I am an undergraduate nursing student at Southwest Baptist University, planning to graduate in May 2022 with a bachelor of science degree in nursing, a minor in gerontology, a minor in psychology and an emphasis in social work. I have been attending SBU since fall 2016.
SBU is my home away from home. It is full of love and dedication to Christian higher education. I credit the deepening and strengthening of my faith in Jesus Christ to the people who work at SBU. They have guided me, encouraged me, and challenged me to make my faith personal. Because of SBU, I have learned the tools that will help me share the gospel and the loving mercy and grace of Jesus Christ through my vocation.
I am proud to proclaim that SBU has been a launching pad for kingdom work ever since its founding in 1878. However, something now threatens that longstanding tradition: The Missouri Baptist Convention.
In consultation with other students and alumni, I have listed four grievances against the Missouri Baptist Convention. It brings me no joy to have to highlight these flaws. These opinions stated are solely my own and written on my own accord.
First, the MBC has engaged in hypocritical actions regarding the Baptist Faith & Message 2000. The MBC has made quite clear its position on the importance of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. Therefore, it should be expected that the MBC follow the doctrine of this statement itself.
Section 1 of Article IX of the Articles of Agreement of Southwest Baptist University: Amended and Restated states, “All administrators, faculty other than theology faculty and staff must annually indicate their ongoing commitment to perform their duties and teach consistent with and not contrary to the Baptist Faith & Message 2000.” Sadly, the MBC has not been holding itself to the same standards. To force SBU to comply to the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 as a show of force and authority while the MBC chooses to ignore certain doctrinal instructions itself is damaging to the Christian image.
Article VII of the Baptist Faith & Message 2000, titled “Education,” says: “An adequate system of Christian education is necessary to a complete spiritual program for Christ’s people.”
As a future nurse, I will encounter countless individuals in various stages of life in a wide array of circumstances and situations. I will have the ability to discuss the gospel of Jesus Christ with them, using tools learned at SBU. For some people, this encounter may be the only true opportunity to speak with a Christian and accept Christ as their Savior. In order for this to be true for all students, SBU must maintain its reputation as “an adequate system of Christian education.”
“The MBC is requiring all faculty and staff to be Southern Baptist, even in departments and studies that are not church-related vocations.”
However, the MBC is requiring all theology and ministry faculty and staff to be Southern Baptist. SBU faculty and staff are evangelical Christians. Forcing them all to be Southern Baptist in areas where specific denominational beliefs bear little relevance to the course content will hurt the university’s ability to hire and retain quality and competent faculty and staff.
Article VII also states: “The freedom of a teacher in a Christian school, college, or seminary is limited by the pre-eminence of Jesus Christ, by the authoritative nature of the Scriptures, and by the distinct purpose for which the school exists.” Yes, if faculty of SBU are clearly supporting and promoting teachings that contradict the word of God, action should be taken. However, the university must maintain a level of academic freedom.
The MBC has overstepped its authority in this matter. When teaching theology, students should be knowledgeable on a wide variety of beliefs so they can better defend their own faith. Teaching other theological viewpoints does not necessarily mean those viewpoints are endorsed. Look at biological evolution as an example. Even Christian scientists who may not believe the theory need to know what it is. With this knowledge, they can better defend their own beliefs and be competitive and present in their field while promoting the kingdom of God.
Article XIV states: “Christ’s people should, as occasion requires, organize such associations and conventions as may best secure cooperation for the great objects of the kingdom of God. Such organizations have no authority over one another or over the churches. They are voluntary and advisory bodies designed to elicit, combine, and direct the energies of our people in the most effective manner.”
“The board of trustees should work in a spirit of cooperation with the MBC, not authorization from them.”
When the MBC began its relationship with SBU, it was an affiliate. While the MBC elects our trustees, the slate used to be proposed by SBU, which allowed that the board should be more autonomous from the MBC. The board of trustees should work in a spirit of cooperation with the MBC, not authorization from them. Amendments made in the new SBU bylaws grant the MBC significant authority over SBU. This bylaw gives the MBC final authority to elect and remove trustees, decline faculty/staff hires if they are not “Southern Baptist,” and near complete discretion and control over SBU’s assets. This is in direct violation of Article XIV of the Baptist Faith & Message 2000.
This is especially audacious considering that only 2% of SBU’s budget comes from the MBC. Only 2% funding for nearly 100% control of assets is abhorrent.
Article XIV also states: “Members of New Testament churches should cooperate with one another in carrying forward the missionary, educational, and benevolent ministries for the extension of Christ’s kingdom.” The MBC and SBU should cooperate with each other. The current relationship is one where the MBC has authority over SBU. This is not Christian cooperation. Our institutions should be working together, not against each other in order to further advance the kingdom of God.
Article XV of the Baptist Faith & Message 2000, titled “The Christian and Social Order,” states: “In order to promote these ends Christians should be ready to work with all men of good will in any good cause, always being careful to act in the spirit of love without compromising their loyalty to Christ and his truth.” The MBC has failed to carefully act in the spirit of love. Instead of trying to work together to resolve issues, the MBC forced its way through the process and exercised its authority as a form of punishment on SBU.
