonard, dean of the Divinity School at Wake Forest. “More theological control of the curriculum and the faculty has been the result.’’ David W. Key, director of Baptist Studies at the Candler School of Theology at Emory, put it more starkly. “The real underlying issue is that fundamentalism in the Southern Baptist form is incompatible with higher education,’’ Professor Key said. “In fundamentalism, you have all the truths. In education, you’re searching for truths.’’
Even as well-funded agents of Satan like Howard Ahmanson are trying to drag the Episcopalian/Anglican churches back into the Dark Ages, the Baptist colleges are making a stand for education over indoctrination.

A teacher I know said, "Never confuse prayer with study."

Neither should Christians confuse faith in things unseen with analyzing things that are seen.
I wonder whether the history professors at schools controlled by Southern Baptist organizations are allowed to teach the origin of their own church -- a rebellion against authoritarianism.
Well, that's for the original Baptists, MEC. The Southern Baptists split from the Northern Baptists when the Northern Baptists became part of the vanguard of the anti-slavery movement in the early 19th century. The fact that the SBC exists because of racism is not something that gets publicly noised about that much.
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