BOLIVAR, Mo. — Southwestern Baptist University President Eric A. Turner launched a strategic planning process during the Fall 2018 semester with plans to initiate conversations specifically about faith, learning and orthodoxy during the Fall 2019 semester.
However, the timeline was moved forward after determining that this particular conversation needed to happen sooner.
On Nov. 28, the president and provost at SBU fired Clint Bass, a tenured associate professor of theology and philosophy, after he allegedly met with Missouri Baptist Convention leaders over multiple years in an effort to drive out other professors. In January, the educational policies and personnel committee notified Bass, SBU officials and the full trustee board of its unanimous decision to affirm the firing of Bass.
At a special-called meeting of the full SBU Board of Trustees on Jan. 22, the board censured a trustee, citing the trustee’s actions was perceived to violate the trust of the board in a conflict of interest. The trustee was identified as Kyle Lee, elected at the 2018 Missouri Baptist Convention annual meeting, who serves along with Bass as an elder at Southern Hills Baptist Church in Bolivar, Mo.
During that meeting, the board voted to affirm its commitment to traditional Baptist theology, including the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. Bass had accused the school of not teaching according to the BFM 2000. The board the trustees also voted to “formally accept the commissioning” of the external peer assessment committee previously approved by the Board’s executive committee.
David Dockery, was named as chair of SBU’s Peer Assessment Committee to discuss faith, learning and orthodoxy in December. In a Feb. 13 press release, Dockery has appointed five additional committee members.
Committee members are:
- David Dockery, committee chair, is president of Trinity International University in Chicago and previously served as president of Union University in Jackson, Tenn., for almost two decades. He is a respected leader in Southern Baptist higher education.
- Ken Hemphill is director of North Greenville University’s Center for Church Planting and Revitalization. He was president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary from 1994-2003 and national strategist from 2003-2011 for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Empowering Kingdom Growth emphasis.
- Barbara McMillin is president and board chair of the International Association of Baptist Colleges and Universities and president of Blue Mountain College in Mississippi.
- Joe Crider is a professor of church music and worship and director of the Institute for Biblical Worship at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has served as minister of music at various Southern Baptist churches and was on the music faculty at SBU from 1993-1996.
- Tim Howe is pastor of teaching and discipleship at Heritage Baptist Church, Lebanon, Mo., and a 2013 SBU graduate.
- Camden Pulliam is a 2010 SBU graduate who is now serving as director of admissions at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He was a resident director at SBU from June-December 2013.
“We are looking forward to having meaningful discussions with the Peer Assessment Committee,” said Rodney Reeves, professor of Biblical studies and dean of the Courts Redford College of Theology and Ministry. “The integration of orthodox faith and academic discipline is crucial to our purpose of preparing men and women for ministry in churches today.”
The committee’s work will include at least one visit to campus prior to spring break and one visit prior to spring graduation. The committee plans to meet with administration, faculty leadership and trustee leadership to help determine the scope of their efforts.
“I have long appreciated the work of Southwest Baptist University,” Dockery said. “I have been privileged to have a friendship with presidents Chaney, Blunt and Taylor, and I look forward to working with President Turner, Provost Skinkle, the SBU Board leaders and the SBU faculty on these very important matters. We want to encourage the University community to take the next steps to enhance distinctive Christian higher education at SBU. We take seriously the task that we have been given, and we want to ask for the prayers and support of the extended SBU community.”
“Dr. Dockery has assembled a great committee to facilitate this peer assessment that will help us as we make decisions for the University moving forward,” added Mark Rains, chair of the SBU Board of Trustees. “As trustees, we are all very passionate about SBU’s mission, especially the University being ‘a Christ-centered, caring academic community.’”