“Instead of showing love and understanding, the MBC bullied SBU into submission with its trustee picks.”
For example, at the 2019 annual meeting, the MBC had a disagreement with SBU over who would serve on the board of trustees. Instead of showing love and understanding, the MBC bullied SBU into submission with its trustee picks, ignoring the will and self-determination of the university. Ephesians 4:2 states, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Sadly, I have not seen this done by the MBC.
Second, the MBC refused to compromise with SBU in 2019 trustee selection. Prior to the annual meeting of 2019, SBU used to select and vet a slate of trustees to be approved and elected by the MBC Executive Committee. To my knowledge, the Executive Committee always would approve of these trustees because the two institutions operated in a spirit of Christian cooperation. However, in 2019, something different occurred: the Executive Committee rejected all five of SBU’s trustee nominations and imposed a list of its own. SBU responded by requesting a compromise, with a slate composed of some SBU appointees and some MBC-EC appointees. Again, the MBC rejected this.
SBU then reacted in a way that imitated Jesus’s example in Matthew 5: “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.”
SBU decided to turn the other cheek and accept the Executive Committee-appointed trustees even after the MBC refused to work with SBU to resolve the situation. As a result, complications occurred.
On Feb. 22 , 2020, SBU released a statement stating that “a newly elected trustee may have mishandled child sexual abuse allegations against one of his staff members in 2005.” This trustee was one of the trustees imposed upon SBU without their input or approval.
Word&Way reports that in 2005, Shawn Davies was convicted on charges including statutory sodomy, sex with a minor, and sexual abuse stemming from allegations involving at least 13 boys at four churches. Davies served time in prison in both Kentucky and Missouri. At the time of his arrest, he was the music and youth minister at First Baptist Church in Greenwood, Mo., where he had been hired by the new SBU trustee now being investigated.
“Due to the MBC’s lack of cooperation with SBU, a trustee who mishandled a sexual assault investigation was placed on the board.”
Due to the MBC’s lack of cooperation with SBU, a trustee who mishandled a sexual assault investigation was placed on the board. There is no place for such poor discretion here at SBU.
Third, the MBC has engaged in reckless litigation. The Missouri Baptist Convention has had its fair share of litigation. These lawsuits have cost MBC church members millions of dollars as a result. According to a Word&Way article from Nov. 6, 2019, “Seventeen years ago, the MBC sued five Baptist ministry organizations — including Word&Way — and then later sued multiple banks, businesses and individuals.”
Then the MBC spent more than 16 years in litigation. Initially, they claimed their lawsuits didn’t violate the clear biblical teaching in 1 Corinthians 6 that prohibits suing brothers and sisters because they were suing organizations and not individuals — and then they sued individuals, too.
Imagine what millions of dollars could have done for the kingdom instead of being squandered in pointless and reckless litigation.
When those settlements finally ended earlier in the year, the MBC still was not satisfied. It threatened to take legal action against SBU.
Fourth, the MBC’s actions risk accreditation for SBU. The actions of the MBC are putting SBU’s accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission at risk. According to Core Component 2.C. of Criterion 2 of the HLC’s Criteria for Accreditation, “The governing board of the institution is autonomous to make decisions in the best interest of the institution in compliance with board policies and to ensure the institution’s integrity.”
The MBC has exerted an extraneous amount of authority on SBU’s board of trustees. I would not consider the new SBU board of trustees to be “autonomous.” With the amendments to the Bylaws and Articles of Agreement, the board is a literal extension of the MBC Executive Committee. Therefore, SBU no longer meets the accreditation requirements.
Accreditation is fundamental for the success of the university. If SBU loses its accreditation, enrollment will plummet, students will transfer, faculty will quit, and after 142 years of providing quality Christian higher education, SBU will fall into the depths of economic ruin. I implore you to not allow this to happen!
“Should SBU lose accreditation as a result of the newly imposed guidelines and bylaws, the consequences will be insurmountable.”
Should SBU lose accreditation as a result of the newly imposed guidelines and bylaws, the consequences will be insurmountable. And I, along with countless of other students and alumni will hold the Missouri Baptist Convention solely to blame.
I may just be a 20-something undergraduate student; however, I cannot sit silently by and watch my university, my alma mater, my home, go to ruin. This university means so much to so many people.
It is my fervent prayer that the Lord God Jesus Christ will have his hand of mercy, grace and forgiveness on our organizations during this time. I pour out my heart and ask that MBC Executive Board members listen to the perspective of the students, the life of this university. We do not want our institutions to be enemies. We want peace and reconciliation.
However, reconciliation is a two-way street. While I will be praying for the transgressions that may have been wrought against you, I ask that you find it in your heart to forgive, just as Christ has forgiven us.
Jeffrey Metzler is an undergraduate student at Southwest Baptist University.