Category: Baylor
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
As many of you know, I am a devoted alumnus of Baylor University. From a safe distance, on an independent and non-competitive hill outside the orbit of Baylor, I have watched the recent trials and tribulations of my beloved alma mater. From what I know presently, I am pleased to report that the current state of the institution seems healthy and positive and upbeat. My hope is that Baylor has survived the recent civil war.

Last month, the controversial former president of Baylor and lightning rod for Vision 2012, Robert Sloan, whom a diverse coalition of opponents pushed out in 2005, accepted the presidency of Houston Baptist University. The move, I Believe, is a good one for Sloan and Baylor.

Many Baylor faculty and staff, so thoroughly convinced over time that he was pure evil, could not feel safe as long as Sloan loomed within striking distance. Before he took the HBU post, he was serving as Chancellor, which was an honorary face-saving post. But in the minds of too many, he was lurking in the corridors, most likely scheming to wrest back power from the heroes of the recent Revolution. For a whole host of reasons, Sloan and Baylor very much needed a clean break.

Two summers ago, during one of the peaks of Baylor unpleasantness, I penned an op-ed piece, in which I offered my sincere admiration for then-President Sloan as a compassionate and motivating teacher and his bold vision for improving Baylor. But I conceded that his window for effective leadership at the university had closed, and I argued that the circumstances demanded that he step aside.

Notwithstanding, the still vigorous Sloan has much to offer to the world; it would be a shame to waste his energy. His unfortunate experience at Baylor does not necessarily preclude him from succeeding grandly at another institution. I sincerely wish him and HBU a success-filled future.

Some thoughts on the post-Sloan years and the Cross of Baylor:

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Category: Baylor
Posted by: an okie gardener
From the Houston Baptist University website, this story about their new president, Robert Sloan.

Sloan served a controversial tenure as President of Baylor University from 1995-2005, serving as Chancellor since then. I was at Baylor, in various capacities, for almost this entire time: graduate student, adjunct instructor, library research assistant. At first I defended him against his critics, holding that anyone deserved some slack their first couple of years learning a new job. But, I gradually switched from defender to critic myself. I agreed with one of his basic propositions: Baylor needs to be a Christian University, particularly a Baptist institution (and we can argue over what that means exactly). But, it seemed to me that Sloan was in over his head, and was not a good consensus builder.

I have mixed feelings about his move to Houston Baptist. On the one hand, university presidents sometimes do take the same job at other schools. But, on the other, Houston Baptist is just down the road from Baylor (in Texas terms), competes for some of the same students, woos an overlapping constituancy of Baptist churches for support, and probably competes for some of the same contributor dollars. Overall, I cannot feel this to be a classy move.
Category: Baylor
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Dub Oliver Named Vice President For Student Life (full story).
Category: Baylor
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
From the Baylor website:

Naymond Keathley Appointed Senior Vice Provost
Baylor University Executive Vice President and Provost Randall O'Brien has announced the appointment of Dr. Naymond Keathley, professor and interim chair of the religion department, as senior vice provost, effective immediately. Keathley succeeds Dr. Larry Lyon, professor and dean of the Graduate School, who will become vice provost for institutional effectiveness, while remaining dean of the Graduate School. (End Quote)

This is a bold and wise move. Mainly because it is the right thing to do for a good and talented man, who has demonstrated his loyalty to the university in spades. This announcement, and the earlier decision to make Randall O'Brien the permanent Provost, represents very good news for the future of Baylor.

Well done, President Lilley.

21/04: More Baylor

Category: Baylor
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Today (April 21) Baylor inaugurated its thirteenth president, John Mark Lilley. Check out the two-hour ceremony (often taking the form of an ordination) to make a more informed decision as to whether Baylor considers itself a Christian institution of higher learning.

In this article from March 10, Associated Baptist Press offers a thoughtful discussion of the "free-church tradition" and the functionality of the "magisterium" and encompasses the question of whether Baylor should model itself after Notre Dame: "Debate about Baylor's future asks: Should Baptists learn from Catholics?"

The last three graphs of the story are instructive:

So, the question comes full circle. Should Baylor University model itself after Notre Dame? Not entirely and certainly not uncritically, said new Baylor President John Lilley.

“I certainly respect the great reputation of Notre Dame, but I think Baylor should be allowed to grow in its own environment, with its own sense of identity,” Lilley said.

“I’m sure there are lessons at Notre Dame that we should learn and could use, but I think great institutions can develop their own benchmarks. It’s an overstatement to say we’re trying to become the Notre Dame of the Southwest or the Notre Dame of Baptist life. We will go our own way, and follow our own lights.”

Also, if you remember the Baylor discussion from a few weeks ago (click here for a review), please consider this conversation in brief between two Christian friends on the run in re Baylor and inerrancy:

Christian A:

OK, here’s my question: if Baylor has “taught secular geology and biology for 100 years” (by that, I assume, is meant the anti-biblical theory of evolution) and has always employed “religion” professors of the “moderate-to-liberal variety” (by that, I assume, is meant those who do not recognize the inerrancy of God’s Word and who read it [when they do] in such a way as to support their own preferences), then why, exactly, is it “a great place to get a Christian education?” What is distinctly Christian about it? And why would a Christian parent want to pay $100,000 to someone in order to have them undermine and subvert everything the parent has instilled in them for 18 years?

Christian B:

Inerrancy is a ticklish subject. Baylor has generally steered away from the fights over inerrancy. Number One: what does inerrancy mean? I trust by inerrancy you don’t mean literalism. I trust that by inerrancy you mean that the Bible is divinely inspired but the product of human hands and subject to human error. That position is consistent with what you learn at Baylor in its religion department.

I would say that Baylor is a very Baptist place. Moreover, Baylor is still a very evangelical Christian place...

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Category: Baylor
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
There is much discussion of Baylor University in the news and on the web this week. Most of it is connected with the denial of tenure for Francis Beckwith, a professor in the JM Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor. Here is a nice round-up of stories from Mere Comments (which includes this link worth reading from First Things by Joseph Bottum).

My comment is 12th in the queue on Mere Comments, but I will save you the trouble:

A Meltdown? Perhaps we overstate the problem. I would imagine that Baylor today (for Baylor students) is very much like Baylor was (for Baylor students) when I was there in the 1980s and then again in the 1990s and when my father was there in the early 1960s and how it will be when my boys are there in the late-2010s.

Baylor has taught secular geology and biology for more than 100 years. Baylor has always employed liberal history professors with degrees from big-name research universities. The Baylor religion department has always been of the moderate-to-liberal variety. And Baylor has always been and will continue to be a great place to get a Christian education.

Part of the current problem is the social awkwardness of the reformers. True Baylorites resent presumptuous outsiders who always seem so ready to tell us how lowly Baylor was before they took an interest in the 2012 project. I have heard enough of that forever.

On the other hand, it was probably unwise to dismiss a sincere scholar for reasons of "collegiality." What does that mean? How do you catalog, quantify or document something that nebulous? Obviously that was a PR disaster waiting to happen. An olive branch might have been wiser than the sledgehammer. Having said that, the Baylor family needs time to heal itself.

In the meantime, Baylor University is today what it always has been: a wonderful and secure place for Christian parents (and well-meaning parents of all persuasions) to entrust their children for four years.