Listen to Jessica Taylor’s short piece on young evangelicals. This does not seem to be too different than what I sense going on at Messiah College.
Listen to Jessica Taylor’s short piece on young evangelicals. This does not seem to be too different than what I sense going on at Messiah College.
South Bend’s Pete Buttigieg gets it right on this issue:
After listening to him on State of the Union, I was reminded of his portrayal in this SNL skit from the night before:
“Why am I not winning this?”
Will the Christian “liberal arts college” use the money to bring back the history major?
It does not look like it.
Here is a taste of Kate Shellnut’s reporting at Christianity Today:
The historic investment in Gordon comes as the school undergoes what Lindsay called its most significant academic restructuring in 50 years. Last spring, the college announced plans to consolidate certain majors and departments to better match student demand. For example, political science, philosophy, and history were combined into a single department, though each will remain a distinct major.
In addition, the school said it would expand graduate programs, partnerships, and online education. A $10 million donation made in May helped fund Gordan Global, a platform for online education through its new School of Graduate, Professional, and Extended Studies.
As a result of the changes and budget cuts, 17 faculty members and six staff members were laid off, and more than a dozen other unfilled positions were eliminated.
While some alumni as well as outsiders questioned the move, worried the school was losing its liberal arts distinctives, Lindsay and fellow Gordon administrators saw the adjustments as a proactive way to avoid financial strain in the future, to set the school up for sustainability.
Read the rest here.
I recently mentioned Gordon College in a talk I gave to the Lee University Symposium on Faith and the Liberal Arts. Here is what I said:
…The liberal arts, and the intellectual skills that the liberal arts provide, are at the heart of this kind of truth-seeking enterprise. We need the liberal arts more than ever in the age of Trump. Christian colleges are doing a nice job of training professionals and skilled workers to help sustain our capitalist economy, but I worry that we are not investing as much as we should in the kinds of people essential to sustain a democracy. Liberal arts and humanities programs around the country are under attack at time when we need them more than ever. Administrators and Boards of Trustees are eliminating these programs and majors at a rapid clip, all in the name of “prioritization.” All of us at Messiah College got a wake-up call when we learned this year that our sister school in Wenham, Massachusetts, Gordon College, a flagship evangelical college with a rich history of liberal arts education, dropped majors in history, philosophy, chemistry, French, and physics. I have heard stories of other schools who have made cuts or eliminated humanities and liberal arts programs with very little conversation about the purpose of college or the way in which the sustained study of the humanities (not just general education, I might add) raise questions that go to the heart of the mission of a Christian college or university. What are we prioritizing in prioritization?
I will be at Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee this weekend to give a plenary talk at the Lee Symposium: Conversation on Faith and the Liberal Arts. This year’s theme is “Christians and Politics: Power, the Liberal Arts, and People of Faith.”
Here is the program:
Lee University, October 4-5, 2019
Friday, October 4
Welcome and Opening Remarks
Presenter: John Fea, Messiah College
Responder: Lisa Clark Diller, Southern Adventist University
Presenter: Ana Shippey, Lee University
Responder: Richard Follett, Covenant College
Saturday, October 5
Presenter: Wilfred McClay, University of Oklahoma
Responder: David Broersma, Lee University
Presenter: Christa Bennett, Community Well
Responder: Mark Scully, Lee University
“Summing Up: What Have We Heard?”
Presenter: Jason Ward, Lee University
The threats of “mean” lawyers, FBI investigations, and attempts to attack the masculinity of reporter Brandon Ambrosino, are a mere distraction from Falwell having to address his hypocritical behavior and the culture of fear he has created at Liberty University. Instead of coming before his community–the largest Christian college in the world– in a spirit of repentance or humility, Falwell is going to focus on how he was actually the victim in all of this. Whatever the FBI decides to do about this “attempted coup,” or however Politico managed to get access to these e-mails, the evidence does not lie. Falwell has some explaining to do.
Andrew Egger of The Bulwark, a website founded by conservative radio personality Charlie Sykes, makes a similar argument in a piece titled “Jerry Falwell Jr. Is Starting to Sound a Lot Like Donald Trump.”
But what’s interesting here isn’t just that Falwell seems to be an even bigger creep than we’d previously imagined. Just as noteworthy has been the response the piece prompted from Falwell. His back against the wall, deserted by former allies, Falwell has hit back—not by leaning on his faith-leader credentials, but by diving headfirst into #MAGAsphere conspiracy-mongering.
“Our attorneys have determined that this small number of former board members and employees, they’re involved in a criminal conspiracy, are working together to steal Liberty property in the form of emails and provide them to reporters,” Falwell told The Hill in a Tuesday interview. He added that he had asked the FBI to investigate the matter.
Meanwhile, on Twitter, Falwell has beat a steady drumbeat to the tune that the Politico report is politically motivated “fake news,” insisting he is the target of an “attempted coup” and suggesting ominously that “Politico’s new CEO is a big Democratic donor.”
The first noteworthy thing about this response is that it has nothing to do with him. Falwell seems to have internalized the Trumpian lesson that the best defense is a good offense. Maybe it doesn’t matter whether he’s a terrible boss, husband, Christian, and leader, so long as he can convince a critical mass of people paying attention to this news cycle that the people gunning for him are worse.
But the more important strategy here is even more primal than that. By pursuing this particular triage strategy, Falwell seems to be trying to persuade his audience to ignore the specifics—and instead merely regard whose team each side is on.
Read the entire piece here. My only criticism is that Falwell has been sounding like Donald Trump for a long time–there is nothing new here. Perhaps the only real difference between the “leadership” style of these two autocrats is that Trump does not use e-mail.
It looks like there is an evangelical Christian version of the “deep state” staging a secret revolution to overthrow Jerry Falwell Jr. at Liberty University. Here is The Hill:
Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. told Hill.TV on Tuesday that he has begun sharing information with the FBI in what he alleged was a criminal conspiracy against him by former board members at the school.
Falwell said in an exclusive interview that in the coming days the FBI will review university documents at the Lynchburg, Va., campus. He accused former colleagues of stealing school property in the form of emails and then sharing them with reporters in an effort to damage his reputation.
The FBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“Our attorneys have determined that this small group of former board members and employees, they’re involved in a criminal conspiracy, are working together to steal Liberty property in the form of emails and provided them to reporters,” Falwell Jr. said.
The accusation follows a Politico story published Monday that detailed a “culture of fear and self-dealing at the largest Christian college in the world.” The story cited internal Liberty University emails, which Falwell Jr. and his attorney’s allege were stolen in a coordinated effort.
Read the rest here.
Check out my Messiah College history colleague Bernardo Michael and Messiah history alum Christina Thomas in this short documentary on Christina’s work on Rachel Flowers, the first African American student to graduate from Messiah. Christina is currently a doctoral candidate in American history at The Johns Hopkins University.
Yesterday I posted about Brandon Ambrosino’s Politico piece exposing Jerry Falwell’s lies, shady business deals, sex life, and the tyrannical power he holds over his employees at Liberty University. One of Falwell’s employees called the president a dictator who propagates a culture of fear at the Lynchburg, Virginia school that claims to be the largest Christian university in the world.
Two things are worth noting about this story.
First, anyone who has studied the history of American fundamentalism will be familiar with the kind of power Falwell Jr. wields. Falwell Jr. inherited Liberty from his father, Jerry Falwell Sr., the founder of the school. Falwell Sr. was the product of the separatist fundamentalist movement, an approach to conservative Protestantism that continued to cling to the label “fundamentalism” long after other mid-twentieth-century conservative Protestants had abandoned it in favor of the term “evangelical.” Liberty University (originally Lynchburg Baptist College) was born out of this movement.
Falwell Sr.’s brand of fundamentalism not only opposed secular humanism and liberal Protestantism, but it also refused to fellowship or cooperate with conservative Christians willing to participate in religious services and events with liberal Protestants. This was known as “second-degree separation” and, as I argued in several essays in the 1990s, it was a defining characteristic of the fundamentalist movement in the years following the fundamentalist-modernist controversies of the 1920s.
When so-called “neo-evangelicals” such as Billy Graham, Carl F.H. Henry, John Harold Ockenga, and others sought to forge a more irenic brand of conservative Protestantism after World War II known as “neo-evangelicalism,” other alumni of the fundamentalist-modernist controversies such as John R. Rice, Carl McIntire, Robert T. Ketcham, and Bob Jones Jr. continued to cling to the label “fundamentalism.” (Falwell Sr. was a disciple of Rice, a Wheaton, Illinois and later Murfreesboro, Tennessee -based evangelist who parted ways with Graham over the latter’s willingness to allow liberal clergy to pray at his crusades).
These separatist fundamentalists were known for empire building. Rice built his empire around his newspaper The Sword of the Lord, a weekly publication that had over 100,000 subscribers in the 1950s. McIntire’s built an empire around his popular radio broadcast, his Collingswood, New Jersey-based weekly newspaper The Christian Beacon, his conference-center properties in Cape May, New Jersey, and Shelton College (first in Ringwood, NJ and later Cape May) and Faith Theological Seminary (Elkins Park, PA). Ketcham was a leader of the General Association of Regular Baptists, a denomination formed in the wake of the modernist takeover of the Northern Baptist Church. Bob Jones Jr. presided over Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina. All of these men were autocratic leaders who wielded immense power among their followers. They spent much of their time railing against their many enemies–modernism, mainline Protestantism, communism, the civil rights movement, feminists, and the counter-culture. And they became experts at sniffing-out those in their ranks who they believed to be compromising their faith by working with Graham or other neo-evangelicals.
When Jerry Falwell Sr. formed the Moral Majority in 1979, many self-identified fundamentalists rejected him. Falwell Sr.’s willingness to work with like-minded Catholics and Mormons on moral issues was just too much for separatists such as Bob Jones Jr. Yet Falwell Sr. never really joined the neo-evangelical fold. Since the 1980s, Falwell Sr and the empire he created in Lynchburg has remained in a kind of no-man’s land–situated somewhere between the culturally-engaged evangelicals and the old separatists.
Though Falwell Sr. eventually parted ways with his separatist fundamentalist roots, he never abandoned the empire-building mentality of the religious culture in which he came of age as a minister. Falwell Sr. ran Liberty University like a dictator. So does his son. In this sense, there is more continuity between father and son than Ambrosino allows.
Second, I am afraid that Ambrosino’s Politico article will do little to damage Jerry Falwell Jr.’s reputation among his followers. Falwell Jr. will just claim that Ambrosino is a disgruntled former student and Politico is part of the mainstream media out to get him because of his support of Donald Trump. Yes, there may be some evangelical parents and high school students who will take Liberty University off their short list because of this article and others like it, but I imagine that many students and alumni at Liberty will see Falwell Jr. and Liberty as victims of the liberal media and other forces trying to undermine evangelical Christianity, religious freedom, and Christian nationalism in America. Liberty will remain a safe place for these parents and students.
Falwell Jr. is no dummy. He knows that his administrative staff and faculty are expendable. In his mind, they are interchangeable parts. He once said that he has “tamed” them. Someone, after all, has to teach the classes. In the end, Falwell Jr. is betting that as long as he takes his cultural war vision for Liberty University directly to the people through social media, conservative political outlets like Fox News (where Liberty advertises), and court evangelical appearances with Trump, and as long he suppressed dissent among his staff and the student body, he will continue to fill seats in the Liberty University classrooms and online venues. Many evangelicals will overlook his indiscretions in the same way they have overlooked Trump’s indiscretions.
“It’s a dictatorship…everyone is scared for their life. Everybody walks around in fear.” These are just a few of the things high-level Liberty University employees have said about Jerry Falwell Jr. Check out Brandon Ambrosino’s longform piece, “‘Somebody’s Gotta Tell the Freakin’ Truth: Jerry Falwell’s Aides Break Their Silence.”
In this piece we learn
Not to mention all the court evangelical stuff with Trump.
