Friday, June 22, 2007

Jewell's Perfidy Is Complete

Exactly when William Jewell College began to distance itself from Biblical faithfulness would be impossible to pinpoint. But as a graduate of this former Missouri Baptist institution, I experienced her embrace of neo-orthodoxy in countless ways.

Let me give, out of the starting gate, the obligatory nod to my alma mater. Jewell is an incredible institution and I am mostly grateful for my experiences there, both through formal education and informal relationships and interactions. I won’t tick down the good things I could say about William Jewell college, not because they aren’t in my soul, but because I don’t have much time for this post.

William Jewell gave me more than a very excellent liberal-liberal arts education. Chief and foremost, at Jewell I met my incredible friend Scott Weldon, who remains a consistent and encouraging colleague. He and his wife Cheryl (also a Jewell alum) minister faithful and selflessly in Missouri for our Lord’s glory.

There is no doubt the school abounds with brilliance, excellence and so many other characteristics that make for a great institution. But at the most recent board meeting, trustees completed their perfidious path from Biblical truth with the adoption of a new mission statement:

“William Jewell College promises students an outstanding liberal arts education that cultivates leadership, service, and spiritual growth within a community inspired by Christian ideals and committed to open, rigorous intellectual pursuits.”
Evidently, the new mission statement had the unanimous support of both the faculty and the Student Senate, both giving their endorsements through resolutions passed during the spring semester. WJC’s mission statement was last reworked in 1997. The former statement read:

“The mission of William Jewell College is to provide students a liberal arts education of superior quality; to serve communities beyond the campus educationally, culturally, and socially; and to be an institution loyal to the ideals of Christ, demonstrating a Christian philosophy for the whole of life, and expressing the Missouri Baptist Heritage which is the foundation of the college.”
Most Missouri Baptists know the story behind the rift between William Jewell College and the Missouri Baptist Convention. Jewell was the state convention’s first educational institution. But conservatives have long been uncomfortable with the college’s progressively liberal and unbiblical viewpoints and teachings.

Jewell exasperated the tensions in February, 2003, when Administration officials allowed the vile play “The Vagina Monologues” to be performed on campus (by the way, the VMs made their way back to Jewell this past March, according to this press release). After this fiasco, Jewell was riddled with a series of issues uncovering a pro-homosexual agenda on the Liberty campus which culminated in an attempt to add “sexual orientation” to the Student Bill of Rights. Tim Perkins, a former teenage church member of mine, was Student Senate President at the time. Tim is a remarkable and doctrinally sound Christian who vetoed the attempt to enshrine immorality in Jewell’s Student Bill of Rights.

In a December 13, 2002 letter to WJC President David Salle regarding the Student Senate amendment, I wrote:

“This amendment is also a disingenuous and misdirected attempt to relate properly to homosexuals. While in a politically correct cultural climate, adding “sexual orientation” to an anti-discrimination paragraph may seem proper, but the true Christian ethic would be to lovingly relate the truth to homosexual persons. The average heterosexual male in America dies at 75. The average homosexual male in America dies at 41. Something about their behavior is terribly wrong. It is wrong Scripturally, morally and scientifically. Rather than accommodating their wrong choices of sexual expression, William Jewell would serve homosexuals better by setting a standard of appropriate and Biblical sexuality.”
Well, by the end of the October 2003 annual meeting of the Missouri Baptist Convention, William Jewell College had been defunded. It took them just shy of 4 years to erase “the Missouri Baptist Heritage” pulling themselves further from “the foundation of the college.”

But the real sadness, and the point of this post is not to decry Jewell’s distance from the Missouri Baptist Convention, though it is somewhat related. The real sadness is that William Jewell College now openly acknowledges what Biblically astute graduates have known for several decades. Jewell is no longer “an institution loyal to the ideals of Christ.” Rather, Jewell is now simply “inspired by Christian ideals.” That is a huge shift, evidenced further by their change from “demonstrating a Christian philosophy for the whole of life” to being “committed to open, rigorous intellectual pursuits.”

I guess without $1 million a year from Missouri Baptists, WJC trustees have decided they no longer needed a smoke screen in their mission statement. Jewell’s perfidy is complete.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Just One Thought on the SBC Annual Meeting

Messenger registration for this year’s Southern Baptist Convention was dismal. Some 8,500 messengers registered, which was probably the lowest since the conservative resurgence began. I have an insight that might help us understand why.

The annual meeting has become a collage of preaching, music, information and business; with progressively less attention being given to business, which is after all, why “messengers” are there in the first place. “Attenders” can listen to the preaching and music, hear the reports, and watch the videos. They just can’t participate in the business of the convention.

