An African American Minister Renounces His Ordination in the Southern Baptist Convention

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Lawrence Ware

Earlier today in a piece at The Washington Post, I suggested that Donald Trump’s presidency is threatening to change the course of American Christianity.

At the same time my piece appeared, The New York Times published a piece from an African American clergyman who is leaving the Southern Baptist Convention because he believes it is “complicit in the disturbing rise of the so-called alt-right.”

Here is a taste of Rev. Lawrence Ware‘s piece:

To be sure, many prominent convention leaders have opposed Mr. Trump and the alt-right. Indeed, one of them, Russell Moore, went so far as to voice his criticism before the election.

But not enough has been done to address the institutional nature of white supremacy in the convention. Many churches are still hostile to the Black Lives Matter movement, and even more were silent during the rise of Mr. Trump and the so-called alt-right. For all of its talk about the love of Jesus Christ, the Southern Baptist Convention’s inaction on the issues of racism and homophobia has drowned out its words.

I’ve discussed my concerns with many other black ministers my age, and virtually all of us have questioned our membership. At least five of them have quietly left the convention over the past year. (To be sure, I will still remain a minister in the Progressive National Baptist Convention, a liberal black Baptist organization, founded in 1961 by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.)

Read the entire piece here.  Indeed, as I wrote this morning,

The court evangelicals are changing the religious landscape in the United States. The Trump presidency is only six months old, but it is already beginning to alter long-standing spiritual alignments. It seems as though Christians are not changing Trump, but rather that Trump could be changing Christianity.

Russell Moore Channels Jess Moody: A Southern Baptist Story

Dr._Russell_D._MooreHe was one of the Trump’s strongest critics during the presidential election, but it was just too much for the Southern Baptist Convention.

Over at CNN’s STATE, Chris Moody tells Moore’s story and compares it to the story of his grandfather, a Southern Baptist preacher who criticized the Convention for upholding segregation. It’s worth your time.

Here is a taste:

Nearly 50 years ago, my grandfather found himself in a very Moore-esque situation. At the 1969 Southern Baptist Pastors Conference, he railed against racial segregation, which was still enforced at some churches.

Questions of race have long dogged the Southern Baptist Convention, which was formed in 1845 over the issue of slavery, on which the Southern Baptists were on the wrong side of history. Even well into the twentieth century, the denomination did not take a leadership role in speaking against civil rights abuses and Jim Crow.

“I’ve been loyal to this convention for the past 25 years and I intend that every breath I take of God’s free air will be a Baptist breath,” Moody said in 1969. “But you listen. It takes the black and the white keys to play the Star Spangled Banner. And you can’t do it without both. We must solve the problem of racial hatred within the next ten years or prepare to become the dinosaurs of the twenty-first century. I for one do not believe that God intended this denomination to be a humorless relic in the museum of tomorrow.”

My grandfather is 91 now. His sermon, which also excoriated fellow Christians who supported the ongoing Vietnam War, was met with faint applause.

The denomination grappled internally over racial issues throughout the twentieth century and finally issued a formal apology for its past racist policies in 1995.

But when Southern Baptists gathered in 2017, they still found themselves scratching at the scars of the past. And, in an interesting twist, Moore was on hand to help confront them.

Read the entire piece here.

What Was Being Worshiped Yesterday at First Baptist Church in Dallas?

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Yesterday was “Freedom Sunday” at the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas.  The pastor of First Baptist is Robert Jeffress.  He is a Trump supporter, Christian nationalist, and prominent court evangelical. As the pictures attached to this tweet indicate, it was a day of patriotic celebration in the church sanctuary.

People waved American flags during the service.

The last time I checked, the waving of the American flag was a sign of support or loyalty to the nation.  Jeffress had no problem allowing such an act to take place in a church sanctuary–the place where Christians worship God as a form of expressing their ultimate loyalty.  Patriotism is fine. Flag-waving is fine.  But I wonder if any of the congregation felt uncomfortable that all of this took place in the church sanctuary on a Sunday morning.

Jeffress 2

There were fireworks.  Yes, fireworks.  Somehow the pyrotech crew at First Baptist figured out a way to pull this off without burning the place down.  I assume that these fireworks did not represent the pillars of fire that led the Israelites through the wilderness in the Old Testament. (Although it wouldn’t surprise me if someone during the service connected these patriotic fireworks to God’s leading of his new “chosen people”–the United States–through the desert of extreme religious persecution). I also don’t think the fireworks were meant to represent the “tongues of fire” present on the day of Pentecost as recorded in the book of Acts, chapter 2.  (Also, from what I am able to tell from the church website, First Baptist did not celebrate Pentecost Sunday on June 4, 2017).

It also looks like the congregation of First Baptist sung the Woody Guthrie classic “This Land is Your Land.”  I am guessing they did not sing all of the original verses.

How can this not be a form of idolatry?

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Churches and the Legacy of the Confederacy

Lee Episcopalian

R.E. Lee Memorial Church, Lexington, VA

As we reported last week, the Southern Baptist Convention stumbled, but eventually managed to get its act together and condemn racism and the Alt-right at its annual convention last week.  The Southern Baptist Church is the largest Protestant denomination in the United States.  It was founded in 1845 by Baptists in the South who defended slavery.

Over at Christianity Today, Kate Shellnut reports on how historic Southern congregations of all denominations are dealing with their monuments to the Confederacy.

“Few public Confederate monuments have been changed, moved, or razed since 2015,” USA Today reported, estimating 700 to 1,000 such monuments remain across 31 states. “While flags can be lowered, songs censored, mascots switched, and schools renamed, monuments are the most tangible and least mutable memorial symbols.”

The debate over such markers inevitably involves the church buildings that housed—and the many more that later memorialized—the history of the Confederate States of America. The most striking example may be St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia, nicknamed the Cathedral of the Confederacy.