Here is a taste:
More than two dozen current and former high-ranking Liberty University officials and close associates of Falwell spoke to me or provided documents for this article, opening up—for the first time at an institution so intimately associated with the Falwell family—about what they’ve experienced and why they don’t think he’s the right man to lead Liberty University or serve as a figurehead in the Christian conservative movement.
In interviews over the past eight months, they depicted how Falwell and his wife, Becki, consolidated power at Liberty University and how Falwell presides over a culture of self-dealing, directing university resources into projects and real estate deals in which his friends and family have stood to make personal financial gains. Among the previously unreported revelations are Falwell’s decision to hire his son Trey’s company to manage a shopping center owned by the university, Falwell’s advocacy for loans given by the university to his friends, and Falwell’s awarding university contracts to businesses owned by his friends.
“We’re not a school; we’re a real estate hedge fund,” said a senior university official with inside knowledge of Liberty’s finances. “We’re not educating; we’re buying real estate every year and taking students’ money to do it.”
Liberty employees detailed other instances of Falwell’s behavior that they see as falling short of the standard of conduct they expect from conservative Christian leaders, from partying at nightclubs, to graphically discussing his sex life with employees, to electioneering that makes uneasy even those who fondly remember the heyday of the late Rev. Jerry Falwell Sr., the school’s founder and Falwell Jr.’s father, and his Moral Majority.
Read the entire piece here.
We reported on this story yesterday.
Today we received an announcement from TIU president Nicholas Perrin. Notice what Perrin says about Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Moody Bible Institute, Judson University, Gordon College, Wheaton College, and Indiana Wesleyan University. This is the new reality for Christian colleges.
At the beginning of this fall semester at Trinity, I made some significant announcements to our faculty, staff, students, and parents. I want to share this information with you as well. This relates to personnel changes which have already been announced within our faculty, as well as staff changes which will be determined and implemented over the course of the next few weeks.
As we discuss changes of this type, it is helpful to note that Christian higher education in recent years has been experiencing intense fiscal pressures, often resulting in various degrees of reorganization. In the fall of 2015, for example, nearby Judson University cut 34 faculty and staff; two years later, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary cut 10% of its full-time faculty. Last summer Moody Bible Institute significantly downsized their Spokane campus and reduced approximately one-third of its faculty organization-wide. This past spring Gordon College combined a number of majors, cutting 17 faculty and staff members. This summer Wheaton College announced the closure of its Department of Intercultural Studies (eliminating jobs for, arguably, some of the most long standing faculty on campus). Last week, Indiana Wesleyan University, renowned as one of the fastest-growing Christian schools in the past decade, announced that it will be cutting nine faculty members at the end of this year. These are but a few examples. Fiscal realities have recently forced almost all institutions of Christian higher education to develop new strategies in executing their mission, and those new strategies can sometimes require painful decisions.
Today, as I write you, I wish I could tell you that Trinity has been immune from the same challenges, but that would not be true. What is true, however, is that we remain resolute in our efforts to offer our students a high-quality education that is also affordable. In the midst of this disrupted landscape, we must continue to offer the quality education our students expect and deserve, while also lowering operating costs. In short, this is a stewardship issue. I am writing you today to inform you that not yet three months into my presidency, I have – in consultation with my leadership team – approached this stewardship challenge by making a difficult decision.
Early last week, we announced a plan to eliminate five faculty positions within the undergraduate (Deerfield) Department of Biblical Studies and the Department of Christian Ministries. This change – first announced to faculty and staff on August 26, and then to students the next day – will take effect beginning Fall 2020.
The consequences of this decision are, in part, curricular in nature. In terms of current academic programming, this decision will have limited impact in the short term; in the long term, it will mean their reconfiguration within a new major taught by members of the Divinity School faculty. This does not eliminate these programs from our undergraduate offerings but changes the way we will deliver coursework in these areas. This is not a hasty decision: as I understand it, Trinity has been considering this model and its long-term benefits for years.
It might be helpful to think about this in connection with specific student populations. For those who are starting their final year of undergraduate study in a Biblical Studies or Christian Ministries major, this decision will not delay their academic progress. Deerfield undergraduates returning for the 2020-21 academic year will be able to complete their majors as indicated in the current catalog. As we look toward the 2020-21 academic year, we expect to enroll new students in a newly reconstituted Bible, Theology, and Ministry major.
Practically speaking, the more profound change bears on the issue of personnel. Beginning in Fall 2020, our undergraduate Bible, Theology, and Ministry courses will be taught and administered by our TEDS faculty. To date, roughly a dozen TEDS faculty members already have expressed an eagerness to teach undergrad students. I am grateful for this. At the same time, I have asked our deans to carefully vet those aspiring to these teaching assignments, as it is imperative that we preserve the undergraduate professionalized liberal arts identity. I well remember the thrill of pivoting from leading doctoral students through the Greek text in the morning, to an evening discussion of the equivalent English texts with college freshmen over my wife’s home-cooked spaghetti. Coming from all walks of life, these faculty members are no less excited to engage and mentor these undergraduates.
There will be certain advantages in our achieving greater verticalized integration on our Deerfield campus, breaking down the structural walls of separation currently standing between our undergraduate Bible and Ministry majors and our world-renowned MDiv and MAs. It is also true that our accreditors will be encouraged by our compliance with their request to break down Deerfield’s academic silos. But these collateral benefits will mean little, even after having realized considerable savings through these cuts, if we fail to deliver our traditional caring, student-centered, and liberal arts-oriented undergraduate education. We aim for nothing less.
The reallocation of our Bible and Ministry faculty will not be the only staffing change this fall. This past week I also invited faculty representatives to join me in reviewing operating expenses and structures in order to identify cost-saving staff reductions. Like many of our peer institutions, we have – both in the seminary and in the college – significantly smaller enrollments than we did a decade ago. Through a multi-layered, creative, and prioritized approach, my hope is for Trinity to realize a staff reduction roughly commensurate with the decrease in the student body. My stated priority is to minimize the impact on student experience.
