In his August 1993 presidential convocation address to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, R. Albert Mohler, Jr., called the institution's framework "evangelical, Reformed, biblical, and orthodox" and cited historic documents saying professors must subscribe to "the fundamental principles of the gospel" or face removal by the board.
This spring, less than two years later, Mohler, 35, is locked in an emotionally bruising battle with Southern's faculty and students over academic freedom, Southern's future, and which principles are "fundamental" to the gospel of Christ.
The battle began in March when Mohler fired Diana Garland as dean of the seminary's Carver School of Church Social Work, a 10-year-old program and the nation's only accredited master's in social work program run by a seminary, after Garland publicly criticized Mohler's leadership.
In a lengthy statement, Garland faulted Mohler for refusing to hire David Sherwood of Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts, because the respected social-work professor would not exclude women from pastoral ministry.
This clash at Southern, the oldest of all Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) seminaries, highlights ongoing SBC struggles between moderates and conservatives. The conflict in part pits those who favor scrupulous academic freedom for professors against others who assert that a seminary must ensure that its faculty does not waver on certain Christian traditions and teachings.
MOHLER'S CRITERIA: Mohler says he will remain steadfast in hiring faculty, based on his reading of the seminary's confession of faith-the Abstract of Principles. Mohler's criteria include an affirmation of the exclusivity of the Christian gospel and opposition to three things: ...1
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