More on the Cedarville University Scandal

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If you want to know what’s happening at Cedarville University, a Christian college in Cedarville, Ohio, read Bill Trollinger at his blog “Righting America.” (What is the scandal at Cedarville? Get up to speed here).

Trollinger’s latest post is titled “A Whitewashing at Cedarville (Even While the Stories Keep Multiplying):

It is significant that not all Board members agreed with the decision to reinstate White. Two of them – the president of Southeastern Seminary and an evangelical pastor/author – have resigned in protest. And the Gospel Coalition – a collection of conservative evangelical churches – has also registered its unhappiness with the Board’s decision, calling White’s reinstatement “deeply and extremely troubling,” in part because “the process of reinstatement fails to provide adequate accountability.”

To be fair, we perhaps should be heartened by the fact that White will be taking classes – taught by whom? – on victim prevention and advocacy. 

Will these classes alert White to the fact that his university has a terrible record when it comes to protecting and advocating for women students and faculty, to the point of shaming those who talk about sexual abuse? Will these classes lead White to order his academic Vice President and other administrators that they must begin enforcing Title IX requirements, or will the university continue its inexplicable practice of ignoring these mandates? Will these classes prompt White to reform Cedarville’s Counseling Center so that it is actually a place that cares for and protects students who have been raped and sexually harassed?

In his book, Fundamentalist U, Adam Laats makes the very wise point that fundamentalist schools like Cedarville sell themselves as “safe schools.” All I can say is that, even if I accepted Cedarville’s hardline fundamentalist theology, I could not imagine allowing any of my three daughters to go to Cedarville, a place that is anything but safe for young women.

Of course, this might all change. Thomas White might be transformed by the victim prevention and advocacy classes he is supposed to take.

But White is a Paige Patterson protege. It doesn’t seem like transformation is in the cards. The best bet is that, if White remains as president, it is more of the same at Cedarville.

That said, the remaining members of the Board of Trustees and Thomas White are not the only voices in this struggle. Contingency rules. We shall see.

Read the entire piece here. And let’s remember that not all Christian colleges are the same.

Cedarville University reinstates president Thomas White in the wake of a scandal surrounding his hiring of an administrator accused of sexual misconduct

Cedarville

Some of you may recall that we have spent some time here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home covering the ongoing drama at Cedarville University, a conservative Christian college in Cedarville, Ohio. Most of our posts here have linked to the writings of University of Dayton historian Bill Trollinger, who has been covering the scandal at his Righting America blog. I encourage you to get up to speed here. Or, if you prefer, you can read our coverage here.

The bottom line is this: In 2017, Cedarville president Thomas White hired Anthony Moore to serve as a “Multicultural Recruiter” and “Biblical Research Fellow.” In a little over a year’s time, the Cedarville Board of Trustees gave Moore a faculty position in the school’s Biblical and Theological Studies Department and, in January 2019, White gave him the title “Special Advisor to the President for Kingdom Diversity.”

But, as Trollinger writes, “there was a problem.”

In his previous stint as an associate pastor at The Village Church in Fort Worth, Texas, Moore had secretly videotaped, on multiple occasions, a male youth pastor showering in Moore’s home. Trollinger adds: “More than this, Moore emotionally, verbally, and spiritually abused the victim for almost a decade. While videotaping could have brought a two-year jail sentence in Texas, the victim chose not to press charges.”

In January, 2017, The Village Church fired Moore. Matt Chandler, the lead pastor of the Fort Worth congregation, said that Moore was released for “grievous immoral actions against another adult member that disqualify him as an elder and staff member.”

A few months later, White hired Moore at Cedarville, despite the fact that the leadership of The Village Church had informed him of the reason behind Moore’s firing.

After more than three years at Cedarville, Moore was fired on April 22, 2020. Why? Because White learned that he did not have all the information about Moore’s behavior at The Village Church.  “Instead of at most two videos,” White said in a statement, “I heard that there were at least five videos. Instead of this being over a short period of time, I heard that these were taken over a period of at least five months. I also heard details of an unhealthy friendship.”

So let’s try to get this logic straight. When a person secretly records TWO videos of a man in the shower it is fine. But FIVE videos? Now that is downright over the line.

Last month, the university trustees placed White on administrative leave, retained the Husch Blackwell law firm to investigate White’s role in Moore’s hiring, and signed-on with an evangelical public relations firm to handle damage control. It looks like the public relations firm is going to have its hands full during the next several weeks and beyond.

