The dean of the religion department at a Missouri Baptist university recently investigated for doctrinal reasons has resigned to become pastor of a local church.
Rodney Reeves, dean of the Redford School of Religion at Southwest Baptist University, announced Sunday on Facebook his call as senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Jonesboro, Arkansas. The church announced the vote to extend the call as 374-1.
Reeves, who served briefly as interim pastor of the church in 2014, was pastor of Central Baptist Church in Jonesboro — a city in northeast Arkansas that is home to Arkansas State University — before joining the Southwest Baptist University faculty in 2000. While there he helped minister to the community in the aftermath of a mass shooting at Westside Middle School that killed four students and one teacher in 1998.
A third-party review of religious teaching at Southwest Baptist University, located in Bolivar and affiliated with the Missouri Baptist Convention, recently concluded that a lack of doctrinal clarity in the Redford School had caused an “erosion of trust” within the state’s Southern Baptist community.
The university’s president pledged “to clarify, boldly articulate and implement” the school’s faith statement in ways “that will further align and strengthen our Baptist identity and Christian faith.”
The outside review was initiated after the firing last November of a professor deemed outside the university’s canon of ethics for sharing concerns about the doctrinal positions of colleagues off campus without their consent.
One of those concerns included past comments by Reeves, who formerly taught New Testament at Williams Baptist College in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, from 1987 until 1995, that he leaned slightly toward the view that after death the wicked are destroyed, or “annihilated,” instead of punished for eternity in hell.
He clarified in a blog in December that while the Bible uses language describing hell both ways, he now views the two ideas as a “paradox,” affirming that at the same time “hell is both endless punishment and destruction.”
First Baptist Church in Jonesboro is aligned with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Arkansas.
Reeves said on Facebook he is excited about his new church but sad to leave work he has loved for 19 years, faculty colleagues and friends at First Baptist Church in Bolivar.
“I made a vow to God many years ago to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to minister to the Body of Christ,” Reeves said in a bio posted on Facebook by First Baptist Church July 22. “I have tried to keep that promise as a member of a Baptist church, as a minister, and as a college professor.”
“I study Scripture because I want to be a committed disciple of Jesus,” he said. “I teach biblical studies in an effort to serve the needs of the Church. I preach the gospel in hopes of advancing the Kingdom of God, trying to encourage each other to fulfill Jesus’ commandments: to love God with all of our heart, soul, strength, and mind, to love our neighbor as ourselves, to love one another as he loves us, and to make disciples of all nations.”
Southwest Baptist University announced a job opening for a new dean of theology and ministry in an employment opportunities section on the university website. Job requirements include “committed Southern Baptist and active in Southern Baptist church” and “personal affirmation of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.”