JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (BP)–David Sallee, president of William Jewell College, is making no apologies for what is taught, presented and portrayed at the Baptist campus in Liberty.
“The problem, as I see it, is that some Baptist persons don’t like the way we do our work,” Sallee told the Missouri Baptist Convention executive board at its Dec. 10 meeting. “However, we believe we are doing the work we are called to do in the way we were called to do it.
“I believe that God called me to Liberty to lead William Jewell College to provide a superior education in a distinctively Christian environment. More specifically, the issue is that some people would implement the phrase ‘distinctively Christian’ differently than we do. At this critical time in the history of William Jewell, it must be clearly and firmly stated that we will vigorously defend both the way we do our work and the systems of governance under which we operate.”
A recent report by Baptist Press quotes Patricia Schoenrade, the chair of the department of psychology at William Jewell, saying there is a pattern of accepting homosexuality at the college. Schoenrade issued a warning to “fellow believers” that the spiritual and intellectual souls of the students are at risk.
Sallee told the board members that William Jewell was founded upon — and continues to be devoted to — the model of education as exploration.
“There are some who want us to adopt the model of indoctrination, simplifying truth to easily digestible nuggets and translating it into uniform action, both personal and corporate,” Sallee explained.
“We cannot do that. Diversity of views, ambiguity and creative conflict are necessary parts of the enterprise of higher education. We are at our best and we serve our Baptist constituencies best when these qualities are present in the collegiate experiences of our students.
“As a result, we expect our college to address any and all topics, confident in the academic freedom we enjoy. We also expect that freedom, like every freedom, to be exercised responsibly.”
A growing Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) influence has been noted at William Jewell in recent years. Paul Duke, a key spokesman for the pro-homosexual faction within the CBF, delivered the school’s 2002 baccalaureate address. Duke is a former New Testament professor at the CBF-supported Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology.
The William Jewell board of trustees includes three pastors who have been active in the CBF movement in Missouri: Doyle Sager, pastor of First Baptist, Jefferson City; John Hughes, pastor, First Baptist Church, Independence; and Bob Webb, pastor of Memorial Baptist Church, Columbia.
Sallee told the MBC board that he believes that “every person is to follow Christ, doing so in the unique giftedness that he/she is as a unique creation of God.”
“There is not one expression of the Christian life to which all of us should conform,” he said. “Each of us is called to live our own unique life as an expression of Christian faith. To attempt to live the life of another would be to live without authenticity and genuineness.
“Our goal as a community is the Kingdom of God. God calls us to practice love and justice in our relationships. The clearest guideline for all relationships is from Jesus, ‘Love one another as I have loved you.'”
Sallee said he believes “our heritage calls us to be anchored in the ideals of Christ and the conviction that each person must choose to stand where his or her informed conscience dictates.”
Concerning the homosexual debate on campus, Sallee said he thinks it is instructive for students to commit to a respectful discourse about issues with which families, churches and denominations across the country are struggling.
“One of our goals is to help our students learn how to work through such difficult issues in a disciplined fashion,” he said.
“We have always been a Baptist college and we plan always to be a Baptist college. We have long been a faithful partner of the Baptists of Missouri and I hope you will support our endeavors to provide a Christian education to our students.”