Even so, such changes are hard. Eliminating positions at any organization is painful, but it is even more painful at Trinity, where we feel much more like a family than an institution. However, these are necessary changes which we owe to our students who, together with their parents, make great sacrifices to pay college tuition. These are also missional changes, not only because cost-savings frees up funds for new endeavors, but God has a track record of using scarcity to bring about what in retrospect turns out to be divinely orchestrated missional adjustment. Given your affiliation and support for Trinity, it was important to me to write you directly to inform you of these changes.
We have some exciting initiatives in the pipeline, positioning Trinity to meet the needs of today’s Christian students. I would love to elaborate, but for now I would ask you simply to pray for us in this hour of adjustments. Pray for those faculty who have already felt the impact of the changes recently announced. Pray also for the staff (their number yet unknown) who will be more immediately affected by the upcoming cuts. Finally, please join me also in praying for God’s continued leading of our Trinity community, that He might use Trinity more and more to fulfill his kingdom purposes in and through the lives of students.
Here is a taste of J. Brady McCollough’s long-form piece at the Los Angeles Times:
Signs offering football ticket discounts cover the campus, and posters of the team’s new coach, Hugh Freeze, encourage the effort to “Rise With Us.” Clearly, there is room at Liberty for the country’s Saturday religion.
Falwell Sr. had a vision of Liberty being for Evangelical Christians what Notre Dame is for Catholics and Brigham Young is for Mormons, and the newest team in major college football is not subtle with its imagery. The Flames wear red, white and blue. Their mascot is a bald eagle.
Read the entire piece here.
Trinity College, the undergraduate college of Trinity International University (TIU) in Deerfield, Illinois, recently announced that it is closing its Division of Biblical, Religious, and Philosophical Studies.
Here is the announcement from new TIU president Nicholas Perrin:
I am writing you with difficult news. Beginning Fall 2020, Trinity International University will be undergoing a partial restructure, involving the formal dissolution of one of Trinity College’s academic divisions, the Division of Biblical, Religious, and Philosophical Studies, and within it the Department of Biblical Studies and the Department of Christian Ministries. New and continuing students will be able to complete their programs and courses this academic year and indeed for the remainder of their undergraduate career without interruption. We expect to enroll new students in most if not all of the same courses in the 2020–21 academic year in a newly reconstituted Bible, Theology, and Ministry major, as well as in the continuing Philosophy major, which will be housed in the Division of Humanities. In other words, this change will have no material curricular impact on currently enrolled students who are guaranteed to graduate under the catalogue with which they matriculated. The fundamental implications of this decision revolve around faculty changes: beginning in Fall 2020, our undergraduate Bible, Theology, and Ministry courses will be taught and administrated by our TEDS faculty.
I am under no illusions: for many if not all of our majors, as well as a good many non-majors, this comes as impactful news. At the end of this year, Dr. Chris Firestone along with the Department of Philosophy will be moving to the Division of Humanities; the faculty lines for Dr. William Moulder, Dr. Sylvie Raquel, Dr. Greg Carlson, Dr. Michael Reynolds, and Ms. Jana Sundene will be eliminated. With years of teaching experience under their belt, these faculty have given their very best year-in and year-out to Trinity’s students. I am grateful for their incalculable contribution not only in providing high-level instruction in the classroom, but also in enriching the lives of countless students, faculty colleagues, and staff by their very presence.
While there will be more communication about this transition in the months ahead, for now I would encourage you, if you have any immediate questions, to make an appointment with Dean Hedges, who will be glad to engage you. In due course, we will be inviting Biblical Studies and Christian Ministries majors to an open forum, where Dean Hedges and Dean Cole will be happy to share more information regarding this transition, and to answer any lingering questions you may have. In the meantime, if you have been privileged to take a class with any of these professors, and/or benefited from their mentorship outside class, I encourage you, as occasion presents itself, to express to them your gratitude for their dedicated service and their shaping influence on your lives.
Here are the faculty who were fired as part of this restructuring:
William Moulder taught at Trinity College for more than 40 years.
Sylvie Raquel has been at Trinity College for 15 years.
Greg Carlson has been at Trinity College for 12 years.
Michael Reynolds has been at Trinity College for 13 years.
Jana Sundene has been at Trinity College for 29 years.
I don’t have any inside information about these changes, but it appears, at first glance, that Trinity is restructuring to look more like Southern Baptist seminaries. Many of these seminaries have undergraduate divisions, but seminary professors teach the biblical studies and theology courses. Maybe someone who knows more about this can chime-in.
The historic evangelical college known for its commitment to racial diversity is trying to sell its campus in Nyack, New York and fend off financial losses from enrollment declines. I am saddened to see this. I taught as an adjunct in the history department during the 1990s.
As a new evangelical I always looked to Nyack College and The Kings College as the flagship evangelical schools of the New York metropolitan area. Kings eventually moved from its Briarcliff Manor campus to New York City and redefined itself. It seems like Nyack will try to do something similar.
As Emily Belz reports at World, Nyack is not the only Christian college facing financial difficulties. Here is a taste of her piece:
Nyack College, a Christian and Missionary Alliance (CMA) school in the New York City area, received an independent audit in 2017 with an opinion any institution dreads: “substantial doubt about its ability to continue as a going concern.”
The evangelical school with a 120-year history in New York was looking at looming insolvency, according to the audit, because of its tens of millions in debt and falling revenues.
Nyack has about $70 million in debt, according to its IRS 990 forms, on which it paid about $4 million in interest in the 2017 fiscal year. The 2017 audit noted that Nyack had to withdraw the majority of the funds from its endowment to cover expenses (some of that has been paid back), stopped paying into employee retirement funds in 2015, and has violated its debt covenants. Still, the school has managed to stay open to offer classes this fall.
“They’re good Christian people dealing with a market that’s gone really south … [but] it’s an ugly financial picture,” said Thomas Bakewell, a CPA and attorney who has consulted with dozens of faith-based colleges and universities on financial issues. He also served for 15 years on the board of Lindenwood University while it went through a major financial crisis. (Bakewell hasn’t consulted for Nyack.)
