NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A motion passed at the Tennessee Baptist Convention seems destined to plow controversial ground: to “investigate and study the theological teachings” of the three Baptist-affiliated institutions of higher education in the state -– Carson-Newman College, Belmont University and Union University.
The topic burst onto the convention floor when Carson-Newman student Brady Tarr, who also was a local church messenger, stated during a business session that his professors had told him the Bible has errors and contradictions. “Why is that happening at Carson-Newman, a Baptist college?” Tarr asked.
Carson-Newman President James Netherton was asked to respond to Tarr’s question.
“Carson-Newman doesn’t teach the Bible has errors,” the president said. “I believe every single member of the religion department is called by God and they all believe the Bible.
“If you treat the Bible with great honesty, a number of things must be read and placed in a proper perspective,” Netherton continued. “The Bible is what we believe. It is at the center of our faith.”
Netherton was asked by another messenger, D.C. Cobb, if Carson-Newman professors would be willing to affirm the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 statement of Southern Baptist beliefs.
“We haven’t asked them that question,” the president responded. “We Baptists have not made the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message a test. We have worked hard to be a non-creedal people.”
The initial exchange occurred on the opening day of the Nov. 9-10 convention but more discussion followed the next day, culminating in messengers’ approval of the motion to “investigate and study the theological teachings” of the three colleges affiliated with the convention.
Baptist Press asked the college presidents for a statement about the TBC motion, with responses received by press time from Robert Fisher of Belmont and David Dockery of Union.
Fisher stated: “I am quite surprised by the motion and the overwhelming vote in favor of the investigation. Each of the three institutions has a governing board that has been fully affirmed by the Tennessee Baptist Convention. According to the TBC bylaws, each board is responsible for the
oversight of their respective institution and is the final authority in
all matters, so I’m a little confused as to who does what around here.”
Dockery stated: “Union University recognizes its responsibility and accountability to the churches of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. We will be glad to cooperate and participate in the study that was called for at this year’s convention. We believe our trustees will be happy to lead this process and as a result we should be a better institution with better relationships with the churches in days ahead.”
The TBC executive board’s education committee will conduct the investigation, according to the motion, and report to the executive board which then would report the findings to the state convention’s 2005 annual meeting. Lynn King, the immediate past chairman of the education committee is the new executive board president. King is pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Dyersburg.