Two trustees at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Missouri, continued their attacks on Word&Way for reporting about the two-year controversy involving the school and the Missouri Baptist Convention. In addition to making false claims about Word&Way’s award-winning reporting on the conflict, the two repeatedly complained that Word&Way Editor Brian Kaylor, an SBU alumnus, even reported on the dispute over theology and control.
SBU trustee David Van Bebber cohosts with Adam Cochrun the “T.A.G. You’re It” weekly podcast, a show mostly devoted to apologetics. SBU trustee, Tim Carter, joined the program Monday (Nov. 23). Calling the episode “Kaylor’s Obsession,” it marked the third time in two months that the three devoted a full-hour episode to attacking Kaylor and Word&Way.
Van Bebber serves as pastor at First Baptist Church in Buffalo and Carter serves as executive pastor and elder at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Sedalia. Both of them, along with Cochrun, are part of the MBC’s “Apologetics Network.”
One primary complaint the three made in the newest episode — as in the earlier ones — was that Kaylor reported in September about a new creedal requirement on SBU religion professors. Those professors and the school’s president and provost will be required to not only affirm the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 but also the 1978 Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, the 1988 Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and the 2017 Nashville Statement on sexuality.
Both Van Bebber and Carter claim Word&Way broke confidential information with that report, as they inaccurately claimed the only people who officially knew of the new requirement at the time of Word&Way’s report were those in the executive session of the SBU Board when trustees created the new requirement.
In the earlier episodes, they claimed Kaylor shouldn’t have reported on confidential matters but then went on to talk about non-public aspects of the meeting like who pushed the new requirement. In the new episode, Van Bebber pushed back against the idea they revealed confidential trustee matters.
“Word&Way is lying. We did not reveal any confidential information at all,” Van Bebber claimed. “Brian Kaylor had confidential information that he was somehow given.”
“Everything that we released was already released as a public statement. You’re the one who initially gave information out that nobody should have had,” he added.
Van Bebber then argued that Kaylor should reveal a source for the information.
“The truth of the matter is Kaylor doesn’t have the integrity or the fortitude to actually tell us who it was that was telling him things that he shouldn’t. That’s the problem. That’s the central issue,” Van Bebber added. “Tell people who it was that gave you that message and gave you that information so that they can be rightly dealt with because they’ve done things that are destructive to the Kingdom.”
However, the codes of journalism ethics say otherwise. For instance, the code of ethics by the Evangelical Press Association explains, “If a source requests confidentiality, an EPA member should honor that agreement.”
Such protection of sources becomes even more critical for journalists when someone seeks the identity of a source so that the source “can be rightly dealt with.” Word&Way stands by the reporting on the three creedal statements — reporting later confirmed by Carter, Van Bebber, and the public release of the documents before the MBC annual meeting in October. And Word&Way will protect the identity of any source who provided that information.
Van Bebber also alleged Word&Way falsely wrote that he distributed a document last year attacking SBU religion professors. However, as Word&Way first reported in the April 2019 issue, Van Bebber earlier that year gave an 89-page report to fellow trustees and members of an outside committee helping the school evaluate its commitments to faith and learning.
The other two on the conversation argued the real problem wasn’t the actions taken by trustees and others but the fact that Word&Way reported on those actions. Cochran argued it was Word&Way “creating the division,” even though Word&Way’s coverage of the controversy started after SBU fired a religion professor who had met with MBC leaders to drive out other religion professors.
Carter similarly claimed Word&Way’s reporting has been “written in a divisive manner,” and he called it an “effort being put forward to try to drive a wedge and division between the MBC and one of its entities”
“We know for a fact there are a lot of faculty and staff that see these articles,” Carter said. “The amount of undue stress and worry and harm this causes to those individuals to read articles like this is not healthy.”
“There’s so much junk flying out there about this supposed conflict that’s going on that real people are getting hurt,” Carter added. “Listen, if you’re faculty and staff at SBU, there is great unity on the Board, there is great unity between SBU and the Convention, and we’re pressing forward.”
During an SBU Board meeting in September, trustees heard a report from the president of Faculty Senate about the low faculty morale. But the report noted the morale came in response to actions by the MBC. The report upset Van Bebber, who unsuccessfully tried to immediately move the meeting into executive session.
Cochran and Carter also insisted in the new episode that they hadn’t intended to question the faith of Kaylor during the earlier episodes.
“We never questioned the faith of the author of the articles. I did question whether or not he read his Bible,” Carter said.
Carter later argued Word&Way was “liberal,” which he said means “don’t really have a standard” and “don’t believe you can go to the Scriptures and argue it.”
“I’m not questioning the faith of anybody. I’m just saying, there’s a trend that you can see that once institutions start going liberal, once individuals start going liberal,” he said, “the farther you go down that trail the farther you get from Christianity and what Christianity is.”