Today, the board of trustees of Cedarville (you can read their names here) reinstated White as president. Blogger Julie Roys is reporting that two of the members of the board resigned in protest. I guess the hiring of a sexual predator was the last straw. One of them was Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary:

 

Here is the Cedarville press release:

WHEREAS, the Board of Trustees of Cedarville University was made aware of additional information related to Dr. Anthony Moores past that led to the termination of his employment by President Thomas White on April 23, 2020; and

WHEREAS, the Board of Trustees considered this matter at the spring meeting of the Board and ordered three courses of action on May 1, 2020:

  1. To hire an independent firm to conduct an internal investigation to ensure nothing inappropriate involving Dr. Moore took place on our campus or with any of our students elsewhere. This firm will report to the Board, and the Board will then report the findings to the Cedarville University community at-large.
  2. To retain an independent firm to conduct an audit of the entire process surrounding the hiring of Dr. Moore. This will include a thorough review of all relevant communication involving Dr. White and Dr. Moore, the Trustees, The Village Church, employment references, etc. The firm will report its findings to the Board.
  3. To place Dr. White on administrative leave during these investigations and appointed Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Loren Reno as acting president of Cedarville University; and

WHEREAS, the Board of Trustees asked Husch Blackwell LLP to conduct an investigation using its independent professional judgment and to present its findings to the Board; and

WHEREAS, Husch Blackwell LLP found no evidence that Dr. Moore engaged in any conduct of a sexual nature on campus or with any University student or employee elsewhere; and

 WHEREAS, the Board of Trustees asked Husch Blackwell LLP to conduct an audit of the process surrounding the hiring of Dr. Moore using its independent professional judgment and to present its findings to the Board independent of any outside influence; and

 WHEREAS, Husch Blackwell LLP found that:

  1. There is no reason to question President White’s benevolent motivation with respect to the overall enterprise of hiring Dr. Moore.
  2. It is reasonable to infer from the evidence available that President White took steps that he knew, or should have known, clouded the specific nature of Dr. Moore’s misconduct.
  3. It is reasonable to infer that President White subsequently failed to notify the Board of the specific nature of Dr. Moore’s misconduct; and 

WHEREAS, President White has apologized for these mistakes, acknowledged his errors in judgment and oversight, and has expressed remorse for hiring Dr. Moore; and

 WHEREAS, President White took action when he learned the full extent of Dr. Moore’s past; and

 WHEREAS, President White has seven years of excellent service, and during his administrative leave he has continued to express remorse for his mistakes and has voluntarily cooperated with the internal investigation; now, therefore, be it

 RESOLVED, that the Board of Trustees of Cedarville University reinstates President White from administrative leave; and be it

 RESOLVED, that the Board of Trustees of Cedarville University is requiring Dr. White:

  1. To complete courses on victim prevention and victim advocacy
  2. To lead Cedarville University to emphasize victim prevention, awareness, advocacy, and other related areas; and be it 

RESOLVED, that the Board of Trustees of Cedarville University commits to moving forward with humility, grace, mercy, integrity, civility, and respect and prays that God will be honored by these actions.

I know that many Cedarville alums were hoping that this scandal would lead the school in a new direction. Trollinger has been publishing testimonials of former students who have suffered under White’s leadership.

White has brought Cedarville into the national spotlight, but for all the wrong reasons. Here are just a few of our posts about his administration:

April 24, 2014: “What is Going on at Cedarville University?” (A story about an underground student newspaper that was squashed by the administration).

April 26, 2017: “What is Going on at Cedarville University?” (A story about Cedarville’s new “Philippians 4:8 curriculum reforms).

April 29, 2017: “Cedarville University President Responds” (backlash related to the Philippians 4:8 curriculum).

May 1, 2017: “Cedarville University Proposes Concealed Carry Policy.”

November 28, 2017: “More Thoughts on Cedarville’s ‘Biblically Consistent Curriculum

May 31, 2018: “Will Cedarville University Remove Paige Patterson From its Board of Trustees?

June 1, 2018: “Paige Patterson Resigns from the Cedarville University Board of Trustees.”

Do you sense a pattern here?

So expect it to be business as usual, at least for the near future, at Cedarville University.

And let’s always remember, not all Christian colleges are the same.

What is (Still) Happening at Cedarville University?

Cedarville

Bill Trollinger of the Righting America blog and the University of Dayton has been closely following what is going on at Cedarville, a conservative Christian university in Ohio. Get up to speed herehere, and here.

