Robert Sloan ascended to the presidency of Baylor University as a dark-horse candidate in 1995. Only a short time before, he had become dean of the fledgling Truett Seminary, founded as a haven for moderate Baptists in the wake of the Southern Baptist Convention controversies of the previous two decades. The man who resigned the presidency as a polarizing figure was once a unifying force among Texas Baptists.
When Baylor gained legal independence in 1990 from the Baptist General Convention of Texas through secret maneuvers that generated tremendous ill will in some quarters, Robert Sloan was the man who delivered a memorable sermon to the messengers who gathered on campus later that year for their annual meeting. He decried the psychological addiction to controversy that seemed to have developed among his kin and called for a return to the first things of faith. He called for a rediscovery of "the message of the crucified and risen Lord" in which we find "what it means to be truly and authentically Christian." That dramatic statement may have helped push Sloan into the president's office a few years later.
I met Robert Sloan while studying the ambitious Baylor 2012 vision as part of graduate seminar. He and several other prominent Baylor leaders past and present gave me interviews explaining support and opposition for the plan to take Baylor to the top tier of research universities while simultaneously strengthening its Christian identity. My interest in the vision eventually led to a part-time job with the university relations office, where I used my contacts in Christian organizations to raise awareness of the Baylor vision.
James Tunstead Burtchaell documented the seemingly inevitable pattern of once-Christian schools moving ...