Southern Baptist Colleges' Annual Meeting Addresses Faith and Learning

( [email protected] ) Jun 25, 2004 12:48 PM EDT

A three-day annual meeting of the Association of Southern Baptist Colleges and Schools was held in Franklin, Tenn, May 31- June1 focusing on three themes: “The Call and Challenge to be a Distinctively Christian College or University,” “Developing a Theology for Baptist Higher Education” and “The University, the Church and the Culture.”

The three themes were addressed in a series of lecture led by Duane Litfin, president of Wheaton College in Illinois; David Dockery, president of Union University in Tennessee; and Tom Corts, president of Samford University in Alabama, exploring opportunities for integrating faith and learning. Other administrative matters including public relations, financial affairs, legal affairs, academic affairs, student development and denominational relations were also discussed at the meeting.

In the first Hester lecture, Litfin spoke of how to be a ‘distinctively’ Christian school. He told administrators of the 54 ASBCS institutions that:

“Distinctively Christian thinking is inevitably built upon the Trinitarian claim of the Lordship, and therefore the centrality, of Jesus Christ. This leads directly to the awareness that he is the One, the only One who can serve as the centerpiece of an entire curriculum, the One to whom we must relate everything and without whom no fact, no theory, no subject, no practice can be fully appreciated.”

In the second Hester lecture Dockery explained that theology and higher education go hand in hand. He said, “I believe theology can render service to Baptist higher education in many ways. It satisfies the mind so that we can know God, so that we can know the living Christ.”

Dockery continued, “We can appreciate our heritage and enliven our future hope. When this takes place, I believe Baptist colleges and universities can be strengthened. The Gospel in its fullness can be proclaimed,” he said. “Without the foundation of solid theology, there can be no effective long-term educational efforts that are truly and distinctively Baptist -— much less truly and distinctively Christian.”

He also said theology can help those called to serve in Baptist higher education “to better understand what we believe and why we believe it.”

During the third Hester lecture, Corts challenged school administrators to, “make peace with the reality.” He said:

“Make your peace with the reality that your institution is not like all others; it has a higher and holier calling, no matter the bias of the culture. And make your peace with the reality that the recognition and respect bestowed on other institutions may never be yours in a culture like ours.

At the meeting, several actions were taken to bring changes to the schools.

In regards to business matters, members of the association, which include the chief executive officer and the chief academic officer from each member school and a board of directors in manage of the business and affairs of the association, approved changes in their bylaws to increase the number of board members from 15 to 16 and to increase the rotating terms from three years to four years.

Members also approved an annual budget for the association of $239,292 with expected revenues of $249,225.

The ASBCS board of directors voted to deny membership renewal to Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, because Grand Canyon no longer meets membership requirements, as its status has been changed from a “non-profit Baptist-related institution” to a for-profit after it has been sold to a for-profit corporation.

The new officers and board members for 2004–05 were also elected.

Andy Westmoreland, president of Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Ark. was elected as the chair; Ron Ellis, president of California Baptist University in Riverside as the vice chair/chair elect; and Don Good, vice president for academic affairs of Cumberland College in Williamsburg, Ky., as the recording secretary.

New board members include Mark Brister, president of Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee; Arlen Dykstra, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Missouri Baptist University in St. Louis; David Jeffrey, provost and vice president for academic affairs of Baylor University in Waco, Texas; Richard Parker, vice president for financial affairs of Houston Baptist University; and Evans Whitaker, president, Anderson (S.C.) College.

The association was founded in 1948, with the goal of bringing Southern Baptist colleges and universities together to promote the interests of Christian education. Currently the association is owned by its 54 member schools in 18 states. The total enrollment of the member schools is about 123,000 students.