Over the past year, your alma mater has been embroiled in a denominational controversy that has made national headlines. Challenges to the University’s commitment to kingdom work and theological integrity have been the primary focus. Nevertheless, I view these challenges as opportunities to clarify who we are and always have been as a university.
We take our commitments to Biblical worldview education seriously. One way the University Board of Trustees has supported these commitments is by commissioning Dr. David Dockery to lead a Peer Assessment Committee to conduct substantive conversations regarding faith, learning, and doctrine. The study primarily found the 1921 Statement of Faith not being at the forefront of who we are as a university.
In direct response, former board chairman, Mr. Mark Rains ’70, formed a workgroup of trustees and faculty to revise the Statement. Additionally, the workgroup will make recommendations to the administration on how the Statement can be applied effectively. I anticipate the workgroup will recommend the revised Statement should be embedded within the University Principles and Expectations document every prospective employee signs when making application to SBU. I also anticipate the workgroup to make more-specific Baptistic recommendations regarding the faculty teaching within The Courts Redford School of Theology and Ministry.
All of these items are positive steps for the University as we continue our Kingdom work.
Within the lifetime of an institution such as Southwest Baptist University, controversies come and go, providing opportunities for us to reflect on the DNA of the University. Make no mistake about it — the controversy in which SBU has been embroiled has little to do with theology; this has been a co-opted controversy used by others as an attempt to exert undue influence over the University. All of this affects our giving, our enrollment, and potentially our accreditation. The manipulation, underhandedness, and self-dealing threaten who SBU has always been, and I cannot help but think the Lord is displeased.
When we disagree with one another, shouting matches are ineffective, be they in the form of public forums, pamphleteering, social media campaigns, or letter writing campaigns. What is wrong with having forthright conversations, and perhaps airing our disagreements over a cup of coffee?
As long as SBU has been in existence, Scripture has reigned as the supreme authority for how we teach and how we learn — provided within the confines of a Biblical worldview. This makes some uncomfortable, insisting there be something else to define us. This type of Orwellian thinking erroneously tries to redefine the contemplative life within the context of a Christian university whose liberal arts education has always been its focus. As we use the guardrails Scripture provides, ideas contrary to our own should sharpen rather than frighten us. From my perspective, Jesus is enough.
May the Lord bless you, and may He bless Southwest Baptist University.
Eric A. Turner