By Bob Allen
Louisiana College President Joe Aguillard has lost trustee support and been asked to resign, according to a story quoting multiple sources published March 26 in The Town Talk newspaper in Alexandria, La.
Aguillard, 57, president of the Louisiana Baptist Convention-affiliated school in Pineville, La., since 2005, reportedly said in a meeting with his senior leadership team on Wednesday that he has no plans to step down.
Less than a month ago the newspaper said trustees were working to extend Aguillard’s contract after a press release declared the president “fully exonerated” of allegations that prompted a trustee investigation last year.
The tide began to turn, however, after confidential documents exchanged internally prior to a 17-13 vote by college trustees to retain Aguillard as president in April 2013 were leaked to the public.
The Town Talk and a Southern Baptist pastor in Montana with a blog and radio program obtained documents alleging, among other things, that Aguillard misappropriated designated funds, lied to trustees and donors and violated the school’s whistleblower policy.
Since then a former vice president sued for wrongful termination, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools announced plans to reinvestigate the school’s accreditation and students and alumni gathered for a campus protest.
The most famous member of the Louisiana College board of trustees, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, wrote a letter March 3 claiming trustees were misadvised that they could not ask questions or seek information about concerns as individual board members outside the confines of a duly called board meeting.
Perkins said he doesn’t think an independent investigation by a law firm supports claims of Aguillard’s exoneration and asked that both items be added to the agenda of the next regularly scheduled meeting of the board of trustees.
Aguillard, a former LC professor shown in a 2011 YouTube video eating a live earthworm to illustrate a point in a chapel sermon, has been embroiled in various controversies since fellow faculty members voted 53-12 against his nomination as president in January 2005.
Opponents filed a lawsuit claiming trustees violated their own bylaws in the nomination process. A state district judge validated Aguillard’s election in March 2005.
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools lifted a year’s probation on Louisiana College in December 2005, after trustees reversed a restrictive textbook policy and other practices that raised concerns about academic freedom.
SACS issued a “warning” to Louisiana College in 2011, citing non-compliance with several standards expected of an accredited institution. The agency reaffirmed the school’s accreditation last December, but a SACS official told The Town Talk the investigation might be reopened because of allegations that signatures on accreditation documents were forged.
Aguillard’s most recent skirmish began in January 2013, when he posted a personal column stating “my love for all Baptists, including Calvinists, does not constitute our approval of its being advocated at Louisiana College.”
Coming on the heels of a decision not to renew the contracts of three faculty members — two with doctorates from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary — many read those comments as declaring a Calvinist purge.
J.D. Hall, pastor of Southern Baptist-affiliated Fellowship Church of Sidney, Mont., and co-founder of Reformation Montana who obtained and posted trustee documents on his blog and discussed the allegations on his Pulpit & Pen radio program, said at first he believed Aguillard concocted the story of an alleged Calvinist coup at Louisiana College as a ruse to draw attention away from problems in his administration.
In his March 27 podcast, however, Hall said it now appears the anti-Calvinist campaign began with David Hankins, executive director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention and member of the LC board of trustees, in an attempt to get his son elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Wednesday’s Town Talk article said Hankins has withdrawn his support for Aguillard but would not discuss it with the press.
Eric Hankins, pastor of First Baptist Church in Oxford, Miss., authored a widely disseminated rebuttal of Calvinism titled “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation” in 2012.
Hankins also sponsored a resolution at the 2012 SBC annual meeting in New Orleans defending the “sinner’s prayer,” an evangelical term referring to a prayer of repentance in which the sinner typically asks Jesus to enter the person’s heart. That was after a well-known Calvinist preacher sparked controversy with a sermon labeling the practice a “superstitious prayer” not supported by Scripture.
Eric Hankins was nominated for second vice president of the SBC in 2012 but didn’t win. So far one candidate has been announced for president at the 2014 SBC annual meeting scheduled for June 10-11 in Baltimore.
Ronnie Floyd, pastor of Cross Church, a multi-site megachurch with four campuses in Northwest Arkansas, will be nominated by Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and leader in the New Calvinism movement, also known as “young, restless and reformed.”
Floyd, who served with Mohler on a Great Commission Task Force chaired by Floyd in 2010, is on record saying that he believes a “hyper” form of Calvinism marked by a spirit of condemnation poses a potential threat in Southern Baptist life, but what the denomination needs is evangelists for the gospel and not their own theological persuasion.