But their is apparently a lot more to this story.

Here is Trollinger:

Of course, Cedarville desperately wants to get past the scandal, wants to get back to the place of being seen as a school that is “safe” for its fundamentalist constituency. Toward that end it has hired public relations “guru” Mark DeMoss, who in the past has worked to refurbish tainted evangelical “brands’ such as Willow Creek Community Church, Franklin Graham, and Mark Driscoll.  More than this, they have also hired Husch Blackwell LLP to conduct its “internal” and “independent” investigation into the hiring of Anthony Moore, an investigation that will culminate in a report to the Board of Trustees. 

As this scandal unfolds, more and more people affiliated with Cedarville have been telling their stories.  Here is one:

In 2018 Paige Patterson – one of the leaders of the fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention – was fired as President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (TX). Among the reasons he was fired is that it had come out that – as president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (NC) – he had advised at least one rape victim (Megan Lively) not to report the assault to the police, but, instead, forgive the assailant.  But Lively has now come forward to report that Thomas White – who at the time was director of student life at Southeastern, and who is a Patterson protégé – was directly involved in the effort to keep her quiet about the rape. More than this, she was required to meet with Joy White – Thomas White’s wife, Southeastern graduate student, and now Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies at Cedarville – as part of the “disciplinary plan” imposed on her after she reported the rape.

Read Trollinger’s entire post here.

Yet another reminder that not all Christian colleges are the same.

Cedarville University Board of Trustees Places President Thomas White on Administrative Leave

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Get up to speed here.

Here is the Board’s May 1, 2020 press release:

The Board of Trustees at Cedarville University was recently made aware of additional information related to Dr. Anthony Moore’s past that led to the termination of his employment by our president, Dr. Thomas White, on Thursday, April 23, 2020. The board is incredibly grieved over this new information and the questions it raises. This matter was our priority at our spring Trustee meeting. We understand the gravity of this situation, and we covet your continued prayers.

The trustees have endorsed and ordered the following three courses of action:

  1. We are hiring an independent firm to conduct an internal investigation to ensure nothing inappropriate involving Dr. Moore took place on our campus or with any of our students elsewhere. This firm will report to the board, and the board will then report the findings to the Cedarville University community at-large.
  2. We are retaining an independent firm to conduct an audit of the entire process surrounding the hiring of Dr. Moore. This will include a thorough review of all relevant communication involving Dr. White and Dr. Moore, the trustees, The Village Church, employment references, etc. The firm will report its findings to the board.
  3. We have placed Dr. White on administrative leave during these investigations and have appointed Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Loren Reno as acting president of Cedarville University. Gen. Reno currently serves as senior advisor, office of the president, and was formerly vice president for academics at Cedarville. Dr. White has pledged his full support of both internal reviews being conducted and will make himself available to respond to either inquiry as requested. Dr. White will also fulfill his commitment to participate in the Senior Celebration online event on Saturday to honor the class of 2020.

As our Cedarville University community processes this situation, we pray we would do so with humility, grace, mercy, integrity, civility, and respect. Above all, we pray God would be honored by our deliberations and actions.

HT: Andy Rowell

What is Going on (Again) at Cedarville University?

Cedarville

More stuff is going on at the conservative evangelical (fundamentalist?) Christian school. We’ve been covering Cedarville for several years now. Here are some of the titles of our posts:

April 24, 2014: “What is Going on at Cedarville University?” (A story about an underground student newspaper that was squashed by the administration).

April 26, 2017: “What is Going on at Cedarville University?” (A story about Cedarville’s new “Philippians 4:8 curriculum reforms).

April 29, 2017: “Cedarville University President Responds” (backlash related to the Philippians 4:8 curriculum).

May 1, 2017: “Cedarville University Proposes Concealed Carry Policy.”

November 28, 2017: “More Thoughts on Cedarville’s ‘Biblically Consistent Curriculum

May 31, 2018: “Will Cedarville University Remove Paige Patterson From its Board of Trustees?

June 1, 2018: “Paige Patterson Resigns from the Cedarville University Board of Trustees.”

For a full calendar of the Cedarville shenanigans, check out Bill Trollinger‘s piece at his blog Righting America.

