By Vicki Brown
Word&Way News Writer
As Scott Langston leaves Southwest Baptist University at semester's end, he knows he may be walking away from the career he loves.
And he believes he must give up that career because of SBU trustee misperceptions of Langston's participation in a Baptist General Convention of Missouri meeting two years ago and of an interview granted at that meeting.
SBU trustees did not promote the tenured professor when they granted other promotions in February. Believing he no longer has a future at the institution he has served for five years, Langston recently resigned as a professor of biblical studies in SBU's Courts Redford College of Theology and Church Vocations.
The professor and one-time Redford College assistant dean noted he is leaving voluntarily. "Nobody came to me and said you need to resign," he said.
In a May 10 interview, Langston said administrators have been reluctant to speculate on the trustees' reasons for passing him over for promotion. "Administrators have been reluctant to give me a reason, and even then they have couched them in [terms of] their perception of the trustee decision," he said.
Langston led a Bible study at the BGCM organizational meeting at Fee Fee Baptist Church, Bridgeton, in April 2002. He also granted an interview to former Baptist Press writer Todd Starnes.
The SBU professor said the university allows faculty participation in outside activities as long as staffers participate as individuals, not as representatives of the institution. Langston said he did not allow the BGCM to use his tie to SBU. "And it was the only meeting I attended in two years," he said.
Langston said he was told that "the trustees wanted to take SBU closer to the Missouri Baptist Convention" and that his association with the BGCM was contrary to that direction.
The Baptist Press article, which questioned Langston's approach to biblical interpretation, also played into the decision. "My perception of that article is that it was poorly done," he said. "I tried to point out that the article did not represent what I said."
He said he pointed out to administrators that Baptist Press stopped using Starnes as a correspondent over errors in a story based on an interview with U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige in April 2003.
Langston said he believes his service to the university was not an issue. "I was told there were no complaints about my job performance," he said.
Langston and his family decided he should resign because of underlying tension on campus and lack of administrative support. "Life is too short to be involved in the atmosphere here at SBU," Langston said, adding that the stress had taken a physical, mental and spiritual toll on the family.
"I felt I had little tangible support from administrators," Langston said. "The administration doesn't see it that way…. They said they had talked to people privately. But the point I made is that I had been publicly defamed…. Administrators wouldn't publicly support me."
SBU president Pat Taylor could not respond to Langston's comment because the institution's policies do not allow administrators to discuss personnel issues.
The professor said he is saddened and sometimes angry because people have been hurt. "This is not about 'let's do what's best for the church.' It's about politics.
"I think what's happened is unethical, unbiblical and unchristian. I don't want to be associated with that," he said.
"The administration doesn't see what's happening as unethical and unbiblical. We have a difference of opinion…but this is my perception. I respect their right to create whatever they want to create," he said. "What I'm reacting to is not the theological issue…but the way people have been treated."
Langston has not found another teaching position and is preparing himself for the possibility of leaving the profession. "This was a hard decision because this [teaching] is what I've prepared my whole life to do," he said.
Langston earned a bachelor of arts degree at Houston Baptist University, a master of divinity degree at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a master of arts degree in history at the University of Texas at Arlington. He completed a doctor of philosophy degree in Old Testament at Southwestern in 1992.
He was an assistant professor of Old Testament at Southwestern before accepting the SBU post in 1999. He served as assistant dean of Redford College from 1999 to 2002.
Langston has written several scholarly articles and has presented papers at many conferences, including several for the Society of Biblical Literature.
He is currently completing a volume on Exodus for the Blackwell Bible Commentary Series by Blackwell Publishers.