New Cooperate Baptist Fellowship Statement Causes Problems
- CALLED OUT INFORMATION SERVICE
From the Associated Baptist Press
New CBF value statement puts funding of schools in limbo
November 30, 2000 - Volume: 00-108
By Craig Bird
ATLANTA (ABP) -- An anti-homosexual "organizational value" recently approved
by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is putting the funding spotlight on
two of the 11 theological-education "partners" that receive partial funding
from the Atlanta-based moderate organization.
The Fellowship's key leadership council adopted in October a new policy
barring financial support of "organizations that condone, advocate or affirm
homosexual practice" to be used in developing future budgets.
The policy, described by a CBF leader as "welcoming but not affirming" of
gays, still would allow funding of scholarships for students at schools with
an open-admissions policy that includes sexual orientation. It could place
the future of Baptist-studies programs at two Methodist universities at
risk, however, because they rely on CBF money for operating support.
Administrators of "Baptist houses of study" at Duke University in Durham,
N.C., and Emory's Candler School of Theology in Atlanta have no power to
change open-admissions policies that govern the universities to which they
are connected. Nor would it be a simple matter to shift CBF funding to
Since churches and individuals would rather give to scholarships than
operating funds, making up lost revenue through fund raising would be
difficult. Also, both the sponsoring schools and the law frown on
scholarships that are "negatively designated" to exclude a certain class of
Because of that, questions are being raised about whether a relationship
that CBF leaders readily acknowledge as beneficial will continue.
"I certainly agree that the Baptist houses bring a number of strengths to
the process of theological education and to the community of faith that
makes up CBF," said Gary Parker, the Fellowship's coordinator for Baptist
principles. However, he said, Fellowship leaders now must determine how the
new value statement "applies to each organization or institution with which
we have a relationship."
Directors of the Baptist houses at Duke and Emory said they hope the
"The CBF Coordinating Council has been very affirming of Candler," said
David Key, director of Baptist studies at Emory. "Hopefully the process will
work out. The loss of CBF funding would devastate us, perhaps shut down our
Duke's Baptist house could survive without the operating money from CBF but
"just barely," said Director Furman Hewitt. "We certainly would not be able
to expand our program to give students and local churches the assistance
they require from us."
The Fellowship funds theological education through a variety of approaches,
including freestanding seminaries, divinity schools attached to
Baptist-affiliated universities and Baptist houses in an ecumenical setting.
Supporters of the Baptist-house approach believe it has distinctive
A third CBF-supported Baptist house of studies, at Texas Christian
University's Brite Divinity School in Forth Worth, Texas, uses CBF funding
for scholarships and therefore would not be affected by the new policy. The
program's acting director, former Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
professor Jeff Pool, said learning in a diverse setting produces graduates
with a stronger Baptist identity.
"At a non-Baptist school like Brite, Baptists share in healthy dialogue with
people who represent different biblical and theological perspectives," Pool
said. "That requires our students to think explicitly about their Baptist
identity. Such a context does not exist in Baptist schools where all-Baptist
faculties and virtually all-Baptist student populations assume or presuppose
the meaning of being a Baptist Christian."
Courtney Kruger, pastor of First Baptist Church in Pendleton, S.C., and an
alumnus of the Duke Baptist house, agreed.
"My pastor told me I would never serve in a Southern Baptist church if I
went to Duke," Kruger recalled. "And I went with the thought in the back of
my mind to become a Methodist. But after the first six weeks I knew I could
never do that. As wonderful as Methodists are, I realized they were not what
I was. I was, and am, a Baptist! So I wound up being much stronger in my
Baptist ideology because I went to Duke."
Candler graduate Stacey Simpson, pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church in
Edison, Ga., said she began her theological education doubting she would
remain in a denomination that was increasingly telling women they could not
be called to ministry. Instead, she came out deeply committed to Baptist
positions and principles.