Over the past two years, the historic church, where Jefferson Davis learned that the war was coming to an end, decided to remove plaques honoring Lee and Davis and place them in an exhibit. Gone are the kneelers with the Confederate flag in needlepoint. The church will retire its coat of arms. Leaders are now discussing how to move forward with presenting a history that acknowledges racism and slavery in its past.

“It shouldn’t take a tragedy to turn the tide against racism. Why did it take the murder of nine black people in a Bible study for some people to finally reject the racism associated with the Confederate emblem? Why do people have to literally be killed before we confront racial prejudice?” asked Jemar Tisby, president of the Reformed African American Network. “Christian leaders should be able to challenge racism in the midst of the church without waiting for a public disaster as an entry point to conversation.”

Read the entire piece here.

Southern Baptists Get It Right

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It looked like they were going to blow it again, but the members of the Southern Baptist Convention got their act together yesterday and condemned the Alt-Right.   Kate Shellnut reports at Christianity Today:

The most-talked-about resolution at this year’s annual meeting of Southern Baptists initially didn’t even make it to the floor.

But after some late-night scrambling the night before, about 5,000 denominational leaders voted Wednesday to explicitly condemn the alt-right movement.

Earlier in the day, a wave of tweets from the biggest names in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), from Washington pastor Thabiti Anyabwile to Houston Bible teacher Beth Moore, made their convictions on the issue clear. They know what’s at stake. Such a resolution could send a powerful message on their Christian opposition to hatred and bigotry; skipping over such a proposal could do the opposite.

For years, Southern Baptists have grappled with their denomination’s past history of racism, and continue to work towards racial reconciliation. Failing to take the chance to condemn white supremacy could imply to outsiders—and the growing non-white minority within the SBC—that America’s largest Protestant group won’t speak out against the racists of today.

Read the rest here.

Will the Church Show Up in the Age of Trump?

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I recently heard Senator John McCain say that Donald Trump’s recent budget proposal, amply titled “America First: A Blueprint to Make America Great Again,” will be dead on arrival in the Senate.

But what if Trump’s budget, which cuts over $1 trillion in safety net programs, did go into effect?  Marv Knox, the editor of The Baptist Standard, is interested in this question.

Here is a taste of his recent editorial:

Three scenarios

Christians who touted their faith as a reason for backing Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign have put God on trial, with two ways to win and one way to lose.

Win Scenario 1: Trump is correct, and his budget works.

His plan doesn’t merely balance the budget, but also wildly stimulates the economy, brings coal back in vogue, reopens industrial jobs and ensures near-zero unemployment with good-paying jobs. People don’t need a safety net, because they’re getting by on their own.

Beyond that, they feel better about themselves—“great,” even—because they’re working and making their way. Christians helped Trump win; life is good; God is great.

Win Scenario 2: Trump is not correct, but the church saves the day.

The federal safety net shreds, but the church shows up on time. Christian benevolences of all kinds flourish. The church feeds the hungry, clothes the naked, houses the homeless. Christians provide so much money to their hospitals and health clinics, even people who cannot afford insurance can receive highly specialized and expensive cancer treatment, surgery and every other medical need.

Christians sacrificed to take care of others, who thrived because of their loving benevolence. God gets the glory for their gracious spirits. America experiences a revival it has not seen in many generations.

Lose Scenario 1: Trump is not correct, and the church fails to show up.

The federal safety shreds, just as the president has planned. Meals on Wheels collapses. Parents can’t find work, and so they not only can’t bring home a paycheck, but they can’t meet the president’s stringent requirements for supplemental assistance. Their children go hungry. Their older cousins can’t continue their education because they can’t get student loans. Other calamity ensues.

Meanwhile, the church continues its current course. Less than 20 percent of members tithe, and congregations spend most of the money they take in on themselves, particularly buildings and staff. Food pantries and clothes closets can’t keep up with burgeoning need. Health clinics meet only a fraction of the demand. Expensive care from hospitals is out of the question.

Hurting people—the chronically ill, children, the elderly, even veterans—suffer without alleviation, either from the government or from the church. They can do math, and they realize 81 percent of evangelicals put the president in office. And now their safety net is gone. They can see the landscape, and they don’t see nearly enough congregations even trying to knit a new one. You can understand why they blame God. Either way they look at it—politically or religiously—Christian people did them in.

If 20th-century American history is any indication, Knox’s “Lose Scenario #3” is most likely.  Don’t get me wrong, the Christian church did some amazing work of benevolence in the last century and its members continue to do this work today.  But the church’s influence, particularly among evangelicals, has not kept up with the need.

There are a lot of reasons for this.  We could point to the evangelical rejection of the so-called “social gospel.”  We could point to the fact that most white evangelicals see no real disconnect between the pursuit of the American Dream and the pressing social needs of the world.  Similarly we could point to the way evangelicals have too often baptized capitalism.  I am sure there are others.  We are all guilty.

I hope Christians take Knox’s call seriously.  I appreciate his piece and I agree with it. But as a student of history, I realize that the church will need to make a bold break with the recent past if it wants to live without a government safety net.  And Knox is right about one more thing–it will take a revival.  The last time evangelicals displayed social action fitting with the call of the Gospel was during the Second Great Awakening.

New Orleans Southern Baptists: Take Those Confederate Monuments Down

Beauregard_Statue_July_2015

Warren Throckmorton has done some good reporting on this.  Two prominent New Orleans Southern Baptist pastors, Fred Luter of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church and David Crosby of First Baptist Church, support the removal of monuments and statues commemorating the Confederacy and white supremacy.

