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Southern Baptists End Investigation of Theology Professors at Kentucky University

(UPDATED) University cuts ties with state convention even though convention investigation concluded theologically conservative professors were welcome at Campbellsville University.

Update (July 16, 2014): Campbellsville University announced today that the university would phase out funding from the Kentucky Baptist Convention (KBC) and pursue a "partners in ministry" relationship with the denomination that allows them to "maintain CU's academic freedom," according to a letter signed by Michael Carter, the university's president, and Joseph Owens, chair of the CU board of trustees.

The school, which operates on a $57 million budget, currently receives $977,000 annually from the convention and would transition away from the funding over four years, according to The State.

KBC president Chip Hutcheson said in a press release that the university had adopted bylaws inconsistent with the KBC's covenant agreement.

"The statement released by Campbellsville brings to mind the husband who wants to divorce his wife but still offers to live with her," Hutcheson said. "The university has taken steps to remove itself from a covenant relationship yet still wants to claim it is 'committed' to the family."


Update (June 4): Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), is still "very disturbed" despite the resolution between the school and the Kentucky Baptist Convention, reports World Magazine's Thomas Kidd. He writes:

Russell Moore, however, says that the college's response to Williams' situation spouts "vague pieties about wholesome Christian education," while they force out "even the most token representation of conservative evangelical scholarship." He is concerned that Campbellsville may want a "liberal faculty but conservative students and dollars."

Campbellsville president Michael Carter offers his take on the controversy on the school's website.


Original post (May 2013): Southern Baptist leaders in Kentucky have reaffirmed their partnership with Campbellsville University after investigating rumors that the school dismissed a professor for, as critics alleged, "being too conservative" in his theology.

In April, Campbellsville informed Jarvis Williams, an associate professor of New Testament and Greek, that his contract would not be renewed beyond the school year. Supporters of Jarvis protested that contracts of other faculty who allegedly reject biblical inerrancy were being extended. The decision prompted blogger Patrick Schreiner (now instructor of New Testament at Western Seminary) to suggest that school officials "jettisoned their convictions."

Several days later, the executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention (KBC), Paul Chitwood, said the group would investigate the claims that Campbellsville "retains other professors in the school of theology who reject biblical authority and professors in other disciplines who affirm evolution."

School officials and KBC leaders met on April 29. Baptist Press reported yesterday that representatives released a joint statement saying "they had received assurance that those who believe the literal truthfulness of every word of the Bible are welcomed as students and as faculty members."

Disputes over theology at Christian schools are not uncommon. Cedarville University also recently dismissed one theologian, Michael Pahl, after administrators deemed that he was unable to concur with every tenet of the school's doctrinal statement. The dispute over the Baptist school's doctrine then prompted the resignations of several administrators. Similar debates also arose at Milligan College, Calvin College, Northwestern College, and Shorter University in recent years.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this post misspelled Jarvis Williams' name. This post has been updated to reflect Patrick Schreiner's 2014 appointment to Western Seminary.

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