February 19, 2020
To the Editor:
Hopefully Baptists and anyone interested in preserving academic freedom have been following the multiple reactions and responses to the closing of Logsdon Seminary in Abilene, Texas; the subsuming of the Logsdon School of Theology as a small department under the College of Liberal Arts; and the closing of graduate and undergraduate programs and degrees in the School of Theology and its seminary along with the termination of teaching contracts for long-standing, devoted faculty members.
These actions represent a fundamentalist-driven take down of a moderate Baptist seminary that championed women in ministry, valued interreligious dialogue, welcomed international students from multiple countries, affirmed all people as persons of worth in God’s eyes, engaged difficult theological questions creatively and taught students how to think rather than what to think.
But there are two groups from whom interested and sympathetic parties have not – and will never – hear. These are the staff and faculty who accepted the offered buy-out from HSU last year in the plan to finance capital building projects, as well as the hiring of dozens of administrative personnel by the president, through the release of current, faithful employees. These people, who love Logsdon and HSU, are silent because they were required to sign a non-disclosure agreement in order to receive their money. If they speak out, revealing any internal university issues or speaking ill of their employers, they could lose the remainder of the funds they were promised.
The other group from whom current students, alumni, former faculty and staff, donors and friends of Logsdon have not, and cannot hear, are current staff and faculty. They are silent for fear of being summarily dismissed, should they relate information about the actions of the administration or university trustees.
This silence is regrettable. Without a doubt, many of these staff and faculty members have much to share about the ethos at Logsdon and HSU, the manipulative mishandling of decisions and the tragic effect those decisions are having on the school, its employees and, most importantly, its students and alumni. But they are effectively muzzled.
I also believe, however, that this deafening silence can be inspiring. We who are not muzzled should be challenged to speak for the voiceless. We must interpret the silence as the behavior of those who are between a rock and a hard place – eager, perhaps, to tell what they know, but unable to speak in order to protect their finances or their very jobs. Accordingly, we must speak for them, because we love the truth, and we support a theological school and seminary where no one feared the truth, but felt it was always freeing.
So, I have to ask a couple of pertinent questions. Does this inability to communicate the truth honestly, on the part of so many persons who love HSU, really represent what the HSU president claims to promote – transparency? More pointedly, do these actions to enforce loyalty above principle and compliance over truth mean that HSU’s administrators and trustees have listened more to their lawyers than to their own Christian consciences?
These questions linger in the air as I look across the campus, sense the pain and wish for a place where all voices and perspectives could be heard.
Robert P. Sellers
Robert P. Sellers | Losing Logsdon Seminary: broken commitments and wounded spirits
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