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Missouri committee to investigate sexuality issues at William Jewell

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (BP)–A Missouri Baptist Convention executive board subcommittee has voted to open an inquiry into reports of a homosexual agenda at William Jewell College in Liberty.

The board’s inter-agency committee decided to take the action during a meeting at the Baptist Building in Jefferson City following news reports about pro-homosexual activities at the MBC-affiliated college.

Both Baptist Press and KMBC, a Kansas City television station, reported that some William Jewell students are campaigning openly for a pro-homosexual plank in the college’s student bill of rights.

In another story, Baptist Press quoted the chair of the William Jewell department of psychology as saying there is a pattern of accepting homosexuality at the college. She cautioned that the spiritual and intellectual souls of the students are at risk.

Patricia Schoenrade, a William Jewell professor since 1989, told the news service that she is very concerned about the advocacy of homosexuality as a viable lifestyle being affirmed at the college.

Charlie Burnett, pastor of Harmony Heights Baptist Church in Joplin and chairman of the board’s inter-agency committee, said both he, David Clippard, MBC executive director, and Kenny Qualls, MBC president, had been flooded with e-mails and phone calls following the initial news reports.

“Missouri Baptists want to know what is going on,” Burnett said.

A third Baptist Press report, dealing with the scheduled performance of a sexually explicit play, “The Vagina Monologues,” on Feb. 14-15 on the William Jewell campus, was released the day after the executive board meeting.

Baptist Press attempted to contact David Sallee, William Jewell’s president, to ask about the appearance of pro-homosexual activities on the campus of the MBC institution. Sallee did not return calls to Baptist Press, but he did make a presentation to the MBC inter-agency committee on Dec. 9 and another to the executive board Dec. 10. He refused to take any questions from board members following his presentation.

Sallee told the inter-agency committee that the “tempest” had been created by a small number of students.

“If the amendment is approved, it won’t affect how the school handles threats of discrimination,” Sallee said. He added the amendment to the student bill of rights would not be legally binding and would not change administrative practice.

Both Clippard and Qualls sat in on Sallee’s presentation to the committee. After listening to Sallee, Qualls said he was more concerned about the attitude of the William Jewell administration toward homosexual activity on campus than about the action of the students.

“We want your students to hear, ‘Thus saith the Lord,'” Qualls said. “I think the spotlight is on the students and also on the faculty and you as the administrator of William Jewell. I think you ought to stand up and say this is what we believe and what the Bible teaches. I find nothing in Scripture where the opposite view of what God said is brought before the people.”

Burnett agreed. “We want to be able to treat this fairly and understand it,” he said, “but there are certain things we stand for. At the top is that God’s Word is very solid, true and inerrant. We will have to dig into this deeper and would like your cooperation in this matter.”

Sallee held firm in his defense of the William Jewell position.

“We offer a great liberal arts education,” he said. “We are proud of the multiple views that are presented. You can find people on all sides of the issues. If we’re going to provide students a good education, we’ve got to give them multiple views. Kids need to hear both [Jim] Talent and [Jean] Carnahan and Paul Duke and then make a decision for themselves.”

Carnahan, who was defeated by Talent in a November Senate race, was the school’s 2002 commencement speaker. During her campaign, Carnahan was noted as a pro-choice and pro-homosexual candidate.

Duke, who delivered William Jewell’s 2002 baccalaureate address, has been a key spokesman for the pro-homosexual faction within the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) and is a former New Testament professor at the CBF-supported Mercer University McAfee School of Theology in Georgia.

“Paul preached a marvelous sermon to our students,” Sallee said.

Committee member Gary Barkley asked Sallee during the inter-agency meeting, “Does what you are doing make it institutional acceptance?” Barkley added that he believes students need to be guided, not indoctrinated in that process.

Sallee responded that some will “see it the way you see it and others will not. As educators, we deal with multiple issues and multiple points of view.”

In a statement to Baptist Press, Clippard called on the William Jewell administration to respond immediately to the pro-homosexual atmosphere.

“I’m shocked that this kind of thing would be debated on a Baptist college campus,” Clippard said. “… It may be a liberal arts school, but it is a liberal arts school that receives Cooperative Program dollars. I believe there needs to be some accountability to the Missouri Baptists that support them.”

Both Clippard and Qualls are urging Missouri Baptists to contact William Jewell’s administration and trustees and let them know that “this clear falling away from the teachings of the Bible” is not acceptable.

Qualls described the William Jewell issue as “key” and “pressing.”

“If the administration does not take a stand, William Jewell will take a step toward losing its distinctive as a Bible-based Christian school,” Qualls told Sallee. “Missouri Baptists want to know: What is the William Jewell philosophy and is it a philosophy we want to agree with?”

The inter-agency committee findings will be presented to the executive board at its April meeting.

    About the Author

  • Bob Baysinger