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Cedarville trustees uphold prof’s firing

CEDARVILLE, Ohio (BP)–Trustees of Cedarville University, meeting in special session April 4, voted unanimously to uphold the termination of David Hoffeditz, a tenured professor in the school’s biblical studies department.

In July 2007, Hoffeditz and another tenured professor in the same department, David Mappes, were notified that their contracts for the upcoming school year were being terminated. While Mappes chose not to appeal the action, Hoffeditz took the decision to a five-member faculty grievance panel. In March 2008, that panel concluded, on a split vote, in Hoffeditz’s favor.

The university’s appeals process called for the panel’s findings to be forwarded to Cedarville President William E. Brown, who in turn relayed his recommendation, along with that of the grievance panel, to the academic committee of the school’s trustees.

In a statement released after the trustee vote, Cedarville spokesman John Davis said:

“After carefully reviewing the university’s policies and procedures, the report of the Grievance Investigative Panel, and the recommendation of the president, the board of trustees concluded that there were clear grounds for the severance of Dr. Hoffeditz and that the university’s guidelines related to this personnel matter had been followed. This decision by the Board was unrelated to any theological issues.

“Therefore, the board of trustees voted unanimously to accept the recommendations of both the president and the Academic Committee of the board of trustees and to uphold the termination of Dr. Hoffeditz.”

The faculty panel’s original findings in favor of Hoffeditz were leaked to The Chronicle of Higher Education, which reported in a March 7 article that the panel cited “administrative missteps” as part of its rationale for supporting Hoffeditz.

The faculty panel said it “understands the university position to be that Dr. Hoffeditz insisted that his colleagues adhere to doctrinal positions that are not in the [university’s] doctrinal statement,” The Chronicle of Higher Education reported.

To explain the terminations, the university posted a lengthy statement on its website that said, in part: “For some time now, departmental and university attention has been distracted and energy diverted from work that is central to our mission -– equipping students for lifelong leadership and service through an education marked by excellence and grounded in biblical truth. University administrators, with the full support of the board of trustees, have been involved in a process to return the department of biblical education to its heritage of collegiality and academic dialogue. After carefully and diligently following university processes and procedures, it became necessary to take action in order to restore a healthy team spirit and to refocus our attention and energies on our mission.”

The issue involved a debate over the degree to which Christians can be certain in their knowledge of truth. A statement adopted by university trustees in August 2006 says:

“At the turn of the 21st century, both the truth of Scripture and objective truth in general are being questioned. Individuals in society are sometimes skeptical of the ability to know anything about the world or the Bible. These issues have risen to such a level that they cannot be ignored and have prompted Cedarville University to affirm our position on truth and its knowability with a statement that places the institution firmly within the bounds of historic Christian orthodoxy.”

Hoffeditz and Mappes considered themselves theologically more conservative on the issue than their peers in the department, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education article.

The statement released after the trustee meeting said Hoffeditz’s conduct “had violated guidelines found within his contract, which includes the Faculty Handbook.” It also affirmed that “the university’s commitments to its conservative theological heritage, to its historic doctrinal position, and to the inerrancy and authority of Scripture have not changed, nor will they.”

The university’s doctrinal statement is posted online at www.cedarville.edu.

The State Convention of Baptists in Ohio voted in 2002 to recommend Cedarville to the state’s Southern Baptists, and the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches, with which Cedarville had historically been related, voted in 2006 to sever ties with the university because of perceived liberalism in the SBC.

Cedarville University does not receive any funds from the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio or through the Cooperative Program, the unified budget of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Compiled by Mark Kelly, an assistant editor at Baptist Press.

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