Since 2010, Nyack has lost across its programs at least 1,000 students in its total enrollment, which was down to 2,315 in 2018. Each year since 2016 Nyack has been operating $6 million to $8 million in the red—huge losses for an institution with a roughly $60 million budget. From a random sampling of 990s, most similar Christian colleges operated in the black even with falling enrollment.
Read the rest here.
Some of you may recall the controversy surrounding Taylor University’s decision to invite Mike Pence to deliver the 2019 commencement address. We covered the controversy here and here and here and here.
We just got word that Taylor University president Lowell Haines has resigned. I have no idea if this is related to the Pence controversy.
I did find it interesting that Haines lists, among the accomplishments of his three-year tenure at Taylor, the fact that he invited Pence, Tim Tebow, Christian singer Michael W. Smith, and the head basketball coach of Ohio State to speak on campus.
Here is the press release:
Upland, IN, June 24, 2019 – Taylor University Board of Trustees Chair Paige Cunningham, J.D., Ph.D., announced today that President Paul Lowell Haines, Ed.D., J.D., has resigned from Taylor University, effective August 15, 2019.
“We are saddened by Dr. Haines’ decision, but we are deeply grateful to him and to his wife Sherry for their personal commitment to the vision and historical, evangelical, orthodox Christian mission and purposes of Taylor University and to the institution’s foundational positions and policies. These policies, with the full support of the Board of Trustees, have been strengthened on his watch,” said Dr. Cunningham.
Cunningham added that Dr. Haines’ resignation was neither solicited nor encouraged by the Board of Trustees. He continues to enjoy strong support from the Board and remains supportive of and optimistic about the University’s future.
“It has been the greatest privilege and honor of our lives to serve our beloved alma mater in various capacities over the last 44 years, and especially the opportunity during these last three years for me to lead as President,” said Haines, a 1975 alumnus of the University. “We have been humbled by the faith placed in us, and the love, support and prayers of the Taylor community.”
Haines returned to Taylor after a long career as a higher education lawyer with the international law firm of Faegre Baker Daniels, during which he served the University for more than 15 years as a member of the University’s Board of Trustees. Prior to attending law school at Indiana University-Bloomington, he served at Taylor from 1977-1987, where he rose to the position of Vice President for Student Development. Haines also holds a doctorate in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania.
“My wife Sherry and I love Taylor and the Taylor community, as no other place and people,” Haines added. “We leave with a strong sense of accomplishment, knowing that remarkable progress has been made over the last three years, but also a clear awareness of God’s new purpose and direction for our lives. We will always be grateful to Taylor University and to its people. That will not change. And we stand ready to assist the Board and the University’s new leadership team in moving Taylor forward as it remains true to its founding principles and purposes.”
Under Haines’ leadership, Taylor University received two number one rankings and one number two ranking in the Midwest Region of the US News & World Reportsurvey of America’s Best Colleges, achieved its ten-year reaccreditation following a stellar reaccreditation review by the Higher Learning Commission, and improved enrollment, resulting in the 2018 freshman class being the largest entering class in Taylor’s 173-year history.
Among many other accomplishments, Haines completed “Forging Ahead Faithfully,” the University’s Strategic Plan. In addition, the University experienced advances in financial and fundraising goals, academic and athletic offerings, leadership diversification, facility improvements and renovations, marketing and communication programs, and Town of Upland initiatives.
Haines honored, worked with and regularly brought to campus his predecessors as well as a number of nationally recognized personalities and speakers, including author and social critic Os Guinness, Interstate Battery Board Chair Norm Miller, Heisman Trophy winner and NFL quarterback Tim Tebow, Ohio State University basketball coach Chris Holtmann, GRAMMY award winner Michael W. Smith and Vice President of the United States Michael Pence.
According to Cunningham, the Board will work with Haines and the cabinet to ensure a smooth transition, and will be making announcements about future leadership in the coming weeks.
“Most importantly, the University’s leadership, beginning with the Board of Trustees, will remain true to the Lord and our calling and will have the resolve, faith and strength of purpose to carry Taylor forward into the future,” Cunningham said. “We look forward to building on the Strategic Plan developed by Dr. Haines and the executive leadership team as we continue to pursue Taylor’s unique position in Christian higher education.”
We covered Falwell’s “grow a pair” tweet here. And then we did a post on his decision to delete the tweet. But amid all the discussion, I missed an important part of this story. Here is a taste of a Washington Times piece on the controversy:
Mr. Falwell deleted the tweet after people complained about its crudeness. He later responded to critics by clarifying that he is not a spiritual leader.
“You’re putting your ignorance on display. I have never been a minister. UVA-trained lawyer and commercial real estate developer for 20 yrs,” he wrote. “Univ president for last 12 years-student body tripled to 100000+/endowment from 0 to $2 billion and $1.6B new construction in those 12 years
“The faculty, students and campus pastor @davidnasser of @LibertyU are the ones who keep LU strong spiritually as the best Christian univ in the world,” he added. “While I am proud to be a conservative Christian, my job is to keep LU successful academically, financially and in athletics.”
Interesting. It almost seems like Falwell is not interested in the links between Christianity and the academic, financial, and athletic “success” of Liberty University. It sounds like he is excusing his crude tweet by claiming that he is not a minister and thus not responsible for the Christian culture of Liberty. If you are a Liberty University faculty member, parent, student, or alumnus, this might be a good thing! 🙂
It turns out that Gordon’s VP for Finance and Business Development was an undergraduate history major.
While I hope that Mr. Truschel fought valiantly to keep the history major at Gordon, perhaps serving as the only dissenting voice in the meeting when the cut was made, I have my doubts.
I think it’s fair to say that I won’t be interviewing Mr. Truschel for my “So What Can You Do With a History Major?” series anytime soon. 🙂
Mike Pence gave the commencement address earlier today at Taylor University. Taylor’s invitation to Pence has been controversial. I wrote about it in a piece at Religion News Service.
As expected, dozens of students and faculty walked out of the room before Pence took the lectern. The Washington Post has the best reporting I have seen so far. Read Isaac Stanley-Becker’s piece here.
