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SBU upholds prof’s firing, affirms BF&M

BOLIVAR, Mo. (BP) — Trustees at Southwest Baptist University have affirmed both the firing of a former SBU theology professor and the trustee board’s commitment to the Baptist Faith and Message.

The board’s actions were announced in a series of SBU news releases Jan. 22-24. The BF&M affirmation occurred during a Jan. 22 special called trustee meeting on SBU’s Bolivar, Mo., campus. The professor’s firing was affirmed prior to the meeting by a trustee subcommittee and announced via a university news release Jan. 23.

During the special called meeting, trustees also censured and excluded one trustee from the board because fellow trustees “felt our trust had been violated by the board member’s actions.” Neither the board member’s name nor the actions in question were specified in a news release announcing the decision.

Clint Bass, the terminated theology professor at issue, had appealed his Nov. 28 firing to the board, whose five-member Educational Policies and Personnel Committee met with him Dec. 21. 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.

Bass told Baptist Press today (Jan. 24) in a statement, “As there is nothing impossible with our God, I had high hopes going into the [appeal] ‘hearing’ [with trustees]. I had prayed earnestly that the subcommittee would consider the evidence with seriousness. It soon became clear that they had not digested” evidence “corroborating my claims that there is a lack of doctrinal alignment between some faculty at Redford College and the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.”

SBU President Eric Turner has accused Bass, among other violations of faculty policy, of “collecting evidence and ascribing views to [faculty colleagues] without personal interaction” and “use of non-credible information to formulate accusations against fellow faculty members.”

The petition supporting Bass contains links to documents claiming to provide evidence of deviations by SBU faculty from the biblical doctrines of Scripture, hell and justification by faith among other points of Baptist theology.

According to the Jan. 23 SBU news release, Bass’s dismissal was upheld by unanimous vote of the Educational Policies and Personnel Committee. “The dismissal is based upon conduct that was in violation of the Faculty Handbook,” the release stated. “Employee dismissals always are carefully considered and conducted in accordance with University policies and procedures.”

A Jan. 24 SBU release stated the full board “voted to affirm its longstanding commitment to traditional Baptist theology, including the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.” All Redford College faculty previously made an “affirmation of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000,” according to the release.

In addition, the board “voted to formally accept” the commissioning of an external Peer Assessment Committee chaired by Trinity International University President David Dockery, the release stated. The university announced the external committee earlier this month and said it would conduct “evaluations regarding orthodoxy” at SBU.

Trustee vice chair Ryan Palmer said in a Jan. 24 release, “We want to reassure Missouri Baptists that our board stands for the same core Biblical values that we all believe and share. We are all committed Missouri Baptists.”

Regarding the excluded trustee, board chair Mark Rains stated in a Jan. 22 release, “Serving on the Board of Trustees is a serious responsibility, and trustees cannot have divided loyalties. The SBU Board of Trustees Conflict of Interest Policy states, ‘Any member who has a conflict of interest, actual or perceived, shall be disqualified from service as a trustee.’ We felt our trust had been violated by the board member’s actions.”

SBU is affiliated with the Missouri Baptist Convention.