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2 Southwestern professors identified as not signing SBC beliefs statement

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Two theology faculty members at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary have indicated they will not sign the Baptist Faith and Message as required by the school’s bylaws.

Jeph Holloway, associate professor of Christian ethics, and Rick Johnson, professor of Old Testament, have told seminary administrators and trustees they could not in good conscience sign the Southern Baptist Convention statement of beliefs as adopted during last June’s annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.

Holloway, who joined the Fort Worth, Texas, seminary’s faculty in 1998, said it would be a breach of his conscience to sign the BFM, which he considers now “very different from the 1963 statement.”

Seminary policy prevented the school from announcing which of its faculty had held out from signing the BFM, said Kenneth S. Hemphill, president of Southwestern.

“It is our policy not to comment publicly about personnel matters,” Hemphill has consistently told reporters.

However, a news report in the May 1 edition of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram identified the professors.

“Southwestern Seminary bylaws require all faculty to sign the Baptist Faith and Message as established by our Southern Baptist Convention,” Hemphill said. “This is a matter of faithfulness to our bylaws and a matter of integrity to our constituency.

“Signing the Baptist Faith and Message is not a new requirement,” Hemphill said.

Southwestern professors have signed the current SBC faith statement since the 1950s and have verbally endorsed the statement since it was written in 1925, according to seminary documents.

Holloway said his main concern was that when he was elected to the faculty in 1998 he signed the seminary’s bylaws “which said I was to teach consistent with and not contrary to the Baptist Faith and Message of 1963.”

Seminary trustees amended the bylaws in 1999, which had specifically indicated the 1963 BFM version. Faculty now sign a statement affirming “the Baptist Faith and Message, which may be revised from time to time by the Southern Baptist Convention to address specific needs in light of our living faith.”

Holloway said he had not wanted his name to be made public and did not want to be used as a pawn by either side in the SBC controversy. Holloway said that although he was shocked that his and Johnson’s names had become known, he reluctantly agreed to talk when a reporter with The Washington Times called him at home the evening of March 30. That newspaper has not yet carried a news story with Holloway’s comments. Johnson, who was elected to the school’s faculty in 1992, has refused all requests for interviews.

Holloway said, “I fully recognize and affirm that as an institution of the Southern Baptist Convention, Southwestern Seminary has an obligation to its constituency to maintain a faculty that is representative of the convention’s confessional outlook.

“On the one hand while I respect the seminary’s right to a faculty that is in accordance with its own sense of identity, I also feel that I cannot with integrity sign the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.”

Hemphill said he regretted that Holloway and Johnson could not sign the document, but “I appreciate the integrity of the men and wish them well wherever God may lead them.”

David Crutchley, dean of Southwestern’s school of theology, called the anticipated loss of the two faculty members very painful.

“I am working with them on their transition plans and feel a deep sense of personal grief and loss. They are significant scholars in their fields: Holloway, an outstanding biblical ethicist, and Johnson, a gifted Old Testament professor.

“Both of these men are deeply loved and appreciated by their colleagues and students and will be sorely missed,” Crutchley said.

The seminary is giving both men more than a year to find new positions, and Hemphill and Crutchley have offered to help them find other teaching positions. Hemphill asked Southern Baptists to pray for the men and their families during the time of transition.

Holloway said the situation was similar to the loss of a loved one.

“It’s an occasion for grief for me,” Holloway said. “While I’m grateful that I have the opportunity, if I want to, to stay on another year, it also is a very painful experience.

“I will miss the camaraderie here, the fellowship of the colleagues, the vitality of the classroom, the relationship with the students.”

Holloway said one of the reasons he came to Southwestern was “a sense of obligation to the seminary that has contributed tremendously to who I am and what I do. … And it is a source of grief that that relationship will have to end.”

Holloway also expressed appreciation for Hemphill and Crutchley’s attempts “to resolve a difficult situation.”

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