The Indianapolis Star has published the full transcript of Pence’s remarks. The speech is very similar to the one he gave last week at Liberty University, but it has a slightly less culture war feel. Pence did not reference Trump as much as he did at Liberty and he dropped some of the persecution language that I wrote about in this Washington Post piece. Nevertheless, I stand by my original Religion News Service piece. (See link above).
Here is the transcript:
Thank you so much. To President Haines, the Board of Trustees, faculty, staff, family, distinguished guests: It is an honor for us to be here at the Kesler Center for the commencement ceremony of Taylor University Class of 2019. Congratulations. You made it!
And I want to thank you, President Haines. Thank you for your friendship. Thank you for those warm words. I only wish that my parents could have heard them. My father would have enjoyed it, and my mother would’ve believed it. But would you all join me in thanking President Haines for the extraordinary leadership he’s provided here to Taylor University? We are all so grateful.
And it’s great to be here with so many friends of ours. Met a lot of them backstage. It’s always good to be back in Indiana. And speaking of friends of mine, allow me to bring greetings from a friend I just spoke to on the phone on my way over to Taylor, shortly after we landed. He asked me to pass along his regards. So allow me to extend congratulations to the graduating class of 2019 from the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump.
It is a joy to be back home again here in the Hoosier State with all of you with somebody who is the most special person in my life. You know, I always wait to introduce the highest-ranking official last. She’s a Marine Corps mom. She’s a champion for military families. She even teaches art at a Christian school. Would you join me in giving one more welcome to the Second Lady of the United States of America, Karen Pence?
Karen and I are really honored to be back on this beautiful campus. It really is amazing to think: For more than 170 years, Taylor University has faithfully carried out its mission “to develop servant leaders marked with a passion to minister Christ’s redemptive love and truth to a world in need.” We heard those themes again from the podium already today.
And the class of 2019 is emblematic of that mission, and you are a remarkable class. You come from 29 different states, 21 different nations, and I learned on the way here that more than 300 of you are graduating from Taylor University today with honors. Congratulations to you all. Well done.
And among you are scholars, accomplished musicians and artists, and exceptional athletes. In fact — in fact, I heard that all 18 of Taylor’s Trojan teams have been recognized as “Scholar-Athletes” by the NAIA. Give yourselves another round of applause. That’s great.
And behind all of these incredible achievements, of course, are some really special people. Like a young woman who began her career at Taylor as an education major — but over the course of her time here, she was pulled in a different direction. She’s gone on several mission trips abroad to minister to children in need. She’s dedicated her time and talent, alongside her parents, to care for refugees. And today she volunteers at least three days a week at an afterschool program here in Upland. And today, she will become Taylor University’s first ever major in Orphans and Vulnerable Children. Join me in congratulating Rachael Rower on a great academic career. Where are you, Rachael? We’re proud of you.
And I also was told that Rachael is engaged to be married in just under a month. So I guess I have to recognize another member of the class her fiancé, Joey Ferguson. Well done, Joey. You outkicked your coverage. God bless them both.
And, you know, I was told there’s another member of the Class of 2019 that I just have to mention, because I’m told he’s left an indelible mark on just about everybody he’s met here at Taylor. He’s a great student, of course, and apparently a really good soccer player. Good photographer. Hard worker. Clear thinker. And that, even more than his rich Irish accent, is his deep and abiding faith in Jesus Christ. It’s impressed everybody he’s met.
In fact, this young man is joined today, I’m told, by his parents, who had never been to the United States of America before today, but they just flew in to see this Taylor graduate walk across this stage. So congratulations to Charbel Salako. Where are you? And to Charbel’s parents: Welcome to America! What a great day.
And I know this is a great day for all of you in the Class of 2019. And it should be fun — because winners have fun, and you’re all winners today.
And you know that you didn’t get here on your own, though. The leaders here at Taylor University poured themselves into you — this administration, this incredible staff, and, of course, the men and women of Taylor’s faculty.
You know, it’s probably pretty safe to say that these professors didn’t go easy on you. They pressed you over the last four years. They challenged you, too. They made you better. They made you smarter. They made you more ready. So would you join me in thanking all the great faculty here at Taylor University for all they have done for you?
And while I serve as your Vice President — and before that, as the president said here, I served as governor of this great state — the highest position I’ll ever hold is actually spelled “D-A-D.” You know, Karen and I are the proud parents of three college graduates and that’s worth a round of applause. Got them all through.
So honestly, we understand, on a very personal level, the sacrifices that your families have made to help you reach this moment. And we understand just how proud they are, as they sit all around us today. And it’s an emotional day for them, I promise you. They’re remembering not — not just the times that you were here at Taylor; they’re remembering all those days that led up to it. They drove you to school, got you to do your homework before you went to bed. And even while you were here, they encouraged you through late nights before final exams, and — and they wrote a few checks along the way, too.
And they prayed — I know they did — for each and every one of you, every day that you were here. So before we go any further, would all the moms and dads who are here — all the parents who are here — would you all just stand up so we can show you the appreciation that all these great graduates feel for all the support and love over the last four years?
Men and women of the Class of 2019, today you will graduate from an extraordinary university. You’ll begin your journey. New careers. New endeavors. And you know, they say timing is everything. And to this great class, I just want to tell you, straight up: You picked a great time to graduate from Taylor University. The America that awaits your energies and ambitions is experiencing a new era of optimism and opportunity. You’re beginning your careers at a time of a growing American economy and restored American stature at home and abroad.
You know, as Vice President, it’s my honor, more than I can say, to serve alongside a President who has stood so strong for our national defense. And on this Armed Forces Day, we honor all the soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guard who defend our freedom every day. And to all the veterans who are here with us today, thank you for your service.
And I couldn’t be more proud to be part of an administration that has stood strong on the timeless values that have made this nation great, and stood without apology for the sanctity of human life.
But for all those accomplishments, you deserve to know that your timing really is great. Because under the leadership of President Trump, we’ve been busy getting this economy moving again. We cut taxes. We rolled back regulation. We’ve unleashed American energy.
