Sunday, October 18, 2009

Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem on the Brazos

The administration of Baylor University has requested the Baylor Alumni Association to dissolve itself in favor of an alumni relations program administered by the university itself. This is a controversial request that comes as the culmination of several contentious years (although things somewhat incorrectly appeared to be improving) between Baylor's administration and largest alumni body.

The Baylor Alumni Association will likely remind you of the importance of independence as opposed to control. The BAA ought not to be some sort of a perpetual "watchdog," but neither should it be a "lapdog" subservient to the vicissitudes of the administration. To dissolve the BAA, many alumni feel, would represent a dangerous consolidation of power in favor of the administration and the regents of Baylor.

I agree with this point of view. Of course, I can say so with a straight face.

I was not among the folks who favored consolidation of power when Herb Reynolds was stealing Baylor University away from Texas Baptists and placing it into the hands of a self-perpetuating board of trustees—the power grab of the Baptist century. Among BAA's champions will be a great many people who loved the idea of consolidating control of Baylor, so long as they were the ones in control. Now, on the outside of the circle of power and looking in, they're the advocates of a greater voice for the people. Quite convenient, if you ask me.

Nevertheless, Baylor is my alma mater, the university has sent out so many people who have been used so greatly by the Lord in its 164-year history, and a great many of the people involved in this situation are my brothers and sisters in Christ. For all of these reasons, and because God put some good things into my own life during my years in Waco (one of whom will be teaching Kindergarten Sunday School today), I am praying for the peace of Jerusalem on the Brazos.


Big Daddy Weave said...

This latest controversy was entirely unnecessary. The Baylor Lariat and Waco Trib have been flooded with op-eds, editorials, and letters to the editor .

It's extremely clear from the rhetoric of the BAA leaders that the BAA is not going to accept this proposal. That's a no-brainer in my opinion.

BAA could move quickly and tell the Administration and Regents Thanks But No Thanks and end this controversy.

A friend of mine who is a recent addition to the BAA Board of Directors had a punchy op-ed in today's Trib.

r. grannemann said...


Will you, as a Southwestern trustee, advance the idea among fellow trustees that Southwestern's Alumni Relations, Development Group and Southwestern Seminary Foundation be made independent so they can take initiative and give advice independent of the power and control of the trustees and administration?

r. grannemann said...

Let me add that I don't care what the BAA does. If they take financial support from Baylor and use Baylor facilities, then they should come under the control of the administration. If they don't, then they can be independent if they choose to be.

Bart Barber said...

Bro. Grannemann,

I was elected as a trustee by the alumni of SWBTS, among others. If we were governed by a self-perpetuating board, I might very well consider just such an option. The governance arrangement of SWBTS makes such a move unnecessary at SWBTS, IMHO.

r. grannemann said...


Well, I was against the self-perpetuating board at Baylor, and still am. However, Baylor's board of regents isn't entirely self-perpetuating. One fourth are appointed by the General Baptist Convention of Texas.

r. grannemann said...

I meant Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT).

Bart Barber said...

That's a fair point, but it is not exactly equivalent.

1. The difference between 25% and 100% is all the difference in the world.

2. Because SWBTS is a seminary and BU is a university, the alumni of BU do not necessarily correlate highly with the membership of the BGCT. With regard to SWBTS, there is a high degree of correlation between interested alumni and members of the SBC.

3. Also, there is the matter of trajectory. Baylor's recent trajectory has been toward consolidation of control away from the constituency. SWBTS's form of governance has been stable for most of a century.

In my opinion, these make the difference.

Finally, allow me to make my position clear. I am not opposed to the idea of an independent association of alumni existing in connection with SWBTS. The reasons that I have mentioned are, I believe, the reasons why historically one has not developed.

Also, preachers are generally poor. There's no real clamoring to obtain alumni lists for seminaries. ;-)

So, if somebody sees a need for an independent alumni association at SWBTS (as has happened historically at Baylor long ago), then more power to them. I would not oppose it.

And certainly, as a trustee, I would not in such a hypothetical situation be calling for such an association to dissolve itself.

But neither do I see such a need at SWBTS that I would take the initiative to try to set up a new structure for our alumni group.

r. grannemann said...

Good point about poor preachers. Yeah, why would anyone solicit money from them.

But as far as the politics of the situation is concerned, the BAA is controlled by the former Reynolds people (considered more liberal, agitated for getting rid of Dembski, wants the school to be less evangelical), and the administration by David Garland (an evangelical conservative).

Tim G said...

Wow - what a mess. My sister graduated from there and after I watched all the happenings back then - I decided to go and graduate from Liberty. :)

Big Daddy Weave said...

r. grannemann,

You've created a false dichotomy with the BAA (less evangelical) vs. Garland Administration (more evangelical) comparison. I don't know of anyone here that would draw such a distinction. Before this controversy erupted, I'm quite sure that a number of BAA insiders were cheerleaders for a permanent Garland Administration. Despite the controversy, I'm confident that many BAA members (maybe not top leaders, who knows) would like to see Garland be able to remove "interim" from his title.