"It was incredible, figuring out who I was and why," she said. "I became
increasingly proud of my Baptist heritage." Rather than viewing her Baptist
affiliation as an accident of birth, she said she came to see it as a
"commitment" that had to be continually re-evaluated and challenged by
comparison with another faith tradition.
"I learned so much about the historical Baptist emphasis on soul liberty and
the impact that has had on Baptists and others," Simpson said. "That has
stayed with me, and I see that in the members of Fellowship Baptists -- they
are deeply committed to living out the obligations of being accountable to
God without intercessors."
Duke's Baptist house director Hewitt, a former professor at Southeastern
Baptist Theological Seminary, said the programs are good stewardship of
Baptist dollars. "Quality training of quality leaders comes at a cheap price
for Baptists, because we are building on the foundation laid by our
colleagues at Duke," he said.
Hewitt said the budget for Duke's Baptist house is $100,000, of which CBF
provides $20,000. "You can't build or operate a new divinity school for
that," he said. Duke's Baptist-studies program added a record 33 new
students this year, pushing enrollment to 105.
Candler's Key agreed: "The Baptist-studies model, the way it is set up at
Brite, Duke and here, is the best stewardship of Baptist-education money
going. We don't have to pay the light bill, hire the faculty or acquire
library books. CBF funds are invested to nurture students in Baptist life,
and place them in productive relationships with Baptist churches."
Scott Hudgins, who directed the Candler program 1994-97 and is now director
of admissions and student services at Wake Forest University Divinity
School, said another stewardship issue is accountability.
"The Baptist houses and study programs are the most streamlined and
accountable [of CBF partner schools,]" he said. "All monies go to
scholarships or program support of Baptist students. At the larger Baptist
schools, CBF block grants are utilized for buildings, heat and air, faculty
support and for reducing or subsidizing tuition for all students -- Baptist
Hewitt said students at Duke benefit from a world-class education. "Our
students study under faculty members who write many of the textbook
professors in other divinity schools and seminaries use," he said. "They
have the opportunity to study, within a Baptist context, at an historically
great ecumenical divinity school."
Interaction with other Christian denominations benefits both Baptist and
non-Baptist students, Key and Hewitt added.
"It is beneficial for Baptists that we are in a place to help fellow
believers, in our case Methodists, understand who Baptists are and the
biblical basis for what we believe," Key said. "We get to help them
understand some of the things the Southern Baptist Convention does."
Hewitt noted that "Baptist students learn from colleagues and professors
about alternatives for doing worship and church life." Enriched by
traditions and experiences of the wider Christian community, they are better
equipped to minister because they don't live and learn in a "just Baptist"
world, he said.
Added Hudgins: "The only ecumenical dimension of CBF's current list of
programs and partnerships is its partnership with Duke, Candler and Brite.
These schools invite CBF in to assist in the guidance of their large Baptist
student populations. That is a great privilege and lends credibility to
Directors of the three Baptist studies program said they hope CBF will learn
from other denominations about handling tough moral and theological issues.
"Candler understands why this [homosexuality] is an issue with Baptists,
because it's a big thing for Methodists too," Key said. "The United
Methodists have been very clear in forbidding the ordination of homosexuals
and same-sex marriages -- much clearer than the CBF statement. Candler's
board includes seven bishops from the Southeast Jurisdiction, which is the
most conservative of the five jurisdictions in the United Methodist Church.
"But they also are clear on what is the role of the church and what is the
role of the academy. CBF needs to understand that too. The Methodists have
taken a clear-cut stand on the gay/lesbian issue, but no one protests
Candler working with them as students. Part of the academic process needs to
allow open and honest discussion of differing positions."
Key said issues surrounding Christian baptism are much more divisive than
homosexuality when Baptist and Methodist students interact. "Our beliefs
about baptism go to the heart of who we are as Baptists, he said. "Yet there
is not a Baptist student at Candler who feels threatened or ostracized,
because it is accepted and expected that we will argue from our theological
perspective in a learning environment."
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