Here is a taste of Throckmorton’s blog post:

Rev. Luter is pastor of the Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans and former president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Luter is one of over 100 New Orleans area pastors who signed a lettersupporting the removal of the statues.

Via Twitter, I asked Luter if he considered himself on “the left” or the right and he replied that he is “a part of the Right.” Also on the list of pastors supporting the removal of the statues is Rev. David Crosby, the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church. Crosby was nominated for the Southern Baptist Convention presidency last year. Being in leadership in today’s Southern Baptist Convention does not strike me as an activity of those who populate “the left.”

President of the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Russell Moore told me he agrees with his New Orleans brethren:  “I agree with Drs. Luter and Crosby. I’ve always said that we should not whitewash history in either direction, by denying that it happened or by commending what is not commendable. This was the position I took in regard to the flying of the Confederate flag and is applicable here too.”

David Barton does not agree.

I would argue that the decision to remove the monuments is not as clear-cut as most would make it.  I think Jelani Cobb has a thoughtful take on this.

Why So Few Baptists in the Global South?

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Christianity is booming in the so-called Global South.  Over at The Christian Century, Baylor University historian Philip Jenkins wonders why Baptists do not seem part of this great revival.

Here is a taste:

The relative global numbers are counterintuitive for Americans, who naturally re­gard Baptists as a very significant part of the Christian spectrum. Outside the United States, though, Baptists are quite a marginal presence. Africa’s 10 million Baptists are a tiny proportion of a continental Christian total ap­proaching half a billion. Out of Brazil’s 45 million Protes­tants, just 2 million are Baptists.

That continuing distribution of believers between Global North and South is ironic given Baptists’ fervent commitment to foreign missions and the achievement of so many legendary evangelists and teachers. In some areas, especially in India and South Asia, Baptist missionary advances have been very marked. And mere numbers say nothing about the nature of faith or the quality of practice. Global South Baptists have played key roles in political life, and especially in education. Even so, the fact remains: Baptists differ from virtually all other Christian traditions in that newer churches are nowhere near matching or overtaking their northern world counterparts.

Part of the explanation lies in the fact that the United States has not had colonial or imperial ties to Africa, which meant that Baptists could not share the successes of British-based churches like Angli­cans, Meth­­odists, or Pres­by­terians or of French or Bel­gian Cath­olics. Baptists had some Afri­can presence, and pastor John Chilembwe be­came a hero of nationalist resistance in his native Mala­wi, but numbers were never large. Because Baptists never developed a serious foothold in Africa, they were in no position to benefit from the huge demographic expansion that has been a principal driver of church growth over the past half century. Nor could they compete with the enormously successful Pentecostal churches. Baptists were left without a potential niche in the market for souls.

Read the entire piece here.

 

What’s the Difference Between Religious Persecution and Selfishness?

Wilshire Baptist

Mark Wingfield, a Southern Baptist pastor in Dallas, has a provocative piece on religious liberty in Tuesday’s Dallas Morning News.  Sometimes, he argues, cries of religious persecution are really failures of Christian empathy.

Here is a taste:

Imagine this scenario: An evangelical Christian couple is planning their wedding and wants a cake for their reception from the best bakery in town. So they visit the Jewish baker to make arrangements but are greeted with bad news: “Sorry, we don’t bake cakes for Christian weddings.” Can you imagine the outcry in the Christian community?

Or how about this: You are involved in a horrific automobile accident near a small town and rushed by ambulance to the nearest hospital. You are taken to an emergency room to be treated by a doctor who first takes down vital demographic information, only to conclude: “I’m sorry. I’m a Muslim and my faith will not allow me to do the procedure you need to live. You’ll have to wait until we can transport you to a larger hospital with other doctors.” Again, can you imagine the outcry in the Christian community?

Or one more: Your best friend at work recommends a manicurist she loves, so you make an appointment. Upon arrival, you are made to feel unwelcome because everyone else there is lesbian, but you’re not. The clear but unspoken message is that straight Christian women who don’t condone same-sex relationships are not welcome here. How would you talk about that at your weekly Bible study group?

All these things happen in America today, but usually with the roles reversed or with different categories of people involved. Hearing these tales with a twist shines a light on how wrong they are. Things look different when you’re the minority instead of the majority. Or at least, things should look different.

In most every contemporary instance of calls for additional legislation or presidential executive orders or city ordinances to address religious liberty concerns, Christians — and particularly the evangelical Christians from whence I have come — are presented as the aggrieved parties who desire additional protections to freely express their religious convictions. Seldom, however, does anyone stop to consider how it would feel for the shoe to be on the other foot. How might evangelical Christians see ourselves on the other side of the story, not as the persecuted but as potential persecutors? Would that make a difference in what we demand for ourselves?

Read the rest here.

Southwestern Seminary Responds

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Here is president Paige Patterson’s response to the controversy at his seminary.

Genesis 3:20 declares that “Eve is the mother of all living.” There are only two options. If I intend to love God and follow His paths, the slightest tinge of racism must be eliminated. Or if I wish to present myself as unconcerned about the ways of the Master, then I may indulge in racism or any other sin, but the consequences of such behavior are certain and tragic. In fact, this verse clearly declares that while we may have a variety of social origins, there is only one race—the human race. This fact is not abridged by skin pigmentation, body shape or size, unique abilities, or anything else. As a part of this one race, we are all sinners in need of redemption, and Christ died for every one of us.

My early years were spent in a part of Texas with a history of racism. However, the home in which I was reared was an intensely missionary home and free of racist perspectives. So I remember well returning from school in the fifth grade and asking my mom why black kids had to go to other schools and why some of the kids at our school had unkind attitudes toward those who were different from them. My mother minced no words in explaining that such attitudes were a result of the sin of the race. She admonished above all that I would devote my life to eradicating every vestige of racism.

