Parents whose sons and daughters go to Truett-McConnell College in Cleveland, Ga., can rest assured that soon every faculty member will have expressed allegiance to the narrow doctrinal confines of the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message statement.
According to an article in the Georgia Baptist Convention-controlled newspaper, The Christian Index, the trustees and president at the Georgia Baptist Convention-controlled small college in the North Georgia mountains are eager for their campus to “be the first Southern Baptist college to require a signature to affirm the Baptist Faith and Message in a public forum.”
Wow! How comforting to know that even the person teaching mathematics or the chemistry professor handling those explosive components will adhere to fundamentalist teachings, such as women being excluded from certain church leadership positions and the need for a wife to “submit herself graciously” to her husband’s authority.
Can you imagine the recruiting of even semi-competent faculty? Imagine a gifted and experienced foreign language professor moving into the North Georgia mountains due to a spouse’s job transfer but not being offered a teaching position at Truett-McConnell because of this policy that the majority of Christians and a whole bunch of Baptists would find objectionable.
Revised in 2000, the confession (first adopted in 1925) went from being an umbrella of widely held beliefs to being a theological sledgehammer used to enforce uniform fundamentalist thought. Proponents swore that the new statement would not be used as a creed, yet its required affirmation soon resulted in about 60 loyal Southern Baptist missionaries being forced off the field.
The fact that this ever-narrowing stranglehold of Southern Baptist fundamentalism is playing out at Truett-McConnell is no surprise. Just look at the cast of players.
Evangelist and former SBC president Bailey Smith – famous for convincing church members of their need to be rebaptized and for his assertion that God doesn’t hear the prayers of Jews – is the trustee who made the motion. And Truett-McConnell’s new president, Emir Caner, a former Muslim turned Baptist fundamentalist, is the protege of SBC powerbroker Paige Patterson.
Fundamentalist fence-builders never stop digging holes, setting posts and nailing stringers. Creating a smaller pasture open to only those who think just like them is always the goal.
For some parents, this will be exactly the kind of place where they will want their kids to go to school – safely away from any thought that might challenge them. It is their choice.
Southern Baptist education (at all six SBC seminaries and a growing number of state convention colleges) has greatly changed over the past couple of decades. Today, they resemble an independent fundamentalist approach to isolation and indoctrination.
Churches that continue to send so-called “mission money” (out of habit or ignorance) to the Southern Baptist and Georgia Baptist conventions should be aware that this is the kind of fundamentalism they are helping to advance. Churches have choices, too.
John D. Pierce is executive editor of Baptists Today. This column appeared previously on his blog.