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SBU committee named for ‘evaluations’ of ‘orthodoxy’

BOLIVAR, Mo. (BP) — Amid ongoing discussion of a former theology professor’s firing at Southwest Baptist University and the board’s exclusion of a trustee elected by the Missouri Baptist Convention, SBU has announced the members of a Peer Assessment Committee to conduct “evaluations regarding orthodoxy” at the university.

Assessment committee chairman David Dockery, president of Trinity International University, announced the appointment of five additional committee members, according to a Feb. 13 SBU news release. They are:

— Ken Hemphill, director of North Greenville University’s Center for Church Planting and Revitalization and a former president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

— Barbara McMillin, president of Blue Mountain College in Blue Mountain, Miss., and president of the International Association of Baptist Colleges and Universities.

— Joe Crider, professor of church music and worship at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a former SBU faculty member.

— Tim Howe, an SBU alum and pastor of teaching and discipleship at Heritage Baptist Church in Lebanon, Mo.

— Camden Pulliam, an SBU alum and director of admissions at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The committee will visit SBU’s Bolivar, Mo., campus at least once before spring break and at least one additional time prior to spring graduation, SBU stated. Committee members will work with administration, faculty and student leaders “to help determine the scope of their assessment.”

Clint Bass, the terminated theology professor at issue, saw his Nov. 28 firing upheld by a trustee subcommittee that convened in December. SBU President Eric Turner has accused Bass of violating faculty policy by, among other infractions, “collecting evidence and ascribing views to [faculty colleagues] without personal interaction.” An online petition supporting Bass claims he ran afoul of SBU administrators after informing the administration “of his concerns about the doctrinal instability” of SBU’s Courts Redford College of Theology and Ministry.

During a Jan. 22 special called trustee meeting, SBU’s board voted to censure and exclude a trustee identified by Missouri Baptists’ Pathway newsjournal as Kyle Lee, who serves alongside Bass as an elder at Southern Hills Baptist Church in Bolivar.

Following Lee’s exclusion, MBC Executive Director John Yeats told the Pathway, “Censuring and exclusion of a duly elected trustee from any MBC entity board is very serious matter and warrants careful review by Missouri Baptist Convention leaders in discussion with SBU leaders. There are numerous issues that will be addressed in future conversations, including the exclusive legal right of the Convention to both elect and remove trustees.

“We need to understand SBU’s views as to whether there is a process to restore a censured trustee to full service. The trustee relationship to the Convention is a sacred trust in the Baptist world. Any unsettling of that relationship inhibits the mission we (MBC) have asked the trustees to do. MBC leaders are giving this matter the urgent attention it deserves,” Yeats said.

Dockery said he looks forward to working with Turner and other SBU personnel “on these very important matters.”

“We want to encourage the university community to take the next steps to enhance distinctive Christian higher education at SBU,” Dockery said.

Redford College dean Rodney Reeves said he anticipates “meaningful discussions with the Peer Assessment Committee.”

SBU announced the Peer Assessment Committee in December, named Dockery chairman and said the committee would “lead a University-wide dialogue regarding faith and learning” to include “deeper conversations and evaluations regarding orthodoxy.”