Since that time, I have come to understand why racism is an affront to God. The Heavenly Father is a God of variety. His artistic genius produced such a variety of birds, fish, animals—and people—that every time you meet a man of any ethnicity you meet a fascinating and unique member of the race, who in various ways demonstrates the artistry of God. To act in a racist fashion is to ridicule the God of creation for His artistry and judgment. A person who claims to follow the Bible cannot harbor racist convictions without proving himself selective in his approach to Scripture, and therefore, forfeiting his status as a faithful follower of the Bible.

The purpose of this article is not to elevate myself as any noteworthy example. Nevertheless, I will note that my first controversy in the SBC was not about the Bible per se but about the fact that I led a black man to Christ one day, thus incurring the wrath of godless men in that state and county. At Bethany Baptist Church in New Orleans, I was the object of constant threat because we ministered to children of all races in the Irish Channel district of the city. The course my mother established and my dad enthusiastically supported is one I continue to press here at Southwestern. From that I will not be deterred, whatever the cost.

A gracious young Native American preacher on our staff does rap as a hobby. He preached a sermon recently in chapel in which he included a section of rap. I thought that it was great, and the students seemed responsive to it. He has since accepted a pastorate; and, as part of his departure, his fellow professors wanted to awaken memories and in so doing to tease him. That is par for the course around here. The president encourages our people to laugh at each other rather than to risk taking ourselves too seriously. But, as all members of the preaching faculty have acknowledged, this was a mistake, and one for which we deeply apologize. Sometimes, Anglo Americans do not recognize the degree that racism has crept into our lives. Such incidents are tragic but helpful to me in refocusing on the attempt to flush from my own system any remaining nuances of the racist past of our own country. Just as important, my own sensitivity to the corporate and individual hurts of a people group abused by generations of oppressors needs to be constantly challenged.

Southwestern cannot make a moment of bad judgment disappear. But we can and will redouble our efforts to put an end to any form of racism on this campus and to return to a focus that is our priority—namely, getting the Gospel to every man and woman on the earth. God has been kind to us and blessed this effort. In an effort to be humorous, we made a mistake and communicated something that was completely foreign to anything that any of us felt in our hearts. To say that we are sorry will not be sufficient for many. We understand. To each of those and to everyone, we extend an invitation to visit this campus unannounced and at a time of your choosing and witness the love of Christ extended to all indiscriminately and to the best of our ability to every individual who sets foot on the campus. Thank you for praying for us and especially praying that our Lord through His Spirit will perfect our hearts in every way to reflect the heart of the Master.

What Is Happening at Southwestern Baptist Seminary: Part 2

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Last night I wrote a post on an offensive picture of Southwestern Baptist Seminary professors pretending to act like black gang members.  One professor in the photo was even carrying a gun.  Several of the men who posed for the photo tweeted it.

You can read that post here.

Those involved with this little stunt have apologized.  So has the seminary.  But one cannot help but wonder if something deeper is going on at Southwestern.  What does it say about the seminary leadership–especially its president Paige Patterson–that such a culture has been allowed to flourish at the Fort Worth school?

The men who posed in this picture were not your average seminary professors.  One was a Dean, one was a Vice President, one was the seminary’s “Chief Parliamentarian,” and one was a former Dean.  What made these men think that posing for such a picture was a good idea?  Why did they think it was acceptable?  Why did they post it to Twitter?

Patterson has a well-known reputation as an authoritarian leader, but these professors did not seem to be too worried about what their president might think of their tweet.  I am sure that none of them would have been involved in this photo-op if they thought for a moment that Patterson would have disapproved.

Think about it. At some point these guys sat down in a faculty lounge somewhere and decided that it would be fun to dress this way and take a picture.  At what point in this conversation did one of the guys in the photo think it was a good idea to show his gun? Did he bring it from home?  Or did he have it in his office gun cabinet?

And to top it all off, these professors seem to possess virtually no historical consciousness.  They have no sensitivity to the fact that Southwestern, like all Southern Baptist institutions, has a long history of racism and segregation.  (This is also the school where one of its leaders actually killed a guy).

This school has some systemic problems that someone needs to address.

What is Going on at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary?

ADDENDUM: Read Part 2 of this post.

Here is a tweet from the Dean of the School of Preaching at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (Southern Baptist) in Fort Worth, Texas:

Tweet SWBTS

Caption anyone?

For more context on this picture click here. It is an article at the website “Faithfully”:

Seen in the photo are the following Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary faculty: David L. Allen, dean of the School of Preaching; Kyle Walker, the seminary’s vice president for Student Services and a professor of preaching; Barry McCarty, a preaching professor and Chief Parliamentarian for the Southern Baptist Convention; Deron J Biles, a Dean Emeritus and a professor of Pastoral Ministries and Preaching; and Matthew McKellar, an Associate Professor of Preaching.

Read the rest here.

ADDENDUM:

I dug up this Southwestern Baptist Seminary tweet from October 2015. Looks like this is not the first time McCarty has had a gun on campus.

Twitter 2

The is also worth noting:

Baylor University Announces Its First Female President

Livingstone

Kenneth Starr was fired as president of Baylor University in May 2016 for his poor handling of a rape and sexual assault scandal on campus.  He has finally been replaced. The new president of Linda A. Livingstone.

Here is a taste of the Baylor press release:

WACO, Texas (April 18, 2017) – Baylor University has selected Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D., current dean and professor of management at The George Washington University School of Business, as the institution’s 15th president. Dr. Livingstone was the unanimous choice of the Baylor Board of Regents, following the recommendation of the 12-member Presidential Search Committee.

Dr. Livingstone, who will begin as president on June 1, brings a distinguished academic career to Baylor, a private Christian university and nationally ranked research institution with more than 16,000 students. Prior to George Washington, she served as dean of Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business and Management and associate dean and associate professor in Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business.

