It’s becoming increasingly difficult for some to believe Hardin-Simmons University decided to close Logsdon Seminary, following the next academic year, for purely financial reasons.
Just days after the West Texas university disclosed the closure to financially strengthen its undergraduate theology program, one of its professors tweeted she will be let go.
“I learned yesterday that Hardin-Simmons has fired me. I’ve been given a one-year contract,” Susan Pigott, professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at the Logsdon School of Theology, shared on Facebook Friday morning.
Pigott, on the faculty since 1993, did not respond to telephone and e-mail requests for comment.
But it was a particularly galling revelation for those faculty, students and alumni whose grief was met with assurance that the moderate seminary was not being closed to appease conservative groups – including those opposed to women in ministry or leadership.
“But we do know credibly that there are a number of influential churches and pastors leaning on HSU’s leadership to do something about Logsdon because of theological reasons,” said Jonathan Davis, a Logsdon seminary graduate and senior pastor of Beale Memorial Baptist Church in Tappahannock, Virginia.
“And just knowing the lay of the land, I would say that women in ministry is part of that,” he said.
An HSU spokesman said university officials are not granting interviews on the closure or about Pigott’s employment status. Instead, he referred to an online statement that the funds saved by the closure will be used to cover the seminary’s deficits and to support the undergraduate theology school.
But “Save Logsdon Seminary,” a new and rapidly growing Facebook group, issued a statement Friday expressing its distrust of university leadership and dismay at Pigott’s eventual termination.
“The dismissal of Dr. Pigott shows an outright dismissal, not only of a loyal and senior faculty member, but in our view, communicates disdain for women in theological teaching positions,” the group said in its release.
“This leaves us with little doubt that the closure of Logsdon was, in large part, theologically motivated,” according to the group which was approaching 420 members late Friday afternoon.
Matters aren’t helped by Bruntmyer’s “veneer of transparency” and failure “to answer a single meaningful question regarding Logsdon’s financials, or the actual state of the Logsdon endowment,” the group said.
Davis, who is one of the group’s administrators, said its goal, shy of convincing the university to reverse its decision, is to inspire transparency about the finances and influencers behind the decision.
“The burden is on the administration to prove why we are wrong in what we are thinking,” he said.
Another purpose of the Facebook group is to provide the Logsdon community a place to grieve and express other emotions.
Group member Corey Cornutt said he’s seen a lot of emotion in the online setting.
“There is some sadness and loss,” said Cornutt, the lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Grandview, Texas, and a graduate of both HSU and Logsdon Seminary.
He’s also seeing expressions of hope that the seminary may be saved.
“I wouldn’t call it defiance, but it’s resistance,” he said.
The seminary’s closing will also be a blow for Christians in West Texas because the nearest alternatives are hours away, he said.
Cornutt said he’s particularly saddened by the news about Pigott, who was his Old Testament professor as an undergraduate.
“I went in from a very conservative background thinking the role she had teaching Bible to people going into ministry – that that was something men did,” Cornutt said.
“Encountering her in class it opened my eyes and broadened my worldview,” he said. “It’s sad to know she will not be able to do that for others.”
In its news release, “Save Logsdon Seminary” said Pigott’s departure may not bode well for the undergraduate program.
“It is with deep sadness, but also anger, that we continue to witness the unraveling of Logsdon Seminary, and now Logsdon School of Theology.”
Robert P. Sellers: Losing Logsdon Seminary: broken commitments and wounded spirits