Baylor's president faces off against critics this week amid multiple controversies
Last November, Christianity Todaypublished a story about Baylor University, the world's largest Baptist institution of higher education, and President Robert Sloan's efforts to make it "the finest Christian institution of higher learning on this planet."

This week, it seems, everyone in Texas is talking about Sloan's efforts. Very rarely do college board meetings garner the kind of buzz that Baylor's Board of Regents gathering has received.

The university is enmeshed in several controversies, not all of them related to Sloan's efforts to reshape the school into a research university with strong evangelical Christian commitments. For example, the most widely watched Baylor story right now is that of college basketball player Patrick Dennehy, who has been missing since mid-June.

That investigation will almost certainly be discussed at the regents' meeting this weekend, but news reports say that Sloan's ambitious plans for the college, outlined in a plan titled Baylor 2012, will be the subject of very heated debate between regents divided on the mission—and on Sloan.

"The president's opponents, a mix of veteran professors, former regents and alumni, say the president has made moves to control the student newspaper, an alumni magazine and an outspoken regent," The Dallas Morning News reported Sunday. "They say they fear that Dr. Sloan, a Baptist preacher, is making the moderate Baptist school too conservative, even evangelical."

It's not unusual for a news story on a controversial subject like this to attract criticism for bias. But it's rare for such criticism to come from inside the same paper (at least by someone other than the ombudsman).

"Though described by this newspaper as a 'Baptist preacher,' as if he had dragged himself in from some piney-woods backwater, Dr. Sloan, an ordained minister, holds a doctorate in New Testament theology from Switzerland's University of Basel, which isn't quite the same thing as a Bible college," columnist Rod Dreher (formerly of National Review and the New York Post) wrote in yesterday's edition. "He scandalized some on the Baptist hard right by ending Baylor's prohibition on dancing, and, worse, Dr. Sloan has been hiring admitted Roman Catholics to teach at the Texas Baptist university. Some fundamentalist."

What Sloan is really trying to do, says Dreher, is to "ask how the knowledge mined in various academic disciplines fits into the broad Christian vision—and vice versa. … The regents should resist fatuous efforts to turn this into the Scopes monkey trial revisited," he says. "This controversy is about whether a Christian university can exist and the very meaning of higher education. Baylor is becoming a beacon for intellectually serious Christians of all traditions. This light must not be allowed to die."

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It won't just be the Board of Regents discussing Sloan's plan this weekend. Hundreds are expected to attend an Alumni Association "Family Dialogue" today, where Sloan and his supporters (including board of regents chairman Drayton McLane Jr., Baylor Provost David Jeffrey, and Vice President for Finance David Brooks) will face off against the "loyal opposition," made up of two children of former Baylor presidents, a former regent, and the current chair of Baylor's psychology and neuroscience department. The meeting will also be broadcast live online at It begins at 2 p.m. CST.

One of the controversies surely to be discussed is an issue that reportedly divided the board: the investigation of regent Jaclanel McFarland, who was accused of tipping off students about an undercover drug sting operation. Wednesday, her fellow regents found "insufficient evidence" to warrant action against her—though they reaffirmed that there was reasonable cause to take the investigation as far as it went.

Speaking to the press after the meeting, McFarland said she believes the investigation was ordered by Sloan in retaliation for her criticism of him.

"I think we have a leadership crisis at Baylor and it will be up to the board of regents to decide how to handle that," she said.

Sloan isn't worried. "My future is in God's hands," he told the Waco Tribune-Herald. "I feel very confident about the support of the regents. I'm very confident about the regents' support of the 10-year vision of the university. I'm very confident, frankly, about the support of Baylor alumni for the 10-year vision of the university."

Many more articles on the debate are available from the Waco Tribune-Herald, The Baptist Standard, Associated Baptist Press.

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  • Doubting their 'tough love' | A group of schools for troubled youth touts its successes, but some parents charge abuse (Los Angeles Times)

  • Also: Key to his schools' success? it's God, founder says | Robert Lichfield founded one small facility and built it into a business empire. In an interview, he makes frequent reference to his Mormon faith (Los Angeles Times)

  • Panel hears a lot about Darwin | Pleas to keep Darwin's theory of evolution in biology textbooks and to not include creationism virtually dominated the State Board of Education's public hearing Wednesday on the next generation of public school textbooks (Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, Tex.)