“On behalf of the Board of Regents, I am both proud and honored to announce Dr. Livingstone as Baylor’s next president during this important time for the University,” said Ronald D. Murff, chair of the Baylor Board of Regents. “Dr. Livingstone brings an accomplished academic career to Baylor, combined with a strong appreciation and support of Baylor’s mission. A longtime Baptist and former Baylor faculty member, she has a passion for the distinctiveness of Baylor’s Christian mission in higher education.”

Dr. Livingstone becomes the first female president in Baylor’s 172-year history. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating university in the state.

“I am humbled and honored to be selected as the 15th President of Baylor University,” said Dr. Livingstone. “I chose to begin my academic career at Baylor in significant part because of Baylor’s Christian mission. To return to Baylor to partner with the exceptional faculty, staff, students and administrators to fulfill the University’s vision to be a top-tier research institution, committed to excellence in all aspects of University life, while strengthening the Christian mission is an opportunity I look forward to with enthusiasm.”

Among her many academic and professional accomplishments, Dr. Livingstone previously served as chair of the board of the international Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) in 2014-2015 and has deep expertise in accreditation issues. The AACSB is the professional organization for business schools and accredits 786 of the best business schools globally across 53 countries and territories. She chaired the AACSB Committee on Accreditation Policy in 2015-2016.

A scholar in organizational behavior, leadership and creativity, she has been extensively published and cited in academic and professional outlets. Moreover, Dr. Livingstone has served as a member of the Board of Directors of Capital Southwest Industrials, a public company traded under the symbol “CSWI” on the NASDAQ since 2015.

Dr. Livingstone has led The George Washington University School of Business since 2014, overseeing approximately 3,500 students in undergraduate, master’s and Ph.D. programs and more than 57,000 alumni worldwide. Like Baylor, George Washington has a culture grounded in service, and Dr. Livingstone initiated a comprehensive strategic planning process for the school to capitalize on this core commitment. The effort resulted in establishing a strong financial operating base for the school and cross-university collaborations, enhanced teaching, greater research productivity and additional support through fundraising.

“Linda Livingstone has been a stellar dean and an excellent colleague,” said Steven Knapp, Ph.D., president of The George Washington University. “I am sure that our entire GW community joins me in wishing Linda all success in her important new role and that Baylor University will benefit tremendously from her leadership.”

Prior to her tenure at George Washington, Dr. Livingstone served 12 years at Pepperdine, similar to Baylor as a faith-based university, as dean of the Graziadio School of Business and Management from 2002-2014. With a focus on excellence in teaching, scholarship and Christian values, she brought significant visibility and resources to the Graziadio School, including overseeing a $200 million expansion of its graduate campuses and the addition of an executive conference center. Under Dr. Livingstone’s leadership, the school also experienced significant progress in its full-time, executive and fully employed MBA programs, and in the area of entrepreneurship, as well as greater scholarship support for students.

Dr. Livingstone returns to Baylor after time on the Waco campus from 1991-2002. From 1998-2002, she served as associate dean of graduate programs for the Hankamer School of Business in which she was responsible for all graduate degree business programs. Dr. Livingstone was an associate professor in the department of management from 1997-2002 and an assistant professor in the same department from 1991-1997. She also was a member of the Faculty Athletics Council during her tenure at Baylor.

“My time at Baylor as a faculty member and associate dean was formative in my academic career and in developing my passion for academic administration,” reflected Dr. Livingstone. “Baylor’s unique culture of care and compassion – that I experienced personally from my colleagues and that I saw demonstrated among faculty, staff and students – continues to inspire and influence me as an administrator. Continuing to strengthen Baylor’s culture where faculty, staff and students are encouraged, inspired and cared for by one another is a priority.”

A native of Perkins, Oklahoma, Dr. Livingstone began her academic career at her alma mater, Oklahoma State University, where she earned her bachelor of science degree in economics and management, master of business administration, and doctorate in management and organizational behavior. A member of Oklahoma State’s Spears School of Business Hall of Fame, Dr. Livingstone was the first recipient of the Outstanding Ph.D. Alumnus Award, and she was recognized in 2015 with the OSU Distinguished Alumni Award.

While at Oklahoma State, Dr. Livingstone was a four-year letter winner on the women’s basketball team from 1978-1982 and was named a “Big 8 Scholar-Athlete” in 1982. Her husband, Brad, also played basketball at Oklahoma State (1978-1982), and their daughter, Shelby, recently completed her junior season as a volleyball student-athlete at Rice University. Brad Livingstone currently serves as the Dean of Students and teaches history at the Trinity Christian School, in Fairfax, Virginia, where Dr. Livingstone has served as a member of the Board of Trustees since 2015.

Baylor’s Presidential Search Committee compiled feedback from more than 700 online input forms and listening sessions with more than 350 faculty, staff, students, alumni, community members and others as part of the search process. Heidrick & Struggles, a worldwide executive search firm, was engaged in October 2016 to work alongside the committee. Chaired by Bob Brewton, B.B.A. ’74, the Presidential Search Committee reviewed more than 400 candidate backgrounds, contacted 150 individuals for screening conversations and held first-round interviews with 61 candidates.

“The Presidential Search Committee had a very strong candidate pool coming from the traditional academic fields as well as nontraditional candidates from government, military and corporate life,” Brewton said. “In the end, Dr. Livingstone’s experience uniquely fit the profile of the dynamic faith and transformational leader which Baylor needs at this point in time in our history.”

“We had strong interest in the position from accomplished candidates both inside and outside of academia,” Murff added. “Candidates admired Baylor’s significant growth over the past decade and saw tremendous potential in elevating the University’s academic profile even further while staying true to our Christian mission.”

