Baptist University Loses Third of Faculty Over Lifestyle Statement
Update: Following the resignations of more than one-third of Shorter University's faculty over a newly introduced lifestyle pledge in early 2012, Inside Higher Ed reports that Shorter's enrollment fell by about 10 percent. However, that doesn't seem to be far enough to force the Georgia Baptist Convention to relent on its strict lifestyle policies.)
(RNS) More than two dozen faculty members have resigned from Shorter University, a Baptist school in Georgia, after it required them to sign a "personal lifestyle statement" that condemns homosexuality, premarital sex and public drinking.
An online campaign called "Save Our Shorter" says that the lifestyle pledge, adopted in the fall of 2011 along with a statement of faith, has led to dozens of resignations. University president Donald Dowless on Friday (May 18) confirmed that 36 faculty have resigned and at least 25 cited disagreement with either the personal lifestyle statement or the faith statement.
The school usually has about 100 full-time faculty.
"The Shorter Board of Trustees is slowly destroying the reputation of our beloved school and causing irreparable damage to the cause of Christ," the Save Our Shorter website says.
Dowless said Friday that some of those who resigned did not state the reason for leaving.
In a Wednesday statement, Dowless said he and the university board recognized there are "strong feelings on both sides" about the new employment rules but the board decided to "reclaim our Christian roots" even if the consequence was a loss of faculty and staff.
"Our University was at a crossroads to either take steps to regain an authentic Christian identity in policy and practice or we would become a Christian University in name only," he said.
The university, in Rome, Ga., now requires faculty to sign a personal lifestyle statement that says they will not engage in illegal drug use or drink alcohol in restaurants, stadiums and other public locations.
"I reject as acceptable all sexual activity not in agreement with the Bible, including, but not limited to, premarital sex, adultery, and homosexuality," the statement reads.
The Georgia Baptist Convention began appointing all trustees of the school's board in 2005 after a ruling in the state convention's favor by the Georgia Supreme Court.