And as I stand before you today, the economy that awaits you — businesses large and small — have created 5.8 million new jobs in just over the last two years. Unemployment is at a near 50-year low. And get this: Today, there are more job openings in America than there are Americans looking for work. That’s great timing, Class of 2019.
Not that Taylor grads are going to have any trouble finding a job. You know, I actually heard that 97 percent of Taylor graduates secure work or graduate school placement within the first six months of graduation. It’s a testament to this extraordinary university.
You know, the many Taylor grads I’ve worked with over the years are some of the smartest and most dedicated men and women I’ve ever known. In fact, I’m proud that we got a Taylor grad serving on the staff of the Office of the Vice President at the White House, even as we speak.
So when you leave this remarkable place, I promise you, you’re going to find an America filled with promise. And I know the men and women of this Class of 2019 are going to thrive. Because you have the support of your families. You have a foundation of a great and unique education. And because, here at Taylor, it was all built on a foundation of faith — a foundation that cannot be shaken.
You know, it really is beautiful that, before you leave here today, you’ll be handed a diploma; you’ll also be handed a Bible and a Servant’s Towel. And I believe these elements hold the keys to the success and fulfillment in the lives that await you. And I know what I’m talking about.
You know, like many of you, I was raised in a church home. But by the time I got to high school, I lost interest in religion. I was one of those people who still went to church, but I was just going through the motions — you know, holding form of Christianity, but denying its power.
By the time I went off to college — a little school down south of here — I just went my own way. But when I went to school, I started to meet people — maybe like you have here — that I could tell where different. Some people that had something I lacked. And it wasn’t just confidence or an easy familiarity; it was something they had that I knew I didn’t have. The only way I could describe it was peace and a joy about everything in their lives.
In fact, I was so moved by their example that I started attending a Christian fellowship group on campus. And I had this friend who ran the group. He was a senior; I was a freshman. And we became good friends. And I talked to him a lot about faith issues. And he spent a lot of time with me and was very patient.
But I noticed, you know, as I got more involved in the local fellowship group, that I decided I was going to go ahead and get involved. And he was wearing this really cool little cross everywhere he went. So I started asking him where he got it — you know, because I wanted to get one, too. Frankly, I started to pester him about it. It was back then before you had these things that you’re always looking at, and we had these catalogues you order things from — you had to call on the phone. Your mom and dad will explain that to you.
And I kept bothering him about the catalogue. I said, “Hey, be sure and get me that catalogue because, you know, I want to order that cross.” I said, “I’ve decided to go ahead and do the Christian thing. So, you know, I want to — you know, I want to start wearing a cross.”
I’ll never forget — John looked at me one day and said some words that I’ll never forget. I said to him, “Don’t forget about that catalogue.” And he turned around, and he looked at me, and he said, “Mike, remember: You got to wear it in your heart before you wear it around your neck.” To be honest with you, I didn’t know what he meant. But I knew there was truth in it. I wrestled with those words.
Then a little while later, I found myself at a youth Christian music festival that the group went to down in Wilmore, Kentucky. We sat on a hillside for two days, listening to some great contemporary Christian music and messages in between. And it was on a rainy night, sitting on that hillside back in 1978, that I heard some words I’d heard my whole life in Church — but I heard them different.
I’d always heard that “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” But on that Saturday night, I heard it different. Sitting on that hillside, I realized that it also meant God so loved me that He gave His only Son to save me from my sin. And overwhelmed not with guilt, but with a heart overflowing with gratitude, that night I put my faith in Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. And it’s made all the difference in my life.
So now I want to say, not so much as your Vice President or a fellow Hoosier, but as a brother in Christ: If what you’ve seen and heard and learned in this place has also taken hold in your hearts, I want to encourage you to go from here, and live it out, and share it, and put feet on your faith as you carry and minister over the course of your lives. Because America needs men and women of integrity and faith now more than ever.
You know, the truth is that we live in a time when religious belief is under assault. We’ve seen unspeakable acts of violence against religious communities. Synagogues in Pennsylvania and California. Mosques in New Zealand. Churches in Sri Lanka. And three historically black churches burned to the ground in Louisiana.
And on a much lesser scale, but more prevalent, we see a change in our culture as well. You know, throughout most of American history, it’s been pretty easy to call yourself a Christian — but things are different now. Lately, it’s become acceptable, even fashionable, to malign traditional Christian beliefs.
So as you prepare to leave this place and build your life on the Christ-centered, world-engaging foundation poured here at Taylor University, be prepared to stand up.
You know, as Dr. Milo Rediger wrote in “Anchor Points” so long ago, he said, quote, “we’re looking for young people [here at Taylor] who are willing to stand up and be counted for God.” And as you stand up, be prepared to face opposition.
But be confident. For the Bible says, “God has given us a spirit not of timidity, but of power and love and self-control.” So go show the world every day that we can love God and love our neighbor at the same time. Our nation and our world needs it.
And know also that freedom of religion is enshrined not just in the Constitution, but in the hearts of every American. And I promise you: We will always stand up for the freedom of religion and for the right of every American to live, to learn, to worship according to the dictates of your conscience. That’s a promise.
And finally, as you prepare to depart on your lives and careers, I hope that you will take one other piece of that foundation poured here at Taylor University along. I hope that you will aspire to serve. To be, as that towel will ever remind you, a servant leader.
You know, I believe public service is a noble calling. But wherever life takes you, take a servant’s attitude. Consider others more important than yourselves. Live your lives as He did: not to be served, but to serve.
And if you need examples, you can just look around the people that are sitting with you. A lot of young men and women here have already learned: The fulfilled life is the life of service to others.
Like a public health major who grew up in Illinois who is graduating today. Like many of you Taylor students, she traveled overseas to give her time and talent to help those in need. But, as the story goes, during her J-term of her sophomore year, she was serving on a mission trip in the Middle East, and this young woman started to feel what she called “a little tug from God.”
Since then, that little tug has turned into a calling, and a calling that she’s answered. And after graduation, this incredible young woman will move to the Middle East and serve as a Women’s Health Coordinator for the non-profit One Collective. So would you all join me in showing our appreciation for the great example of 2019 graduate, Claire Heyen. Well done, Claire. We’re proud of you.