The primary focus of Trollinger’s piece is the most recent scandal at Cedarville. I will let him explain:

It turns out that just a few months after Cedarville implemented its Biblically Consistent Curriculum Policy – the centerpiece of the school’s fundamentalist crackdown –  the school hired Anthony Moore (an old friend of White’s from Southwestern Biblical Seminary, and also a Paige Patterson protégé) to serve as a Multicultural Recruiter and Biblical Research Fellow at Cedarville. Within fifteen months or so of his hire, the Board of Trustees agreed to give Moore faculty rank within the Biblical and Theological Studies Department, and in January 2019 his titles expanded to include “Special Advisor to the President for Kingdom Diversity.” More than this, Moore was an assistant coach of the Cedarville basketball team (and coached local soccer teams). This spring he taught a course at Cedarville on “Counseling and Mentoring Men.”

In short, it did not take Dr. Moore long to become a central figure at Cedarville University. But there was a problem.

It turns out that in his previous job – as campus pastor of The Village Church (TVC) in Fort Worth, Texas – Moore had secretly videotaped a male youth pastor showering in Moore’s home on multiple occasions. More than this, Moore emotionally, verbally, and spiritually abused the victim for almost a decade. While the videotaping could have brought a two-year jail sentence in Texas, the victim chose not to press charges.

But in January 2017 Matt Chandler, TVC lead pastor, announced in a statement to all TVC campuses that Moore had been fired for “grievous immoral actions against another adult member that disqualify him as an elder and staff member.”

Nevertheless, within a few months Moore was hired by his old friend, Thomas White, to work at Cedarville. 

It is obvious that White and the Cedarville administration and the Cedarville Board of Trustees did not come close to practicing due diligence. Not close. And that’s a serious indictment.

But it’s worse. It turns out that TVC Fort Worth had “thoroughly informed Dr. White and Cedarville University about the details of Anthony’s dismissal and our belief that Anthony was not fit for ministry of any kind.” A wise word.

But not to President White or the Cedarville Board. They knew better.

Read the entire piece here.

Paige Patterson Resigns from the Cedarville University Board of Trustees

Cedarville

Get some context here.

April Laissle of WYSO has it covered.  Here is her report:

UPDATE: Paige Patterson has resigned from Cedarville University’s Board of Trustees, according to a university official.  His name was removed from the school’s website Friday. Cedarville spokesperson Clem Boyd told WYSO Patterson’s resignation is effective immediately, but declined to comment further. 

Will Cedarville University Remove Paige Patterson from its Board of Trustees?

 

Cedarville

Cedarville University

Cedarville University president Thomas White is a Paige Patterson disciple.  (According to this story, Patterson preferred to called people like White his “proteges”).  He worked for Patterson at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

We have blogged before about White and the direction he has taken Cedarville.  Get up to speed here.

Patterson is a member of the Board of Trustees of Cedarville University.  Now that Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has removed Patterson from office and has taken away all of his benefits, will Cedarville remove him from the Board?  Will Cedarville University continue to have a man who covered-up a rape on their Board of Trustees?

There are a LOT of Cedarville alums who want him out.  Here is a taste of a piece published about an hour ago at the website of an Ohio radio station:

Patterson joined Cedarville University’s Board of Trustees in 2013. A petition calling for his removal from the board has now garnered more than 1200 signatures. In a statement issued last night, Cedarville president Thomas White condemned abuse while also expressing sympathy for Patterson. He also asserted he does not have the authority to remove Patterson from the Board.

“I do not know whether Dr. Patterson will continue to serve as a Trustee at Cedarville. The President neither appoints nor removes trustees. I serve under the authority of the Board and not the other way around. Our Board is self-perpetuating, and they have processes in place that they follow. Communication across the twenty-seven members with busy summer schedules can take time, and any action typically happens at regularly scheduled meetings. In my experience with them, our Board seeks to make wise decisions after gathering and considering all available information. I trust our Board to do what is right, at the right time, and in the right way.”

White, who worked alongside Patterson at both Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas, also referenced the increasing number of sexual abuse allegations coming to light at American colleges and universities.

“We recognize that training students in this generation is complex. We live in the midst of a #MeToo movement surrounded by a “Fifty Shades of Grey” culture populated by humans bearing a sinful nature inherited from Adam.”

Read the piece here.  Read the petition here.

I have no idea what this last paragraph is trying to communicate.  How does the #MeToo movement make “training” student “complex?”  It seems pretty straightforward to me. What is “complex” about not abusing women?  And why the use of the word “training” instead of “educating?”  What is White trying to say when he compares the #MeToo movement with a “Fifty Shades of Grey” culture?  This is a really strange statement.

More Thoughts on Cedarville’s “Biblically Consistent Curriculum.”