“I was honored to serve on the Presidential Search Committee. We began with Baylor’s mission in mind and based our search on the Christian values that Baylor stands for. That set the criteria for the type of individual we were looking for,” said Drayton McLane Jr., Baylor Regent Emeritus and search committee member. “Dr. Livingstone met all our requirements. She, her husband and their family are outstanding, committed Christians. Dr. Livingstone has taught at Baylor and understands the Christian heritage which is so important to the University. I am very pleased with the outcome of our search and the strong leadership Dr. Livingstone will provide Baylor University.”

Dr. Livingstone will succeed Dr. David Garland, who has served as the Interim President during the last year.

Southern Baptists Rally Around Russell Moore

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Russell Moore

Recently one of my Facebook friends posted a September 2015 article written by a Southern Baptist pastor in Alabama named Dr. Rick Patrick.  I don’t know anything about Patrick other than the fact that he is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Sylacauga, Alabama and apparently, at the time of publication of his article, did not like the direction that Russell Moore, the President of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), was taking the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).

Dr. Patrick wants Moore to be more thorough in the way that he applies the Christian idea of the Imago Dei, or the belief that we are all created in the image of God and thus have dignity and worth.

Since he became president of the ELRC, Moore has urged the members of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) to treat their political opponents as if they are indeed created in God’s image.  The list of these so-called opponents have included  population control advocates, Planned Parenthood employees, family members with different political views, the victims of the Orlando gay bar attack, and transgender people. (Or at least this is the list that Patrick has come up with).  Patrick links to websites where Moore is on record making such appeals.

But then Patrick goes political.  Why isn’t Moore defending the men and women who Hillary Clinton called “a basket of deplorables?”  Aren’t they created in the image of God too?  Why doesn’t he criticize the defenders of abortion for their conviction that ending a pregnancy can be a moral act?  Isn’t the child in the womb an image-bearer of Christ?

And he goes on…

In the end, Patrick concludes: “In this Presidential election, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention has demonstrated a clear pattern of bias in favor of the Democratic Presidential nominee and in opposition to the Republican Presidential nominee.  I never thought I would live to see the day.”

Patrick’s piece is a clear sign of the way politics can divide a church.  He implies that the true mark of a Southern Baptist is his or her support of the GOP presidential candidate. His use of the phrase “never thought I would live to see the day” captures perfectly the beliefs of many in the Southern Baptist Convention right now. They seem to have sacrificed their spiritual mission for a political mess of pottage.

It also reveals some shoddy logic. Whenever a Trump supporter is asked a direct question about Trump’s policies they often answer with something like “Yes, but what about Obama…?” or “Yes, but what about Hillary…?” These are not arguments.  Moore is calling his church to task on the particular things that he believes they need to address as a religious body.  This has nothing to do with Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.  By crying “but why aren’t you saying this about the Democrats too?” is just a way to avoid  Moore’s pointed critique of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Patrick’s piece, published on September 15, 2015,  also illustrates the most recent conservative backlash against Moore.  We blogged about this the other day.  Those who have been critical of Moore seem more interested in power and politics than advancing the spiritual mission of the church. They appear willing to destroy the denomination in order to maintain the power they first grabbed in the 1980s when they led the conservative takeover of the denomination.  We will see how far these power-brokers will dig in their heels and fight against the more moderating views that Moore has championed during this election season.  I am guessing that many of them think that Moore is a threat to their control over the denomination and believe that they can form a political coalition, just like they did forty years ago, to bring him down.

Or maybe not. Several Southern Baptists have now rallied around Moore.  Al Mohler has defended him.  Today World Magazine is reporting that Ray Ortlund, Derek Minor, D.A. Horton, Justin Taylor, Lauren Chandler, and Karen Swallow Prior have defended him. Others are rallying around the #IStandWithMoore hashtag on Twitter. Three Tennessee Baptist leaders, all under the age of forty, have called for unity.  Even Princeton University law professor and conservative intellectual Robert George has weighed in with a tweet in support of Moore.

This support of Moore serves as a clear rebuke to those like Rick Patrick, Paige Patterson, Robert Jeffress, Brad Whitt, William Harrell, and others.  Since I am an outside observer, I don’t know what kind of power these folks have in the denomination.  If they represent a majority or even a strong minority they could tear the nation’s largest denomination apart (again). If they are a small group with little popular support in the denomination then I think this current criticism of Moore may be their swan song–a sign of their declining influence in the shaping of Southern Baptist life.  But whatever the case, don’t expect them to go down without a fight.  These folks have a relatively long history of placing power politics over Southern Baptist unity.

Trump-Induced Southern Baptist Battles

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Russell Moore

Some day a historian is going to write a great book on how the election of Donald Trump influenced American Christianity.  The person who writes that book will probably have a chapter on Russell Moore and the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).  After all, the SBC is the largest Protestant denomination in the United States and Moore runs the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.  In this role he serves as the face of the denomination on public policy issues.

By this point most observers of American religion and politics know that Moore was an outspoken opponent of Donald Trump.  (Just Google “Russell Moore and Donald Trump“). Unlike others in the SBC and American evangelicalism more broadly, Moore did not waver in his opposition after Trump won the Republican Party nomination for POTUS.

Now Moore and his organization are experiencing some backlash.  According to a piece in the Wall Street Journal, some churches in the denominations are considering ending their financial support of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.  One of those churches is First Baptist Church in Dallas, a giant SBC megachurch under the leadership of vocal pro-Trump pastor Robert Jeffress.

It seems that many in the Southern Baptist Convention have cast their lot with GOP politics, political power, and a man with a character that does not square very well with the teachings of Christianity.  In fact, some of them are so allied with Trump and the GOP that they will not tolerate anti-Trump views in the denomination, even if those views are preached by anti-gay marriage, pro-life, Biblical inerrantists who appeal to scripture in making their arguments. Wait a minute, I thought religious liberty was important to Southern Baptists?  Apparently religious liberty only applies to those  with the right politics.

