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Southern trustees revise tenure, speak out against homosexuality


LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Trustees of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary approved a revision of the school’s tenure policy and adopted two resolutions about local legislation which gives special rights to homosexuals during their Oct. 11-12 meeting.

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Seminary, hailed the new tenure policy as “a remarkable document” and said it “establishes a new model for evangelical institutions.”

The tenure policy revision was the culmination of three years of work for trustees and members of Southern’s faculty and administration. Trustees formed a committee in 1996 to study the policy and recommend any changes. After reviewing the practices of several other evangelical institutions, the committee drafted the policy, which the Southern Seminary faculty unanimously approved Sept. 29.

“What a miracle it is to have the unity of the faculty behind this,” said David Wilson, chairman of the trustees’ academic personnel committee.

The document defines tenure as “a covenant relationship established by the Board of Trustees and the Administration of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with a faculty member who has demonstrated teaching competence, scholarship in his or her field of expertise, and moral and spiritual leadership in Christian ministry.”

In presenting the policy to the trustees for consideration, Mohler admitted “tenure is one of those loaded words out there in the academic environment. … It is in the interest of the seminary … to build a long-term faculty of consecrated scholars who will make Southern Seminary their destination career.”

The new policy includes responsibilities of tenured faculty members and calls for post-tenure review of faculty members every seven years.

The resolutions adopted by the trustees addressed a “Fairness Ordinance” now on the books in the city of Louisville and in Jefferson County, which gives special rights to homosexuals in housing, employment and public accommodations. The ordinance does include an exemption for religious organizations, but Southern’s administration has expressed reservations to the Jefferson County Fiscal Court and city of Louisville about the effectiveness of that exemption.

“As an institution we are steadfastly opposed to this legislation,” Mohler said. “The battle lines are literally being drawn. We will not compromise our moral convictions.”

The resolution cited the trustee board’s “opposition to any legislation, adopted or proposed, that would grant special privileges and legal protections to homosexual persons.”

“Furthermore, we hereby state that our opposition to homosexual behavior is established in the clear teachings of Holy Scripture, the ultimate authority by which we operate as a theological seminary,” the resolution said.

The board also passed a second resolution expressing “prayerful support” for Southern trustee James Hyman, a Louisville physician, who has filed a lawsuit against the city of Louisville and is seeking a reversal of the city’s Fairness Ordinance.

In the president’s report to the board of trustees, Mohler lamented how churches are accommodating their message to the influences of a postmodern culture.

“The issue of the exclusivity of the gospel of Jesus Christ will be the most contested issue for the next generation,” Mohler said. “Mark my words, for the next decade will be a time of great apostasy from the gospel on the part of many churches and institutions, and precisely at this issue.”

Mohler pledged his commitment to keep Southern Seminary “established upon the solid rock” of Christ. “Southern Seminary has made clear her determination to stand on the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible,” he said. “We must allow no compromise on this principle.”

Mohler reported to the trustees that student enrollment for the fall semester was 1,998 students, including 630 first-time students — a 26.51 percent increase over last year.

The restructured school of theology is in place, with all four divisions operational, Mohler said. The four divisions are Scripture and interpretation; theology and tradition; ministry and proclamation; and worldview and culture.

Mohler also reported that the campus master plan is under way, and that the seminary finished the fiscal year “in sound financial health.”

In other action, trustees:

— granted sabbatical leaves to faculty members Brian Richardson, Mark Simpson and Doug Smith.

— elected William Cutrer, associate professor of Christian ministry, to be the C. Edwin Gheens Associate Professor of Christian Ministry; elected Hal Pettegrew, associate professor of Christian education and leadership, to be the J.M. Frost Associate Professor of Christian Education and Leadership; and elected Simpson, associate professor of Christian education and leadership, to be the Gaines S. Dobbins Associate Professor of Christian Education and Leadership.

Trustees also responded to three referrals from the
Southern Baptist Convention:

— Concerning a motion that seminaries require professional sign language interpreters for all deaf students, trustees noted that the seminary, whenever possible, “assists those students with special needs (including deaf students).” Because of “prohibitive costs” of American Sign Language interpretation, however, trustees declined to make the service available.

— Regarding a motion that SBC agencies utilize existing technology to save travel costs, trustees noted that the seminary already “makes extensive use of educational technologies including video conferencing and the Internet.”

— In response to a motion that SBC agencies not schedule meetings in conflict with Crossover events, trustees cited the seminary’s commitment to Crossover and said the seminary doesn’t schedule conflicting events.

    About the Author

  • Tim Ellsworth
    Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.Read All by Tim Ellsworth ›