As for Dembski, He is not without his critics from the conservative evangelical/Catholic side of the aisle at Baylor. They've criticized Dembski (one nationally known academic did so publicly) not for his views but for his actions.

Though I am glad that you're willing to acknowledge that one can be an "evangelical conservative" and affirm women in pastoral ministry as Garland has done as Dean of Truett Seminary.

He is a long-time member of Calvary Baptist Church where Julie Pennington-Russell served before leaving for FBC Decatur.

r. grannemann said...

Big Daddy,

OK. Concerning BAA I stand corrected, and I'm not an insider -- just remembering old press, and my memory could be faulty.

David Garland wrote the New American Commentary for 2 Corinthians published B&H Publishing Group (basically the SBC's follow on to the old Broadman Commentary). To me that's an indication he's evangelical and conservative. No, he's not a fundamentalist.

Dembski was a bad example. So many issues there.

Baylor needs to heal old wounds (no deliberate intention of stirring the pot).

Anonymous said...

I have never been to Baylor. My father in law and my mother in law (RIP) are graduates.

I have heard nothing about Baylor except that it's controversial since I first heard of it.

Baylor, apparently, suffers from an ailment that is common among many Baptist and formerly Baptist institutions, i.e., "Are we really Baptist at all anymore?"

Having never set foot on the campus, or taken one class there, I have no idea how "Baptist" they are and really don't care.

For, regardless of what Baylor is now, the trajectory is clear. Just look at Brown, Furman, Wake Forest, Richmond et al.

How fast Baylor will get there is just a question of details.

Now, don't get me wrong. I understand it is a fine school. I would not mind my children attending. So long as they know what they are truly getting into.

This Alumni Association battle is just one more skirmish along the way of different factions who either see the school as the embodiment of all things Baptist, those who want the school to become less Baptist, and those whose loyalty blinds them so much that they can't see a difference.

Please you guys, don't take this offensively, but Texas is one weird place in Baptist life. I love Texas, but if I moved there, I think I would join another church just to avoid all this stuff.


Big Daddy Weave said...


Baylor Vision 2012 (assuming you're familiar with 2012?) has become the largely accepted orthodoxy here. I don't see the primary elements of that vision being altered at any point in the foreseeable future. Through the integration of faith and learning, Baylor aims to be a distinctly Christian tier-one research university. Granted, how you integrate faith and learning is controversial. But the commitment to be a distinctly Christian university is not debated. How much Baylor will remain in the Baptist tradition in the future is unknown.

Rarely, if ever, do I hear Baptist identity being debated at Baylor. Baylor has a large Catholic and non-Baptist evangelical student population and many many many faculty members that are non-Baptist evangelical and Catholic. My own department is comprised of a Presbyterian elder, Orthodox priest and a Baptist who has attended weekly mass with his wife and children for years. Outside of the Religion Department, I'm not sure what at Baylor is Baptist.

The comparison between Baylor and Brown is false - a comparison that even the most conservative evangelicals and Catholics here would immediately reject (and actually did reject at a conference here a couple of years ago).

Anonymous said...

Big Daddy Weave:

Thanks for the response.

I have not read and am unware completely of the Baylor Vision 2012 document.

Like I said, I really don't follow Baylor. I just know that half of the Baptists in Texas think Jesus has returned and lives there and the other half think that it is not a distinctly Baptist or Christian place, though they would be quick to say that there are many Christians, including Baptists, there.

My point, of course, was not to say that Brown and Baylor are the same. It's the trajectory. Brown was on a much faster path after Francis Wayland's death than Baylor. But it seems to me that large private universities are under a great deal of funding strain today. That, and the varying constituencies they serve, in my opinion, make it very hard for the private universities to stay true to their original vision. Baylor obviously hasn't, if it is in all practical respects no longer Baptist. They have a tough job, and I am sympathetic.

I don't see the U.S. becoming more evangelical in the future as a percentage. I don't know what percentage of Baylor's faculty or incoming students are evangelical, or whether the percentage is going down or up. Cost is also a factor. As private school costs increase, it becomes harder for working Baptists and evangelicals to attend.

Does Baylor have the same insitutional philosophy and commitment as Furman, Wake Forest, Mercer etc.? Or would you say that Baylor is more distinctly Christian?

Again, I admittedly am going on a very limited knowledge base, so you'll have to forgive me if I don't get any specifics right.

I may be the last guy in the world to not know this, but do you teach religion? At Baylor? Are you adjunct or full time?

If the answer is "yes" and you are full time, do you fall into the mold of the typical prof in the religion department at a historically, but no longer, a Baptist college?


