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.