Baptist Colleges Cut Church Ties

The New York Times published a story about continuing tensions between Southern Baptist state conventions and the colleges they support. The article centers on the recent agreement between Georgetown College in Kentucky and the Kentucky Baptist Convention (KBC) to part ways.

The separation of baptist colleges from their state conventions seems to be a continuing theme over the last two decades as the colleges pursue academic excellence at the cost of biblical faithfulness. Here are some revealing quotes from the article:

“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.”

“The issues vary from state to state. But many Southern Baptist colleges and their state conventions have been battling over money, control of boards of trustees, whether the Bible must be interpreted literally, how evolution is taught, the propriety of some books for college courses and of some plays for campus performances and whether cultural and religious diversity should be encouraged.”

“At the root of the conflicts is the question of how much the colleges should reflect the views of their denomination. They are part of the continuing battle among Southern Baptists for control of their church’s institutions.”

“Southern Baptist colleges are affiliated with the state conventions, and it does not make sense to many members of the conventions to provide significant annual subsidies to Baptist colleges that they view as out of tune with conservative positions on central religious tenets, including how to interpret the Bible.”

“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.’’”

Despite the defection of many baptist colleges, a new trend that is finding success is the integration of undergraduate colleges at several of the Southern Baptist Seminaries. This method allows for the seminaries to provide more direction over the content of education in a way that ensures that the colleges are pursuing academic excellence but not at the cost of biblical faithfulness.

This story is gaining circulation through several media outlets. Just this morning I saw it on AOL.com. What is interesting is that the AOL article included a chance for people to vote on two things. When asked, which do you hold in higher regard (religious schools or non-religious schools)? 52% said religious schools and 48% of the 98,000 people voting said non-religious schools. Next, when asked, do you think religious colleges infringe on academic freedom? 56% said no and 44% of the 108,000 voters said yes.

Therefore, based on this informal poll conducted through AOL, the primary concerns expressed in the article about continued baptist affiliation by the colleges are not supported by the views of the public. The public accurately recognizes that academic excellence can co-exist with religious faithfulness in a way that bolsters the university experience. Baptist colleges should take note.

(HT: Moore to the Point)

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