Cedarville

I am quoted today in a Times Higher Education piece on Cedarville University’s “biblically consistent” curriculum.”  Read it here.

The quote is accurate, but it is also part of a larger statement that did not make it into the story.   Here is my entire response to the reporter:

On academic freedom:  Cedarville is a private evangelical college.  As a result, faculty need to sign a statement of Christian doctrine in order to teach there.  Any Christian college of this nature does not have academic freedom in the same way that a non-sectarian or public university has academic freedom.  For example, a faculty member does not have the “freedom” to be an atheist or reject a belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  So Cedarville has the right to define what ideas are acceptable and what ideas are not.  

But as someone who teaches at a private Christian college, one that is not as conservative as Cedarville, I think this new “Biblically consistent curriculum” confuses education with indoctrination.  Any institution of higher education requires an engagement with the world. What distinguishes a Christian college from a Christian church is an engagement with ideas and culture–all ideas and culture.  At a Christian college, this kind of engagement happens through the lens of Christian faith.  Cedarville seems to be motivated by fear of the world rather than engagement with it.  The college has chosen a path of separation from the world rather than an engagement with it.  This is the essence of fundamentalism.

Let’s face it–as soon as graduates leave the Cedarville bubble, they are going to be exposed to what their administration or their parents deem to be unholy or impure aspects of culture.  Isn’t it better that they learn how to think Christianly about culture in the kind of community a Christian college offers?

As the THE piece notes, I have written about Cedarville and its new curriculum before.  Read my posts here.

Cedarville University Proposes Concealed Carry Policy

Founders_Hall,_Cedarville_University

If you go to Cedarville University you will not be permitted to read certain texts or watch certain movies as part of your educational experience, but next Fall you may be able to carry a gun to class.

Here is a press release from the university:

CEDARVILLE, OHIO – For the past several months, Cedarville University faculty, staff, and administration have been considering whether to propose a concealed carry policy for the campus as provided by Ohio Senate Bill 199. After consultation with outside experts, review of other universities’ concealed carry policies, and extensive input by the campus community, a draft policy is now ready for Board of Trustees review at its May meeting.

In developing the draft policy, the University conducted surveys of faculty, staff, and students. Those survey results showed strong support for a concealed carry policy that would align with Ohio’s new legislation, allowing citizens the opportunity to utilize their 2nd amendment rights on University property. A town hall meeting with faculty and staff took place April 12, and Cedars, the student-run newspaper, also printed a story on the topic.

Cedarville’s student newspaper, The Cedars, quotes Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson, a member of the Cedarville Board of Trustees:

Dr. Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Cedarville trustee, stated he requires his vice presidents, deans and at least three people in every building to carry at Southwestern in Fort Worth, Texas.

“I think it is incumbent upon the school in this kind of a day when you can have a shooter — even as unlikely as it is as they would find Cedarville, Ohio,” he said. “It could even happen here, and you must have protection.”

I wonder if the guy holding a gun in this picture is one of Patterson’s gun-carriers:

Tweet SWBTS

Recently a friend of mine wrote in an e-mail: “I can’t help but see a link between this weird brand of culture-war fundamentalism and the Trumpist gun culture.”  I would add Liberty University to the mix as well.

Cedarville University President Responds

Cedarville

In a statement titled “Biblically Consistent Curriculum,” Cedarville University president Thomas White has responded to criticism of his school’s new “Philippians 4:8” curriculum policy.

Here is White’s statement:

A recent article has raised some questions about the new Biblically Consistent Curriculum policy at Cedarville University. I requested this policy be written to guide our entire academic division, and I announced that desire publicly on October 19, 2016. Cedarville had several individual policies in different departments and has generally operated this way, but we lacked a central policy in the academic division that could help guide new faculty. On occasion, I have defended our faculty from external questions about curriculum choices, and I felt a comprehensive policy would be helpful to provide future internal guidance and external clarity. The academic division developed the policy with input from academic leadership and held two town hall meetings in late February for internal discussion.

Upon reading the recent article, one person commented to me that he thought the story sounded like something straight from the “Babylon Bee.” Perhaps the “Bee” would have titled it, “Christian University Reads Bible and Seeks to Apply It.” That such a desire is newsworthy demonstrates the sad state of so-called “Christian education” in our country. Others who saw the article immediately feared legalism, and I want to put their fears to rest — especially those who may not be as familiar with this place that I love so much.

Let me reassure you that we believe in salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, and in Christ alone and that once saved, we do not pursue a life of legalistic boxes to be checked, but a life that loves Christ and seeks to please Him in all we do. Our behavior should be motivated by love — not rules.

