Friday, November 4, 2011

A tale of two Baptist schools in Georgia

The two schools:

Mercer University is a top tier private school in Macon, Georgia. It had a long history of affiliation with the Georgia Baptist Convention but is no longer connected to or funded by the GBC.

Shorter University is a Georgia Baptist school, closely held and controlled by the GBC, and that after a failed attempt by earlier trustees to sever ties with the GBC and transfer the school's assets to an entity not controlled by the GBC.

Mercer has just approved a policy granting domestic partner benefits for gays. Mercer is also hosting a Baptist sexuality conference next year.

Shorter has just required all employees to sign a personal lifestyle statement that pledges rejection of unbiblical sexual activity, including homosexual activity.

Mercer is a superior educational institution. Shorter is held in lower regard in academic reputation.

Shorter makes national news with their pointedly conservative, many use the term 'fundamentalist', stance on morality, homosexuality, and Biblical inerrancy.

Mercer makes news, though not national news, by granting gays domestic partner benefits.

Mercer and some connected with the school, including Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (co-sponsor of the conference on Baptist sexuality), may (and please note my partisan speculation rather than fact here) be among the first Baptists to outline a theology of affirmation and acceptance of homosexuality.

No Georgia Baptist Convention church contributes to Mercer through their Cooperative Program gifts but they do contribute to Shorter which receives over one million dollars annually from the GBC.

Mercer is on very solid long term footing and its future looks strong and secure. Enrollment is growing at Shorter and its short to medium future looks strong.

When Southern Baptist life began to splinter thirty years ago, it was probably a good and necessary thing, something these two schools illustrate. My reading of SBC and state convention life is that the experiences of these two schools and their affiliations is typical. Does anyone think that we could all just go along and get along with each other and cooperate with such a contrast in beliefs and practices? Surely not.

Baptists have a clear choice. Let each one choose.


Anonymous said...

... including homosexual activity ... and ... and ... and ... and ...

Anonymous said...

I'll choose the school that stays with Biblical standards and teachings thank you. And its obvious which school that is.

Big Daddy Weave said...


Might want to check out this article by David Gushee on the sexuality conference:

Don't look for CBF to affirm pro-gay anything anytime soon. CBF hasn't been in the business of passing statements, etc.

Gushee is rather explicit and appears to have tight control over the conference and its content. I will bet you some Holcombs BBQ that the conference will focus as much on non-homosexuality related issues as it does homosexuality.

I suspect Gushee will ensure that the conference spends a good bit of time discussing the problem of divorce in American society. That's something he himself has written on in his books.

William Thornton said...

I've already read Gushee's prelim statements and can even read between the lines but think I am allowed the speculation that the day is close when some CBF leader, or entity, if not the CBF national organization itself will make such a declaration.

Bloggers all all about wild conjectures, you know.

Big Daddy Weave said...

Well, yea, some CBF leader will. I don't think the CBF will follow the path of the Alliance but instead inch closer to the position of ABCUSA, which means they'll maintain their sexuality hiring/personnel policies while tolerating and accommodating in a public way more diversity of opinion.

Right now it is very clear that the CBF (and Gushee) are only interested in discussing the subject if they can maintain tight control over the message.

I find most interesting that Gushee won't allow this conference to discuss questions of public policy. Back when Jonathan Merritt held his Creation Care conference in Atlanta, the question was raised: How can you discuss Creation Care without touching on the most talked about and important global environmental concern, Climate Change?

Similar point to be made here. How can you discuss homosexuality without wading into the waters of public policy, the relationship between religious liberty and gay rights/nondiscrimination, etc.

Anonymous said...

Big Daddy Weave - How can you discuss ... without ...

Anon: How seriously does Gushee wish this conference be taken in academe? Does Mercer wish a conference in which the school displays little value for academic freedom? Does CBF wish to operate as SBC?

Anonymous said...

Well contrasted and well stated Plodder! Thank you.

William Thornton said...

The comparison and contrast between Mercer and Shorter is not lost on others, even those outside Baptist life:

Anonymous said...

Baptist schools that are able to minimize the influence of those with little knowledge of or interest in higher education have moved on to become better schools. Mercer is steadily improving its reputation and profile in higher education; Shorter, on the other hand, will have difficulty attacting professors of note. If GBC wants a Bible School, it is within its expertise to ensure such.

William Thornton said...

Al Mohler: A tale of two colleges

Hmmm, where have I seen this before?

Oh, here...but Mohler gives a fuller analysis of the matter.

Anonymous said...

Typical Mohler overreach and simplification. Many in the church supported Mercer having autonomy to preserve the values of Jesse Mercer, which would be problematic under an increasingly conservative GBC. Thus, the church did not decry this move, rather the church was on both sides of this issue.

Stephen Fox said...

Dr. Plodder:
I notice you have a lot of anonymous comments here in this stream.
I commend all of you to take a look at the Rob Nash discussion at sbc trends.
Rob former dean of the religion dept at Shorter, had a spot on guest column in Sunday's Rome News Tribune you can easily google through key words and cookie cutter.
I have submitted a letter for publication to the RNT as well. I am proud of it and hope they publish and everyone from you to Al Mohler read it online.
You got a copy of Bolton's Hadacol Days yet? You got to get one. Charming memoir on Statham