But after reading the Wall Street Journal I had another thought about this controversy.  The article quotes a few pastors in the SBC who are worried that Moore’s opposition to Trump will mean that he will not be able to advocate very effectively for the denomination.  Here is a taste of that part of the article:

Yet some pastors fear Mr. Moore’s criticisms of President-elect Trump mean he can’t be an effective advocate within the Trump White House, thereby costing Baptists a chance to capitalize on a victory for the religious right

“He’s going to have no access, basically, to President Trump,” said Mr. Graham, the Texas pastor.

A representative of Mr. Trump’s team didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Brad Whitt, the pastor of Abilene Baptist Church in Georgia, said he worried during the campaign that Mr. Moore’s rhetoric would be a problem if Mr. Trump won. His church, too, has discussed withholding its funding of the ERLC, and he said he has expressed his concerns to Southern Baptist Convention staff and trustees.

“We want to see what he says, and whether he has a seat at the table in Washington,” Mr. Whitt said. “If not, we’ll be wasting a whole lot of time, energy and finances that could be going to the mission field.”

I don’t know the exact job description of the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC, but if Moore is supposed to be an advocate for SBC congregations in Washington then perhaps these pastors are right when they question his ability to do his job. In my opinion, Moore’s departure from this leadership post would be a tragedy for the SBC.  If Moore was ousted the young men and women in the SBC who support his vision would be alienated.  It would also speak volumes about the current state of the denomination.

Of course the previous paragraph implies that the opposition to Moore is something larger than a small minority of disgruntled Trump supporters.  I don’t know the SBC well enough to know if that is the case or if the opposition is more widespread.

Whatever the case, this is an interesting development in American religion.

Russell Moore and *The New Yorker*

Russell Moore is getting a lot of attention lately.  As the President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Church, he has staunchly opposed the candidacy of Donald Trump and, in this recent lecture, suggested that the Religious Right may have come to an end:

Now Moore is the subject of a long-form essay in, of all places, The New Yorker.  Here is a small taste of Kelefa Sanneh’s essay, “The New Evangelical Moral Minority.”

During this election season, Moore has sometimes appeared out of place in his own denomination—a Trump detractor leading a church largely peopled by Trump supporters. But he seemed comfortable in this uncomfortable position, perhaps because he has learned to accept the limits of his ability to change the world, or even to understand it. Moore thinks that the idea of a moral majority is wrong, and was probably wrong when it was created: he suspects that earnest, orthodox Christians have always been outnumbered. Like any believer, he wants his church to grow, but he doesn’t seem particularly threatened by the thought that it might not. He says that Christians in America must learn to think of themselves as a marginal community, struggling to survive in an increasingly hostile secular culture. In such a context, Muslims might seem less like enemies and more like allies in the fight for religious freedom.

This transition might be especially wrenching for Southern Baptists. After centuries of regional dominance, the denomination has been shrinking: last year, the church reported fewer than three hundred thousand baptisms, the lowest number in more than half a century, and a decline of about a third since the peak, in 1972. Moore’s critique of Christian triumphalism seems well suited to this not very triumphant time for his church. His promise is that the Southern Baptists can grow better, even if they are not growing bigger: he would like to be the leader of a moral minority.

Read the entire piece here.

Were the Neo-Evangelicals Public Intellectuals?

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Carl FH Henry

No.

But Owen Strachan want them to be.

Strachan, who teaches at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, wants to turn post-fundamentalist evangelicals such as Carl Henry, E.J. Carnell, and John Harold Ockenga into mid-twentieth century public intellectuals.  His piece is a response to Alan Jacobs’s Harper’s essay, “The Watchmen: What Became of the Christian Intellectuals.”

Neo-evangelicals were those fundamentalists who attempted to give some intellectual credibility to American evangelicalism in the decades following World War II. I will not go into detail about them here. Read books by George Marsden, Joel Carpenter, and Molly Worthen.

Strachan writes:

These were not retreat-minded individuals. They came to play. But though they possessed sterling credentials and unquestionable ability, men like Henry and Carnell (each the possessor of two doctorates, Carnell’s from Harvard and Boston University) were never going to receive a gilded invitation to the academic mainstream, the elite dinner-party. It simply wasn’t going to happen. Why? Not because of a lack of tremendous intellectual power, research ability, or personal initiative. These and other evangelicals were not even in serious competition for the top university post or the nighttime host of a public affairs television show. They weren’t then, and they aren’t now, and they may never be.

And this:

Look, Carl Henry should have had the corner office at Yale University. E. J. Carnell should have had a 1-1 load at Princeton. George Eldon Ladd should have been famous the world over for his studies of the kingdom of God. Ockenga should have had a weekly broadcast on NBC. On and on it could go. These were fantastically gifted individuals, but their beliefs consigned them to the margins, and that was that. So it is today. Evangelicals will pop up on newscasts and panels; they’ll publish with some big houses, and they’ll participate in some big debates. But in terms of Niebuhrian influence, lasting presence in the nexus of global power, that’s going to be tough (though not impossible) to come by. Their stubborn belief in an exclusivist Christ already renders them suspect, and out of step with the spirit of the age, to say nothing of the ramifications of holding a Christian view of sexuality.

Strachan obviously likes people like Henry, Carnell, Ockenga, and Ladd.  He likes them because the  reclamation of these figures (especially Henry) have played a significant role in current efforts by conservative Southern Baptists to articulate a particular kind of Christian intellectual life. It is thus understandable why Strachan is upset that Jacobs does not acknowledge the neo-evangelicals contribution to such a life in his Hartper’s piece on the history of Christian public intellectuals in America.