Clarity brings freedom. Cedarville University wants to be clear, strategic, wise, thoughtful, and biblical in our curriculum choices. This desire flows from our 1,000 days vision, which includes academic excellence and our efforts at “Transforming Minds in a Fallen World.” In light of this, allow me to address a few concerns from others that have come across my desk.

We will still show Michelangelo’s David, along with other historic works depicting “artistic bareness” as we educate students in the humanities and art history. Yet, we will have strategic thought and defensible logic behind each of those choices. We have not ruled out movies based on a flawed, secular ratings system, but “generally” do not desire rated “R” movies as class assignments. Some “PG-13” or other rated movies may be equally unwise. We simply want strategic, biblical thought behind our choices, recognizing there is a difference between what a university assigns in class as a requirement and what an individual may choose to view personally.

We have not ruled out all play scripts with profanity or difficult themes, but we do desire wisdom and thoughtfulness in script choices and appropriate modifications to those scripts so that what we publicly display on the stage glorifies God and represents Cedarville well. We will continue to read fiction works that depict the depravity of humanity, but we do not wish our students to engage in sin while reading about it, so we will choose wisely and avoid pornographic or explicit material. We recognize a difference in appropriate curriculum between general education courses and upper-level courses, especially when studying the arts.

Perhaps most amusingly, yes, we will teach about world wars in history classes and continue to encourage our students to read the Song of Solomon … along with every other book of the Bible as we challenge them to have a daily time with the Lord. I suspect some of these questions were meant more for comic value than out of serious concern, and I did crack a smile at them. So please forgive my desire to defend our world-class education and faculty against even the absurd.

We want our faculty and staff to be as 1 Chronicles 12:32 describes the men of Issachar, “who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do.” This policy provides guidance that brings freedom and administrative protection from external critique to the faculty of Cedarville University as they seek to invest both academically and spiritually into the lives of students. I want academic excellence, a commitment to our mission, and content pleasing to the Lord in every area of our campus. I have included a copy of the internal academic policy below. My heart’s passion is that we accomplish our goal of hearing, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

We live in difficult times culturally. Parents and students can trust that at Cedarville University, Christ-centered is more than a phrase in our mission statement—it’s a motto directing the content of every class. We must educate with academic excellence, preparing students to understand, encounter, and critique many worldviews while standing for the Word of God and the Testimony of Jesus Christ.

A few thoughts:

White takes a shot at what he calls “the sad state of so-called ‘Christian education’ in our country. Notice the scare quotes.  Apparently anyone or any institution that does not agree with him is not worthy of the name “Christian education.”  OK–we are off to a good start.

White spends a good chunk of this statement suggesting that Cedarville is not a “legalistic” institution.  (Of course anyone familiar with evangelical Christianity knows that “legalism” is often used to describe “fundamentalist” Christians and their schools. To be labeled with that term in today’s day and age is not good for recruitment).  Yet he makes it abundantly clear that Cedarville’s administration is going to be dictating to faculty what kinds of texts can be read and what kinds of movies can be shown.  Will there be a list of banned books and movies?  Does anyone from Cedarville’s faculty want to go on record about the nature of those two “town hall” meetings that took place in February?

White’s statement implies that he does not believe his faculty are capable of making wise decisions about the kinds of materials that they use in class.  This new policy demeans the faculty.  It suggests that White does not trust what they are doing in the classroom as teachers and as Christians.  White seems to believe that Christian faculty, when left to their own devices, will always gravitate towards assigning things that violate the spirit of Philippians 4:8.

This is not only legalism and authoritarianism, it is a separatism.  Cedarville’s history in the separatist wing of the fundamentalist movement runs deep.  So does White’s connection to the major players involved in the Southern Baptist conservative takeover. This is the past that White finds most usable as he leads the institution.

White’s Cedarville does not want to engage the culture from a Christian point of view, it wants to run from it.

Let’s remember that this is also the school that shut down a dissenting student newspaper on campus, dismissed several professors for denying 7-day creationism, eliminated the philosophy department, and kept women out of religion and ministry courses.  In this article in the Toledo Blade, White says that he assigns liberal and conservative writers in his theology classes.  And then he adds: “as your professor, I’m going to help guide you to what I believe is the right position…we’re trying to make sure we have good comprehensive education, not indoctrination.”  Wait a minute, doesn’t the first part of this sentence (before the ellipses) contradict the second part of the sentence?