In fact, only 55 minutes were allocated for “previously scheduled business” along with an equal amount of time (55 minutes) for disposition of resolutions. That alone should wake someone up. Resolutions are suppose to be “non-binding” and only express the mind of a particular gathered convention. Yet, convention leaders are scheduling as equal time for “business” and for “resolutions”. Excluding nominations and voting for officers and asking questions of entity heads, only 1 hour and 50 was scheduled for business during the approximately 16 hour meeting.

And no wonder. With all the “automatic referrals” and the “long-standing practice” messengers do virtually no business. The Wednesday evening agenda had “business” scheduled for 7:00-7:15 which wasn’t even used because there was no “business” to discuss. In fact, (someone help me with this since my memory is woefully short), wasn’t the Rick Garner BFM motion the ONLY motion that originated from the floor? And it in no way changed anything.

With the lock down of tight egalitarian control, we commoners can do very little to impact the direction of the SBC. So why bother trying? And if the convention isn’t about doing the business of the SBC but more about information and inspiration, most Southern Baptists will find cheaper and more alluring alternatives and will stop attending (as obviously they already are). We can attend preaching conferences of our choice, whether the preference is Founders or Emergent. And getting info about the institutions and agencies is usually a couple or key-clicks away. And CDs of the latest recording artist are a lot cheaper to purchase than plane tickets to the host city.

Many of the ruling intelligentsia may welcome the silence (or squashing) of the plebes. But it will come at a long-term price. This growing disconnect will translate into lower CP contributions over time. American colonists grew weary of shipping their taxes overseas and eventually embraced a “no taxation without representation” philosophy. It won’t be long before the SBC experiences the same.

I wish “the establishment” wouldn’t fear us so much. We’re not all of the Ben Cole type radicals, (though I’m not sure just how radical Ben really is). Last year, I presented two motions that would have allowed greater messenger participation (allowing a simple majority to override the Resolutions Committee or Committee on Order of Business rather than the current 2/3 majority). It is the only hope folks like Tom Ascol has for his resolution on church membership to be considered. The Resolutions Committee should allow it to be considered on the floor. For two years, they have refused to report it out. In my mind, this actually serves to benefit Tom’s position. It probably would have been voted down last year or even this year and the matter would have been put to rest (at least, to some degree); however, the committee’s refusal to allow a messenger from a cooperating church to have a moment of deliberative persuasion further alienates many from attending. And I can guarantee that 1/3 of the gathered messengers will always uphold a committee ruling anytime night or day—thwarting the will of the majority who have collectively paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to affect SBC life.

Anyway, convention leaders had better relax control and allow greater messenger participation or boost their exhibit hall budgets to give out more than just pens and mints; otherwise, they’ll soon be meeting in a church fellowship hall.

PS: The mints were stale and the pens were lousy. Thankfully, Olan Mills is still snapping free that's worth the trip!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

It's Better to Intervene

While I got on to a Missouri Baptist soapbox just a little bit last week in reacting to England’s Prime Minister’s comments from Sierra Leone, Tony Blair was quite the statesman with this insightful zinger:

"However ferocious the challenges are in this part of Africa, it's better to intervene and try to make a difference than stay out and try to cope with the consequences at a later time.”

The great enemy of change is apathy. Whether moral, political or spiritual—doing nothing is a great temptation to people who see things that need to be different. As God’s people, we are to engage our culture. Proverbs 3:27-28 says: “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in the power of your hand to do so. Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Go, and come back, and tomorrow I will give it,’ when you have it with you.” Doing good and doing it immediately is a strong teaching of the Bible. It’s inherent in Jesus’ cultural mandate when He says “You are the salt of the earth…you are the light of world.”

The temptation is to sit things out. We've all got busy lives. But do we have noble engagments? If all my life is about working, mowing grass and making sure my kid is at baseball practice on time, am I not missing something essential.

Unbelief, homosexual marriage, cloning, biblical illiteracy, abortion, gambling, selfish ambition are just a bit on the issues facing us.
There are always ‘ferocious’ challenges. The sluggard of Proverbs 26 says he cannot go outside because “there is a lion in the street!” Many Christians have embraced this sluggardly spirit and don’t engage our world because they see the problems as “lion-sized”. I suppose that’s why the Alabama clergymen who wrote that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s attack on racism in their state was both “unwise and untimely.”

This is why I have great frustration with our convention (both national and state). On both levels, and Missouri in particular, we are engaging in a battle that is largely unnecessary. Something that should be a family squabble is becoming an all out war. We have lost sight of our common enemy. Our adversary continues to blind the hearts of unbelievers, taking them into eternal hell. He still deceives and entices both our policies and pleasures which too often reflect an antagonism towards godliness.

In a manner of speaking, this is not 1860, this is 1775. In 1860, America survived the carnage of the Civil War because we had no external enemy. But had those regional conflicts been primary during the mid-1770s (and they were present) we would never have defeated Great Britain and attained our independence.

Southern Baptists need to rediscover our enemy. He is not crushed and is far from defeated.