The neo-evangelicals were smart, if not brilliant men. (I took a course with Henry at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in the early 1990s–he was a first-rate mind). But they were hardly “public intellectuals” in the way that Jacobs uses the term.

Here is a taste of Jacobs’s response to Strachan:

I agree with Strachan that these were all first-rate intellects whose abilities deserved the kind of stature that he imagines for them in an alternate and better universe. But I also think that they had intellectual priorities that made them poor candidates for playing the role of the broadly public Christian intellectual, or for holding the top-tier university post. My thinking about this is shaped primarily by George Marsden’s great book Reforming Fundamentalism, and I think Marsden’s title gets at what these men were up to. They looked around at their fellow evangelicals and they saw people who were simply not prepared to engage with the larger world of ideas, and so they took it upon themselves to educate their fellow evangelicals in these matters. A book like Henry’s The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism— and this is true of most of Henry’s work — is not meant for a general audience, it is meant for an audience of evangelical and fundamentalist Christians. And I think all of the figures Strachan cites were basically pastoral and pedagogical in their vocational orientation. They were less concerned to engage directly with the culture at large than to provide the intellectual foundations that would allow later generations of evangelical Christians so to engage.

Strachan joins the chorus of folks who are upset with Jacobs for not acknowledging their favorite Christian thinkers in his article.

Why Robert Jeffress Should Not Be Talking About American History

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If you read this blog regularly you know about Robert Jeffress.  He is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas and one of the first evangelicals to endorse Donald Trump. Some of you remember that I debated him on an National Public Radio program a few months ago.  The other day he said he would vote for Donald Trump over Jesus.

Recently Jeffress explained to his followers why he has decided to get involved in presidential politics:

Part of Jeffress’s argument here is based on his belief that pastors have always been at the forefront of change in American history.  He is correct.  Clergy played a vital role in American political history.  Yes, they precipitated change. But they also used their role as pastors to in resist meaningful change.

There is a lot of historical problems with Jeffress’s remarks, but the most egregious issue is his failure to recognize that the former pastor of his church and one of the most prominent 20th-century Southern Baptists–W.A. Criswell-– used his position to promote racial segregation.  This is a dark chapter of Southern Baptist history.   It is probably not a good idea for Jeffress to invoke the Civil Rights movement as a moment in American history when pastors brought positive change to the United States.

Over at Religion News Service, Tobin Grant, a political science professor at Southern Illinois University, draws on the historical work of Curtis Freeman and Joseph Davis to call Jeffress out on this.

Here is a taste:

In 1956, Criswell spoke at the State Evangelism Conference in South Carolina. Against instructions to stay clear of segregation, Criswell gave a fiery sermon that linked the fight against integration with evangelism. All Southern Baptist pastors should, according to Criswell, speak out against those who were advocating integration.

Criswell did not mince words. He railed against both the National Council of Churches and the NAACP as those “two-by scathing, good-for-nothing fellows who are trying to upset all of the things that we love as good old Southern people and as good old Southern Baptists.”

He even used racist humor to make his points: “Why the NAACP has got those East Texans on the run so much that they dare not pronounce the word chigger any longer. It has to be cheegro.”

Criswell saw integration an attack on both state rights and democracy by carpetbaggers. Even more so, it was a blow to Southern Baptist religious liberty:Churches had the right and the responsibility to keep their congregations segregated.

Segregation was best for blacks and whites, Criswell said. Blacks, he argued, would never be able to excel, teach, or lead in a congregation of whites. Instead, they should stay in churches with other blacks. Segregation also limited miscegenation. And that, Criswell warned, was going to cause problems for everyone.

Read the entire piece here.

At the risk of making this post too long, I think it is also worth noting that some of the founding fathers did not think clergy should be getting involved in politics.

Many of the early eighteenth-century states banned clergymen from running for certain offices.  These included North Carolina (1776), New York (1777), South Carolina (1778), Delaware (1792), Maryland (1799), Georgia (1799), Tennessee (1796), and Kentucky (1799).

Here is article XXXI of the 1776 North Carolina Constitution:

That no clergyman, or preacher of the gospels of any denomination, shall be capable of being a member of either the Senate, House of Commons, or Council of State, while he continues in the exercise of the pastoral function.

Here is article XXXIX of the 1777 New York Constitution:

And whereas the ministers of the gospel are, by their profession, dedicated to the service of God and the care of souls, and ought not to be diverted from the great duties of their function; therefore, no minister of the gospel, or priest of any denomination whatsoever, shall, at any time hereafter, under any presence or description whatever, be eligible to, or capable of holding, any civil or military office or place within this State.

Here is article XXI of the 1778 South Carolina Constitution:

And whereas the ministers of the gospel are by their profession dedicated to the service of God and the cure of souls, and ought not to be diverted from the great duties of their function, therefore no minister of the gospel or public preacher of any religious persuasion, while he continues in the exercise of his pastoral function, and for two years after, shall be eligible either as governor, lieutenant-governor, a member of the senate, house of representatives, or privy council in this State.

Here is Article I, Section 9 of the 1792 Delaware Constitution:

The Rights, privileges, immunities, and estates of religious societies and corporate bodies shall remain as if the constitution of this state had not been altered. No clergyman or preacher of the gospel of any denomination, shall be capable of holding any civil office in this state, or of being a member of either branch of the legislature, while he continues in the exercise of the pastoral or clerical functions.

It is clear that the framers of these state constitutions wanted clergy to tend to the souls of churchgoers, not the soul of the United States of America.  I need to explore this deeper, but it seems at first glance that these framers wanted to keep religion out of politics and did not want the purity and witness of the church to be tarnished by politics.