Stuart said...


You said that 2012 has largely become accepted orthodoxy. I'm several years and many miles removed from Waco, so I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. I hope you're right.

I think I somewhat disagree with Bart about the BAA.

It was 2012 that first set the BAA at odds with the (previous previous) administration. For many years the BAA was simply a mouthpiece for the McCall and Reynolds administrations. Sure, they were "independent" on paper, but it's not like that mattered, as the BAA leadership walked in lock-step with the administration.

When 2012 rolled out, and HHR and McCall's progeny, among others, were so viscerally against it, the BAA fell in line as against it, and quite vocally at that. (Who can forget the farce of a townhall at the Ferrell Center with Kent Reynolds and Bette McCall Miller front and center.) Granted, most of that angst was pointed at the Sloan administration at the time, but had Sloan never dared to propose that Baylor be a place for "the integration of faith and learning" as opposed to the "faith over here in student life, but not in the classroom" philosophy of his two most immediate predecessors, then the BAA would have had no issues with him.

I guess I shouldn't say that I "disagree" with Bart about the BAA, as I suppose I don't care if they want to remain independent. But if that independence is continually expressed in a way that is consistently contrarian, then neither do I fault the administration for wanting to do its own alumni relations and leaving the BAA out there as an island unto itself.

As a student of history, I'm still struck by the irony of how all of this has played out, going all the way back to the board's decision not to hire Thomas Corts (out of fear because he had a "fundamentalist" brother) who would have continued in the McCall-Reynolds philosophy of "Christian" higher ed.

The greatest irony, for me anyway, is that if the BGCT still elected all of Baylor's trustees then the BAA would still have some power, the board would have changed hands by now, and 2012 would be dead and gone, as Baylor would have long since returned to the status-quo of the mid-60s to mid-90s.

Stuart said...


If Baylor can be a stronger "Christian University"--in the sense of its mission, its identity, its faculty recruiting, its integration of faith and learning, its Christian orthodoxy--by becoming a less "Baptist University"--as defined by its own leaders throughout the 70s and 80s--then I'm all for it.

We all know that Baylor was/will/would/won't ever be a "confessional" institution where all faculty agree to and sign a single confession of faith, be it BFM2K or the Nicene Creed or anything in between.

But as a Christian, a Baptist, and an alum, I'd much rather see dear alma mater on its current trajectory, albeit perhaps less "Baptist" to some, than on it's former trajectory, which was in keeping with the pattern of Chicago, Brown, Richmond, et al.

The charter change and subsequent move to a 75% self-perpetuating board may be a less "Baptist" form of governance, but if the result is a more intentionally Christian intstitutioanl mission, then I'm willing to let the events of 1990 go and move on.

Anonymous said...

BDW and Stuart:

thanks for the interesting info. I really do wish everybody the best.


r. grannemann said...


In hiring faculty Baylor requires a Christian faith and service statement. Under President Sloan there was a preference given to Baptist candidates (not sure if that still applies). To the extent Baylor recruites sincerely Christian and Baptist faculty, it will be (in a certain sense) a Christian and Baptist institution, albeit with more Christian diversity than you would have at a Baptist seminary. If maintained, this policy will prevent Baylor from becoming an entirely secular university.

Stuart said...


I'm not sure if they still use the faculty interview questionnaire that was implemented by Sloan/Schmeltekopf, but to compare it to its forerunner is striking.

Consider this language from the form letter that prospective faculty received in the 80s through mid-90s. "Christianity at Baylor is best manifested in a loving relationship with other members of the community. This is accomplished through a caring, sharing and compassionate attitude where the full dignity of the individual as God's creation is recognized."

Compare that to the language in the form letter sent to prospective faculty c.1998 under then-President Sloan. "Baylor University can remain true to its heritage only by recruiting, hiring and developing faculty members who are committed as academic professionals to all the rigors of higher education...while also being individuals who sincerely espouse and seek to express their academic and professional identities through the particularity of the Christian faith--i.e., commitment to the universal lordship of the crucified and risen Jesus Christ." And, "We believe that our mission as an institution of Christian higher education demands both the unfettered pursuit of all the truths of creation and also a thoughtful attempt to understand those hard won truths within a world view which finds its consumation in Jesus Christ."

The difference is dramatic. The FORMER is the status quo to which many "Texas Baptists" and BAA leadership would have Baylor return. The latter is the result of 2012. I can't say that the letter is still that clear, but I believe that Dr. Garland understands the words "Christian" and "education" and understands how to use them both in the same sentence, something which (immediate past-president) Lily never quite seemed to get his mind around.

So again, if this unbaptistic self-perpetuating board has wrought these changes in Baylor's understanding of itself, then good.

Big Daddy Weave said...


