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Association of Baptist colleges changes name

CHARLESTON, S.C. (BP)–Members of the Association of Southern Baptist Colleges and Schools (ASBCS) voted June 5 to change the name of the 51-member organization to the International Association of Baptist Colleges and Universities (IABCU). Association leaders say the change expresses the group’s vision and desire to expand its mission and ministry to a more global focus.

Bob Agee, executive director of the association, said the presidents and chief academic officers who are the voting members of the association voted to change the name in an effort to expand its outreach to all colleges and universities which lay claim to their Baptist history and heritage.

“The name change positions the association to serve a larger number of Baptist-related schools both in the United States and abroad,” Agee said. “In 1996 the Southern Baptist Convention voted to do away with the Education Commission, and at that time, the association made the decision to assume the essential functions of the Education Commission as an independent member-owned and governed voluntary association.

“We believe the time has come for the member schools of the association to expand our outreach to a more global family. In addition, schools across the United States with roots in Baptist history and heritage who want to value that heritage could benefit greatly by participating with us in cooperative endeavors.

“Just as LifeWay, formerly the Baptist Sunday School Board, and GuideStone Financial Services, formerly the Southern Baptist Annuity Board, changed their names to serve the larger Christian family and expand the outreach of their missions, so the name International Association of Baptist Colleges and Universities will reflect the association’s desire to offer our services, support and influence to a global family of Baptist–related Christian higher education institutions,” Agee said.

David S. Dockery, president of Union University in Jackson, Tenn., said some colleges and universities — in light of the name change — may attempt to strengthen their ties to Southern Baptists.

“I sense a growing interest among many campuses to find some way to identify their historic commitment and relationship with the Southern Baptist Convention,” Dockery said in a statement to Baptist Press. “An increasing number sense that their historic identity might be misunderstood in light of several of the decisions at this year’s Charleston meeting. What form or direction this might take, I do not know at this time.

“It is important to recognize that while the new name for the organization points to the reality of global and international opportunities in the 21st century, it certainly does not mean that every college or university within the organization is moving away from its Southern Baptist identity,” Dockery added. “In fact, several institutions have never had stronger official ties with their state conventions and have hardly ever had stronger working relationships with Southern Baptist entities.

“I am sure that you will see some of these colleges and universities looking for ways in days ahead to underscore their common commitments to both their evangelical convictions and to their Baptist heritage. Many will also be looking for shared opportunities to emphasize the importance of a shared theological and philosophical framework, grounded in a Christian world and life view, in order to faithfully carry out their Christ-centered mission.”

Association members also approved a new mission statement, core values and objectives.

The association’s new mission statement reads: “The International Association of Baptist Colleges and Universities enriches member institutions by stimulating and supporting a quest for high-quality Christian higher education. The Association is a voluntary organization of colleges, universities and schools that lay claim to their Baptist history, heritage and relationships. It fosters intentional Christian education, while cooperating in the advancement and mutual well-being of each member.”

In other action, members of IABCU approved a budget for 2006-07, elected four new board members and announced board officers for 2006-07.

During the meeting. Tom Corts, president-emeritus of Samford University, received the Charles D Johnson Outstanding Educator Award. The award publicly recognizes individuals who have demonstrated a commitment to Christian higher education through Baptist-related institutions.

New board members with terms expiring in 2010 are: Michael Carter, president, Campbellsville University, Campbellsville, Ky.; William Underwood, president, Mercer University, Macon, Ga.; Randall O’Brien, provost, Baylor University, Waco, Texas; and Charles Wade, executive director, Baptist General Convention of Texas.

Officers for 2006-07 are chair, Jim Netherton, president, Carson-Newman College, Jefferson City, Tenn.; vice-chair and chair-elect, Evans Whitaker, president, Anderson University, Anderson, S.C.; and recording secretary, Carla Sanderson, provost, Union University, Jackson, Tenn.

The 238 chief administrators from member schools heard Joel Carpenter, the director of the Nagel Institute for the Study of World Christianity at Calvin College, deliver two Hester Lectures on “Christian Education and the Changing Face of Christianity.”

“There is a seismic shift in the planet’s religious commitments,” Carpenter said. “We hear a lot about resurgent Islam, but until very recently, an even greater religious change has been ignored.

“Christianity has become pervasive. It is a world religion, a majority of whose adherents live in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Pacific Rim. Christianity is in deep decline in Europe, and it is rising elsewhere.

“In 1900, 80 percent of the world’s Christians lived in Europe and North America. A century later, 60 percent of the world’s Christians are living in Africa, Asia and Latin America.”

Carpenter said that “Christian educators must reorient their course accordingly.” He challenged them to “promote a deeper understanding of world Christianity, partner with Christian study centers worldwide to strengthen Christian scholarship and cultural engagement, and provoke a reorientation of North American Christian thought and commitments toward the concerns of world Christianity.”

In other sessions, participants heard reports from a special conclave sponsored last October by the association and Baylor University, in which 50 participants from member schools and other Baptist leaders explored ways that member schools could remain intentionally Christian and unapologetically Baptist.

“The uncertain future of denominational life and structure in this post-denominational era will see changes that we have not yet imagined in the way Baptists relate to each other” Agee said.

“Hopefully the emerging new generation of leaders will find ways to value cooperative endeavor and will be even more open to working with and supporting colleges and universities with a strong, clear, Kingdom-oriented agenda.”

The following suggestions for improving the future of Baptist higher education were among those offered by conclave participants to member schools in the association:

— It is not appropriate for the International Association of Baptist Colleges and Universities to develop a theological framework or philosophy of education that all schools would be expected to endorse;

— Each school can best develop a philosophical/theological framework for the way it offers education. The aim should be to develop in a communal, non-threatening dialogical context a distinctive, Christ-centered, mission-driven covenant community that both affirms orthodox Christian convictions in the biblical narrative and affirms basic distinctives;

— Where possible, Baptist colleges and universities should seek to have positive meaningful relationships with their respective state conventions and develop meaningful relationships with local churches, pastors and other members of their faith families.

— Educating students is the primary reason for a Baptist school’s existence. Each member institution is encouraged to assure that its education outcomes goals and campus atmosphere goals provide excellent educational instruction and to guide students toward serving Christ in every area of life.

— The quality and character of the faculty will determine whether or not an institution is intentionally Christian. It is appropriate to expect that faculty will be serious about their Christian faith commitment, active in a local church and supportive of the institution’s mission.

— Institutional commitment to comprehensive professional development will provide a valuable context within which issues of integration of faith and learning can be discussed in a non-threatening environment.

— Schools need and should enlist trustees who have the means and knowledge to help the institution garner the resources necessary to survive and thrive and who will value the institution’s historic Christian mission and purpose.

— The International Association of Baptist Colleges and Universities should continue to offer strategic services to its member schools and develop collaborations designed to advance Christian higher education and strengthen the efforts of member schools in the United States and abroad.

The 2007 annual meeting of the association is set for June 3-5 at the Williamsburg Marriott in Williamsburg, Va.

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  • Tim Fields