I am willing to bet that Cedarville is now more fundamentalist in its orientation than Liberty University and Bob Jones University combined.

What is Going on at Cedarville University?

Cedarville

Yesterday we reported on the racist shenanigans at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.  Today, the conservative evangelical Cedarville University is in the news.

Here is a taste of Christianity Today’s coverage of Cedarville’s new “Philippians 4:8” policy:

This spring, Cedarville University enacted new curriculum guidelines inspired by Philippians 4:8 and aimed at purifying coursework of erotic and graphic content.

Cedarville, a buttoned-up Baptist school with a 130-year Christian history, is not the kind of place where professors assign Fifty Shades of Grey or anything close. But administrators want to err on the side of caution. This means, for example, that now an R-rated movie like Schindler’s List cannot be shown in its entirety, nor can students put on plays that include swear words.

In its Biblically Consistent Curriculum policy, nicknamed for the Apostle Paul’s admonishment to Christians in Philippi, Cedarville has spelled out new guidelines officially barring any materials that “may be considered ‘adult’ in nature, that represent immorality, or that may be a stumbling block to students.”

The move comes as the Ohio school, located between Columbus and Dayton, unfolds a broader, campus-wide campaign to double-down on its biblical identity. At a time when fellow Christian colleges are looking to defy narrow evangelical stereotypes and compete with secular schools, Cedarville is instead deepening its conservative Christian distinctions.

When they heard about the Philippians 4:8 policy through department chairs and town hall meetings last month, faculty in the disciplines most impacted by the restrictions—which cover movies, plays, art, and texts—were frustrated. So were the small group of students who got their hands on a copy of the 1,500-word policy. They wondered: Why were these new rules necessary? How would they be applied?

Christianity Today heard from four current and former Cedarville faculty in the humanities who spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of retaliation toward them or their colleagues for publicly criticizing the administration.

“Faculty in various department meetings were absolutely furious—even faculty who tend to be in favor of the administration’s policies,” said one of the dozens of concerned professors who showed up at the town hall meetings held by administrators in March. “It seems to me the goal is to have a squeaky clean, shiny place—scrubbed clean like a Christian bookstore.”

Read the rest here.

I guess there will be no classes on “Breaking Bad” at Cedarville.

Cedarville University seems to have chosen to privilege the satisfaction of conservative Christian helicopter parents over the kind of cultural engagement that should be happening at Christian colleges.

It is also worth nothing that there may be a connection between yesterday’s Southwestern Baptist Seminary story and today’s Cedarville story.  Cedarville president Tom White came to the Ohio university from Southwestern Seminary.  White and Southwestern president Paige Patterson appear to see the world the same way.

Is There An Evangelical Mainstream?

Cedarville University

My post on the changes taking place at Cedarville University got a lot of attention yesterday.

Here is how I concluded the post:

I had actually thought that Cedarville was moving closer to the evangelical mainstream, but it now looks like the school is returning to its fundamentalist Baptist roots.

I wrote this because Cedarville has recently tightened its doctrinal statement, required faculty to endorse a complementarian position as it relates to the role of men and women in society, and stopped male students from taking courses with female Bible professors. When I was in college in the 1980s, Cedarville was a member of the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches (GARBC), a fundamentalist Baptist denomination that was the product of the fundamentalist-modernist controversies of the 1920 and 1930s.  How do I know this?  I wrote my M.A. thesis at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School on separatist fundamentalists in America.  I had a chapter on Ralph Ketcham, one of the founders of the GARBC.  More recently the GARBC kicked Cedarville out of the denomination because of the university’s growing ties with the Southern Baptist Church.  Sarah Pulliam Bailey has done a nice job of explaining this history here.

When I arrived in central Pennsylvania I met a lot of conservative evangelicals who were sending their kids to Cedarville. Many of these families attended my local evangelical church.  I thus got the impression that the university had moved closer to the evangelical mainstream.  (Of course I was assuming that my Evangelical Free Church was part of that mainstream).  In other words Cedarville seemed to be leaving its fundamentalist Baptist background behind and becoming more like Wheaton College or Gordon College or Westmont College.  (Bailey’s piece also mentions Taylor University in Indiana).

But  in the last few years a new administration has taken the helm at Cedarville.  Influenced by the conservative movement in the Southern Baptist Convention, this administration votes Republican, upholds a strict view of Biblical inerrancy, does not permit women to teach the Bible, and suppresses all student dissent.  Faculty have either been ousted or left voluntarily.  The entire philosophy department was eliminated.  Conservative Southern Baptists have assumed most of the leadership roles on the campus.

