The great divide in American life is on education and, if the news from Shorter University is any guide, the Georgia Baptist Convention is firmly resolved to be on the wrong side of it.
There, exploiting the terms of a 1959 loan made by the GBC to the unaffiliated, then-struggling school, the Convention has seized control of its board, installed its own president, and notified the faculty that they will conduct themselves in a godly way — or else.
In October, the college announced it would require all employees to sign a “lifestyle statement” rejecting homosexuality, adultery, premarital sex, drug use and drinking in public near the Rome, Ga., college’s campus. It also requires faculty to be active members of a local church.
Faculty who refuse to sign have been told they will be fired, and more than
50 60 have resigned.
This is all weirdly similar to accounts of events here at Southeastern Seminary, the most hotly contested campus during the so-called conservative resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention. Local Pious folk are defensive on the subject of the turmoil, and invariably quick to say that “nobody was fired,” but that’s literal truth in service of a lie. When you hear that, you are supposed to suppose that matters were in fact handled decently and amicably, and the horror stories are just the exaggerations of the (wicked) losers. No. Contracts were summarily cancelled, and many faculty were told that they would be fired if they refused to resign. Dozens of people were, practically speaking, fired — though a different verb was, and still is, used.
I have a fairly complete set of histories of those events, and the gist of it seems to be that ‘liberalism’ had overtaken the seminary. There were even faculty, it is said, who questioned the literal truth of Genesis and, if you can believe it, whether or not Our Heavenly Father Who Loves Us actually stopped the transit of the sun across the sky in order to allow Joshua additional hours of butchery.
There are whispers and shudders about homosexual orgies, too, which stop just short of intimating that gay copulation on the seminary lawns at high noon was a commonplace. I am skeptical, however — not least because I have never once in 15-years seen a seminary student even sitting on the lawn; it isn’t done. Not now, anyway.
You get a nice feel for the kind of language and charges that were afoot when you consider these remarks by Jerry Falwell on the occasion of the installation of Paige Patterson as seminary president:
Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest has corrupted the land for so many, many years, putting out preachers to the left of Gorbachev on everything.
Of Patterson himself, Falwell said this:
Of all the people in America to bring in as president of Southeastern, they brought in Dr. Paige Patterson. Paige is to the right of me. I mean, he is way out there.
You know that reality is taking an honest-to-God beating when even Jerry Falwell rolls his eyes.
There is this, too:
Another request of the GBC’s nominating committee member was whether all faculty and staff would sign the new “Baptist Faith and Message Statement” as a condition of their employment with Shorter.
The Baptist Faith and Message includes this embarrassing bit of nonsense:
The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God’s revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy.
It isn’t clear yet whether the remaining Shorter faculty will be required to hold their noses and debauch themselves by signing this. Signing it is a condition of employment at the SBC seminaries, however, though to sign it is a repudiation of scholarship, and makes the claim of being an academic a fraud. The faculty are instructors, and that’s the highest title they are entitled to after signing on that particular dotted line.
Just so’s you know, they still adorn themselves with ranks such as ‘professor,’ however — the frauds.
Poor Shorter; they are ruined and on the road to becoming a laughingstock. Seriously, it is always a mistake to let Holy Men go messing with grown-up stuff.