So, Class of 2019, my word to all of you is: Never stop believing, never stop serving, and always be prepared to give a reason for the hope that you have, with gentleness and respect. Because our nation and our world need that message of grace and love these days maybe more than ever before.
And as you do these things, in increasing measure, I promise you, you’ll be blessed. You’ll be a blessing to your family, to your coworkers, and you’ll be a blessing to this nation.
You know, America has always been a nation of faith. As our first Vice President, John Adams, said, and I quote, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” So just know, as you strengthen the foundation of faith in your life; as you carry that faith from here, in service to your fellow Americans, you will be strengthening the foundation of America itself.
So thank you for the honor of addressing you. To all of our graduates, I say: Have faith. Have faith in yourselves, proven by what you’ve accomplished to get you to this very day. Have faith in the principles and the ideals that you learned here and the noble mission that has always animated Taylor University. And have faith that He who brought you this far will never leave you, nor forsake you — because He never will.
Congratulations, Class of 2019. You did it. God bless you. And God bless America.
In case you missed it, Vice President Mike Pence delivered the commencement address on Saturday at Liberty University, a school that claims to be the largest Christian university in the world.
Court evangelical and Liberty president Jerry Falwell Jr. was the master of ceremonies (Why didn’t he wear a robe like most college presidents?) At one point in the ceremony he made his wife stand up to model the black and orange flame (as in Liberty Flames)-patterned dress she was wearing. Falwell convinced her to wear it because she was the “hottest first lady at any college in the country.” Again, context is everything here.
Surgeon and 2016 GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson also spoke. He urged the graduates not to conform to the “forces of political correctness” that “want you to shut up and not express what you believe.” He extolled the apparent Judeo-Christian founding of the country and told the graduating class that they were our best hope to “save America.”
When Jerry Falwell Jr. introduced Mike Pence, he praised the Vice-President for doing such a great job despite constant attacks from a “hostile press.” He described him as one of the greatest Vice Presidents of all time.
Early in Pence’s speech some folks in the crowd starting chanting “U.S.A., U.S.A, U.S.A.” This is an odd thing to chant at a Christian college graduation, but there seems to be no big difference between Christian education and patriotism at Liberty University.
Pence wasted no time turning his commencement address into a Trump rally. He praised the Trump economy, reminded the audience that “America stands with Israel,” talked about abortion, and attacked Barack Obama for his supposed threats to religious liberty. Like Carson’s brief speech, Pence’s speech was filled with the typical victimization rhetoric and fear-mongering that one often hears from conservative evangelicals these days. Pence cannot seem to move beyond the culture wars–this is how he sees the world. It is “us” vs. “them.” The crowd loved it.
At one point in the speech, Pence gave a moving testimony about his conversion experience. I appreciated it. But in the context–both in terms of Jerry Falwell Jr.’s politicization of Liberty University and Pence’s connection to the Trump administration–he seemed to suggest that an evangelical conversion will naturally lead to Christian Right politics and the unrelenting support of an immoral president. It does not.
A commencement address should be a celebration of the graduates. A commencement speaker must put down the self and offer words of encouragement and some wise advice about life after graduation. To his credit, Pence did some of this. But even his words of exhortation to the graduates sounded like a Trump stump speech for 2020 and a warning to watch out for the progressives lurking in the shadows ready to undermine Christian America. This was a message of fear, not hope. But that is how they do things at Liberty University.
I am sure we will hear similar things from Pence next week at Taylor University.
I remain saddened at Gordon College’s decision to bring an end to its history major. We had some good discussion last night on my Facebook page. Here are some of my random reflections:
What strikes me is that Gordon College is not simply consolidating three departments for the purpose of saving administration costs. This is the consolidation of THREE MAJORS–three different disciplines that offer different ways of understanding the world.
I spent over an hour yesterday with a very bright “undecided” student. I was trying to sell her on the importance of humanities, the liberal arts, and, yes, the study of history. The skills and ways of thinking that one learns from the study of history are not something that can happen in a few courses as part of an “integrated major” like Politics-Philosophy-History. In over two decades of teaching at Christian liberal arts institutions I can attest to the fact that a historical way of seeing the world–one informed by contextual thinking, the understanding of contingency, the complexity of the human experience, a grasp of causality and change over time–is something that is cultivated through a deep dive into the discipline. You can’t come to an interdisciplinary or “integrated” conversation without grounding in a discipline.
I can’t stress the formation piece here enough–especially at a Christian college in the liberal arts tradition. (I don’t care if it is evangelical, Catholic, mainline Protestant, etc.) Research universities and big regional public institutions are sometimes different animals since faculty do not often have the sustained engagement with undergraduates.
How are we forming our Christian students intellectually if we don’t give them the opportunity to dive into a particular discipline–a particular way of seeing the world with its own set of thinking skills? When a Christian college stops supporting the humanities (and now I am talking more broadly) it sends a message that it no longer believes that opportunities for this kind of formation are worth defending.
This, of course, raises the question: What kind of formative experiences DO Christian college believe are worth defending? At this point, a Christian college administrator might enter the fray and say that his or her school has a robust general education curriculum. Fair enough. I will be the first to defend strong Gen Ed Cores and I did so early in my career as a member of my colleges’s Gen Ed committee. But a cafeteria-style Gen Ed, while essential, does not allow for a deep formative dive into a particular way of thinking.
I also realize that some Christian college administrators might be skeptical about at my idealism. “We need to keep the doors open and no 18-22 year-olds want to study history any more.” I understand the dilemma, but if this is indeed the case, let’s just redefine our Christian colleges as professional schools where you will also get a Gen Ed Core and let humanities faculty decide whether or not they can work in such an environment with integrity. It pains me that students no longer want to come to college to study the humanities. It pains me even more that some of our finest Christian liberal arts colleges will no longer give those who DO want to study these topics an opportunity to do so in a sustained way. So yes, I am really shaken-up by the news from Gordon.
In the meantime, as I prepare to weather the coming storms, I will and continue to cling to the arguments I made here: