LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) — A group of Kentucky Baptist leaders will meet with President Michael Carter and representatives of Campbellsville University Monday (April 29) for “open and honest dialogue” in response to recent accusations concerning the teaching of its theology and science faculty, according to Paul Chitwood, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
“The purpose of this undertaking is to better understand the theological convictions that chart CU’s course and whether or not those convictions are still compatible with the mission our Lord has given the churches of the Kentucky Baptist Convention,” Chitwood wrote in his April 20 blog.
Concerns regarding professors who are being attained and who allegedly reject biblical authority and biblical inerrancy have surfaced in e-mails, tweets and blogs of current and former students. The university recently chose not to grant tenure to a popular New Testament and Greek professor, Jarvis Williams, whom bloggers have identified as a conservative.
“For most Kentucky Baptists, a personnel matter at one of our nine agencies or institutions is a matter that should be handled privately by the administration without interference by the public,” Chitwood acknowledged. “Claims, however, that CU retains other professors in the school of theology who reject biblical authority and professors in other disciplines who affirm evolution, are difficult for many Kentucky Baptists to swallow.”
Campbellsville University officials issued a statement on April 22 in response to the accusations:
“Needless to say, we are perplexed by the unfounded charges that have been thrown at Campbellsville University. We are saddened by the level of rhetoric, political labeling, and name calling that has appeared in the blogs and internet-based venues. We have chosen to not engage in such tactics and will continue to rise above such rhetoric and labeling that are not in keeping with the spirit of our Christian faith,” the statement read, in part.
“We cannot comment on personnel decisions other than to point out that no one has been fired, and the professor was told he would have an additional one year to teach. Such decisions are difficult and never made lightly,” the statement continued.
In response to calls by some detractors on social media to withhold convention support, Chitwood counseled, “I understand the concerns but am equally concerned that we do not rush to judgment.”
“I earnestly pray that accusations regarding one institution will not be used to undermine all that Kentucky Baptists support, including the education of 16,000 Southern Baptist Convention seminary students and more than 10,000 missionaries and church planters taking the gospel to Kentucky, North America, and the ends of the earth,” he wrote.
Stating that he is “genuinely troubled by the testimonies of some current and former CU students,” Chitwood added, “(I)f academic freedom is no longer afforded to those who hold to “the faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3) and teach a high view of Scripture (2 Tim 3:16), the time for church support has clearly passed.”
In concluding his blog, Chitwood advocated a need to exercise prudence and reiterated that the group’s intent was not to delve into “inherently private personnel matters” of the university.
In the university’s statement, school officials maintained: “Campbellsville University has not changed and has not wavered in our strong and historic commitment to the Kentucky Baptist family. We have never worked harder to connect with the churches and leaders of our convention; we have never worked harder to prepare Christian servant leaders who will become world changers for Christ … and we strongly disagree with those who choose to engage in political rhetoric and use of labels.”
Insisting the school’s commitment to Christ-centered higher education, in the great tradition of its Baptist heritage, has never been stronger, the university noted, “The year of 2012-2013 has been one of the best in the 107 year history with a record enrollment, record number of graduations, a number of professions of faith among our students, mission trips around the world, and numerous examples of Christian servant leadership among our students, faculty, staff and coaches.”
Representing the KBC at the April 29 dialogue will be Hershael York, Frankfort; Bill Henard, Lexington; Dan Summerlin, Paducah; Paul Badgett, Pikeville; Charles Barnes, Louisville; Adam Greenway, Mt. Washington; Daryl Cornett, Hazard; and Curtis Woods, KBC associate executive director.
In addition to Carter, representatives for Campbellsville are current and former trustees and administrators, including Joe Owens, David Morris, Larry Noe, Frank Cheatham and John Chowning.
Todd Deaton is editor of the Western Recorder (www.westernrecorder.org), newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.