When I asked if these moves placed Cedarville outside of the “evangelical mainstream,” my friend Kurt Peterson, who has taught history at two different evangelical colleges and is a former George Marsden student at Notre Dame,  wondered if it was actually Cedarville’s president and board that now represented the so-called “evangelical mainstream.” Peterson concluded: “Perhaps Cedarville’s future enrollment will serve as one piece of evidence in this discussion.”

This is a great observation.  Perhaps Wheaton, Westmont, Gordon, Messiah, Bethel, Eastern, Seattle Pacific, and Taylor no longer represent the evangelical mainstream.  Perhaps the evangelical mainstream today is best represented by Cedarville or Liberty University or Bob Jones or Moody Bible Institute.  Or can we even think about the evangelical mainstream in terms of Christian colleges when most evangelicals don’t attend school affiliated with the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities?

After I wrote this post and some good discussion got underway on my Facebook page, I was talking to a colleague who wondered if it is still possible to talk about an “evangelical mainstream” in the first place.  Is “evangelicalism” even a useful umbrella term today?  Is the movement so fragmented that evangelical unity is impossible.  He mentioned that in the 1950s there was an evangelical consensus (or neo-evangelical consensus) built around Billy Graham and Christianity Today and the National Association of Evangelicalism, but we no longer live in an American culture characterized by consensus.  The godless communists are gone, or at least they no longer pose a threat to the American way of life.

So what do you think?

Does Cedarville University and the decisions they have made on the theological, political and gender fronts make them part of the evangelical mainstream?  Have they come to define this mainstream?

Is there an American evangelical mainstream today?

To prime the pump a bit, let me throw out a possible definition of the evangelical mainstream. Please do not hold me to this, I am just brainstorming for the purpose of discussion.

The members of today’s evangelical mainstream:

  • Believe in the saving power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and can testify to a born-again experience.
  • Believe in the divine inspiration of the Bible and maybe even the inerrancy of the Bible (although they are not hard core about the inerrancy issue like they were in during the “Battle for the Bible” years of the 1970s and 1980s)
  • Are split generationally over gay marriage.  Baby boomers and older Gen Xers oppose gay marriage.  Younger evangelicals are more in favor of it.
  • Are divided over whether or not women can serve as pastors or teach men.
  • Are anti-abortion
  • Attend a megachurch where the preaching is contemporary and praise songs are sung with a worship band.
  • Are concerned about big government unless, of course, government actions support their agenda
  • Are tolerant of those who believe in the saving power of the gospel but have different political, social and theological views from what I have described above. But their tolerance only goes so far.
  • Are increasingly more interested in issues related to social justice and the environment, but believe these issues are subordinate to the proclamation of the good news of the Gospel as the primary means of changing the world.
I am sure I could add other things to this list.

What do you think?

What is Going On At Cedarville University?

This comes from an underground student newspaper called The Ventriloquist that has been critical of the administration of this very conservative Christian college:

On April 23, distribution of the April issue of The Ventriloquist was forcefully shut down by Cedarville University president Dr. Thomas White and VP of Student Life Jonathan Wood.

As usual, distributors were set up outside the DMC to pass out copies to students leaving the university’s mandatory chapel service. Before chapel was dismissed, White and Wood walked around the distribution stations confiscating papers. Wood forcefully removed papers from the hands of at least one distributor.

When queried, White and Wood stated that The Ventriloquist required prior permission to distribute the issue. Per the student handbook (available online in PDF format here), the only activity that specifically requires prior permission is a “demonstration.” The handbook does not provide a definition of “demonstration,” but The Ventriloquist has distributed twelve issues in similar fashion over the course of the last four years with no warning or retribution from university staff.

The move to shut down The Ventriloquist is likely the latest in a series of shifts towards right-wing religious fundamentalism by the new administration. Over the past year and a half, the university has seen large-scale changes, including a new president, several new vice presidents, new organizational structure, and the departure of several administrators, 12 Bible faculty, and 30+ staff. White has also moved to alter the doctrinal statement and shifted to a strictly complementarian stance; the university no longer permits male students to enroll in Bible classes taught by women.

I can’t imagine a college president running around campus trying to forcibly remove a dissenting newspaper from the hands of students.

I had actually thought that Cedarville was moving closer to the evangelical mainstream, but it now looks like the school is returning to its fundamentalist Baptist roots.