  • Rooting for college-bound teens | After the pomp and circumstance of recent high school graduations, a Calvert County church decided to recognize seven teenagers in the congregation who not only earned diplomas but also are going on to college (The Washington Post)

  • D.C. voucher plan advances | House version clears committee; deal sought in Senate (The Washington Post)

  • Foes halt vote on school vouchers | Democrats reject Senate's D.C. bill (The Washington Post)

Pat Robertson:

  • Appealing to a higher power | Why we should pray to God for three Supreme Court justices to retire (Pat Robertson, Los Angeles Times)

  • Robertson clarifies Supreme Court remarks | Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson said Thursday he was not talking about any particular Supreme Court justices when he asked his television audience to pray that three liberal justices retire (Associated Press)

  • Where's the discernment here? | Pat Robertson's blind faith in Charles Taylor should make Christians everywhere shudder (J.R. Labbe, Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, Tex.)

President Bush:

  • The evangelical president | America's commander in chief answers to a higher Power (Brendan Miniter, The Wall Street Journal)

  • Unshakable faith | Faith—or whatever you want to call it—is about the only explanation, too, for the rush to go to war in the first place (Richard Cohen, The Washington Post)

Politics and law:

  • Iraqi archbishop condemns U.S. | Severius Hawa, Archbishop of the Syrian Orthodox Church in Baghdad and Basra, told BBC News Online the electricity shortage was crippling the city and putting lives at risk (BBC)

  • Hispanic—and evangelical | Does converting to Protestantism make Hispanics more businesslike? Will this influence their vote? (Steve Sailer, UPI)

  • 'After 18 years a very nasty piece of legislation is gone' | Teachers and campaigners have welcomed a defeat of rebels in the House of Lords which effectively marks the end of Section 28 (The Guardian, London)

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  • Open the books and cut church link, royals told | Report acknowledges weight of public support for monarchy but urges parliamentary control of income and end to role as head of Church of England (The Guardian, London)

  • Tax reform from a Christian perspective considers the needs of the poor | The recent decision of Alabama Gov. Bob Riley, a Christian and a Republican, to reform the state's tax structure because of the disproportionate effect on the poor raises profound questions for Oregon (David Leslie, The Oregonian)

  • Experts say U.S. and Europe splitting on religious lines | As the European Union struggles over whether to reference God and Christianity in its constitution, experts on U.S.-European relations said stark divides between the United States and Europe over the importance of religion may contribute to the rift over foreign policy (Religion News Service)

  • Faith-based science is not really science | Few things could be more reckless or dangerous to our nation's health, wealth and well-being than shattering the traditional barrier between science and faith (Chet Raymo, The Boston Globe)

  • Faith is a key | Americans in need of help — due to drug abuse, poverty, mental anguish or physical abuse, especially young people — need more than economic aid and physical comforting (Editorial, The Washington Times)


Life ethics:

  • Doctor must pay to raise boy | The High Court stunned doctors yesterday with a landmark finding that a surgeon who bungled a woman's sterilization is liable for the cost of bringing up her child to the age of 18 (The Sydney Morning Herald)

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  • Also: Decision cheapens human life: Anderson | Acting Prime Minister John Anderson has branded a High Court decision to award damages for the birth of a healthy child repugnant (The Age, Melbourne, Australia)

  • Also: Babies, bungles and compensation | Law courts are able to deal with only a narrow band of human experience. (Editorial, The Age)

  • Also: Family payout for sterilization bungle | A couple who had a boy after a failed sterilization operation have won more than $100,000 damages against a doctor to cover the cost of raising the child (The Age, Melbourne, Australia)

  • Also: Blessings and costs of parenthood | The law, says Justice Kenneth Hayne, "should not permit the commodification of the child" (Editorial, The Sydney Morning Herald)

  • Jeb Bush says bill for abortion notice can wait until 2004 | Florida Supreme Court last week reversed a lower-court decision and ruled that the parental notice law violated privacy rights guaranteed by the state constitution (Associated Press)

  • Kenya divided over abortion | About 700 women die each week in Kenya as a result of complications arising from illegal abortions, while 60% of complications during pregnancy are a result of either previous abortions or miscarriages, according to medical reports (BBC)

Persecution and violence:

Missions and ministries:

  • Christians research prostitution | The knowledge about the indoor prostitution scene in Bergen, Norway, is limited and a Christian charity organization wants to study this environment (Nettavisen, Norway)

  • Christian night spots stressing fun, not flesh | Bland is the name of the club owner, not the attitude (The Miami Herald)

  • Good Book is good business | In 1922, Standard Publishing hit on the idea of designing materials for a new concept: summertime Christian education courses for children (The Cincinnati Enquirer)

  • Spreading the word on the backstretch | When Luis Peralta was ordained in Guatemala 13 years ago, he never imagined his congregation one day would consist of 1,500 people and 2,000 thoroughbred racehorses (Chicago Sun-Times)

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  • Working for God | Christians find mission projects can make a difference right at home (The State, Columbia, S.C.)

Pledge of Allegiance and anthem laws:

Church and state:


  • The most watched film in history | Forget Titanic. Forget Star Wars and Gone With the Wind. They are small fry compared to the Jesus Film, which has been watched by more than two billion people. And now the people behind it have their eyes on a new goal…Iraq (BBC)

  • Also: The holy blockbuster | It doesn't feature in many film buffs' best-of-all-time lists, but it's probably the most watched movie ever. Twenty-five years on, Julia Stuart tracks down the makers and the star of 'Jesus' (The Independent, London)

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  • Anti-Semitic notion of Passion won't go away | The Jewish people did not kill Jesus, despite what Mel Gibson's new movie might suggest. Civic and religious leaders conspired to crucify him (Steve Gushee, Palm Beach Post)

Church life:

  • Russian memorial church consecrated | Surrounded by crowds of Russian Orthodox faithful, clerics on Wednesday consecrated a memorial church on the spot where Czar Nicholas II and his family were shot to death by the Bolsheviks 85 years ago (Associated Press)



  • Why people still starve | The real crisis of hunger in Africa is that it is so widespread, chronic — and intractable. From Malawi, a chronicle of starvation foretold (The New York Times Magazine)

  • Bush has praise for Uganda in its fight against AIDS | "I believe God has called us into action," the President said. "We are a great nation; we're a wealthy nation. We have a responsibility to help a neighbor in need, a brother and sister in crisis." (The New York Times)

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  • Zimbabwe churches apologize for inaction | "We have, with our own eyes, watched as violence, rape, intimidation, harassment and various forms of torture have ravaged the nation. Yet some perpetrators have been set free," said the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (Associated Press)

Larry Burkett:

Other religions and interfaith relations:

  • Greed is our common enemy, not our faiths | The great task of bringing justice and graciousness to our unjustly organized world will require a deep, authentic, self-transcending religious vision (Javed Akbar, Janet Somerville, and Gerald Vandezande, Toronto Star)

  • Yoga stretches traditional Christian boundaries | As yoga becomes increasingly popular, with an estimated 15 million practitioners in the United States according to a recent study by Yoga Journal, alternative forms of yoga are steadily grabbing more adherents (Religion News Service)

  • The bright stuff | It's time for us brights—those with a naturalist as opposed to a supernaturalist world view—to come out of the closet (Daniel C. Dennett, The New York Times)

  • Why Diana is as good a god as any | You can say what you like about pagans, but just try bad-mouthing one of the monotheisms in this way, and see what happens (David Aaronovitch, The Guardian)

Same-sex marriage:

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The Uniting Church and gay clergy:

More sexual ethics stories:

Other stories of interest:

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  • Religion news in brief | Cooperative Baptist Fellowship joins Baptist World Alliance, Presbyterians are old and white, and other stories (Associated Press)

  • Vicar brawls with photographer | English vicar with a double-booked church scuffled with a wedding photographer, sending him sprawling among the bridesmaids, because he was holding up the service (The Australian)

  • A gentle man and a scholar | Philosopher and author Huston Smith embraces the equality of all religions (The San Diego Union-Tribune)

  • Earlier: Huston, We Have a Problem | Neither science nor syncretism feeds the soul (Christianity Today, Oct. 25, 2001)

  • Newspaper's ban on quoting Scripture in columns is distressing | Since when did newspapers get into the business of worrying too much about what offends their readers or not? (Editorial, The Daily Telegram, Superior, Wis.)

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