I am in my last semester of coursework as a doctoral student in Religion, Politics & Society program at Baylor. My father is on the graduate faculty at Baylor and is the Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Religion Department. He also teaches a Baptist history course at Truett Seminary.

I really don't know what you mean by "the mold of the typical prof in the religion department, etc." I don't know what typically really means if it means anything.


Let me qualify: I would say that the vision and broad goals of 2012 are generally accepted by the Baylor Faculty and more so accepted by tenured and tenure-track profs who were hired in recent years. Personally, I like 2012 and commend Sloan for his vision. I think he made mistakes in the execution of this vision though and that's where most the controversy exists.

I'm actually quite thankful that Thomas Corts was never hired as it would be highly unlikely that my dad nor I would have ended up at Baylor. But that's another story.

By the way, R. Grannemann, I've never ever been under the impression that a preference was given to Baptist candidates under Sloan. If anything, Sloan had a preference for non-Baptist evangelicals from outside of the South.

Stuart said:

"The difference is dramatic. The FORMER is the status quo to which many "Texas Baptists" and BAA leadership would have Baylor return. The latter is the result of 2012"

This is interesting. And what is ironic is that "Texas Baptists" have selected as Regents some of the most pro-2012 Sloan loyalists.

There is and I guess always has been much politics at Baylor. However, if you're interesting in studying the intersection of religion and any other discipline, Baylor is a great place to attend. I study religion through courses in departments from Religion to History to Sociology to Political Science to Church-State. Same could be said about other departments. We studied the relationship between neuroscience and religion just today.

Stuart said...


You said: "We studied the relationship between neuroscience and religion just today."

As a psych major at Baylor, I can honestly say that would have never happened when I was at Baylor. Perhaps the difference between graduate and undergrad, but hopefully something more.

Also, perhaps I should have qualified "many" Texas Baptists would have Baylor go back to a pre-2012 status quo.

Anonymous said...

R. Granneman:

Thanks for the info. Hope it continues that way.


Anonymous said...


Thanks. Congrats on the Ph.D.! That's a big deal.

You're right. My question was bad. I'll withdraw it.

Take care. Keep up the intelligent comments.


r. grannemann said...

Big Daddy,

Many evangelicals were hired under Sloan, and of course there was the charge that under Lilly many of those people were denied tenure. I believe the statistics bore that out to some degree (both the hiring and tenure denial).

Concerning Baylor hiring Baptist, what I am talking is guidelines to departments. The administration didn't dictate who was hired, but they made some guidelines, and I believe they did ask to see who was to be hired before the hiring(and they could have exerted some pressure at that point -- and there was some controvery about that too).

But my recollection is that under Sloan the guildlines to departments specified a preference for Baptists, and I think it may have been given in a percentage that was desirable (I'm working from memory, but I remember the department web site and the former chairman's name where (I believe) I saw this mentioned.)

Anyway, I personally don't think a "goal" of a percentage of Baptist profs at Baylor is/was a bad idea. It's a private school and its legal. Let the school have a Baptist character like Notre Dame has a Catholic one.

r. grannemann said...

I meant to say I believe a percentage of Baptist profs at Baylor isn't a bad idea.

Stuart said...


I think you're right. If I recall correctly, one of the first things Dr. Sloan did that displeased some people was to change the way Baylor's ads for faculty positions appeared in the Chronicle for Higher Education.

As I recall the new ads did indicate a hiring preference for Baptits, tjen non-Baptist evangelicals, then other protestants, then Catholics. Or something like that. Previously they just had some generic tag about being the largest Baptist university in the world, and then the standard EEOC language.

I'd be curious to see them now.

Also, under Sloan/Schmeltekopf, Schmeltekopf actually interviewed faculty prospects and questioned them about their religious beliefs. Previously, the administration had just rubber-stamped whichever candidate the departmental chair recommended.

Big Daddy Weave said...

"Also, under Sloan/Schmeltekopf, Schmeltekopf actually interviewed faculty prospects and questioned them about their religious beliefs. Previously, the administration had just rubber-stamped whichever candidate the departmental chair recommended."

And there is the reason for some of the controversy under Sloan. My dad was hired during the Sloan era, just months prior to the Baylor Family Discussion or whatever it was called at the Ferrell Center (2003). As a Religion prof, he's quite capable of answering theological questions obviously and expected to be asked such questions. However, there were stories that potential lecturers in disciplines such as Math were getting asked challenging theological questions - questions that seemed completely inappropriate for a person desiring to teach PreCal to freshmen.

I don't know how Sloan advertised in the Chronicle. However, many of the well-known established scholars that Sloan recruited tended to be something other than Baptist - or at least they weren't Baptist before moving to Waco. I have heard of theological conservatives from mainline traditions choosing to attend a Baptist church rather than a more liberal local mainline congregation. Sloan did hire at least one non-Christian though, a liberation theologian who is Jewish.