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Ga. college to require faculty assent for BFM
Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press
January 04, 2010
4 MIN READ TIME

Ga. college to require faculty assent for BFM

Ga. college to require faculty assent for BFM
Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press
January 04, 2010

CLEVELAND, Ga. — Truett-McConnell College in northeast

Georgia plans to become the first Baptist college to require its faculty to

affirm the Baptist Faith and Message as revised by the Southern Baptist

Convention in 2000.

Trustees of the four-year school — named

after George W. Truett, the legendary pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas

for 47 years, and Fernando McConnell, Truett’s cousin and the longtime pastor

of Druid

Hills Baptist Church in Atlanta — voted Dec. 4 to adopt the policy

intended to signal solidarity with the Georgia Baptist Convention.

“The Georgia Baptist Convention and our churches deserve

nothing less than a faculty that will abide by nothing less than the essentials

of the faith,” said Truett-McConnell President Emir Caner, according

to the Georgia Baptist Christian Index.

“Institutions that do not faithfully support the theology of

Southern Baptists do not deserve the faithful support of Southern Baptists,”

Caner said.

The policy runs counter to other historically Baptist

colleges and universities that in recent decades have loosened or severed ties

with sponsoring state conventions.

Emir Caner, who converted from Islam to Christianity as a teenager, is best known for work, along with his brother Emir Caner, warning about purported evils of the Islamic faith.

Most have done so to prevent pressure to

force their professors to move from moderate theology to the more conservative

ideology imposed upon SBC seminaries in the 1980s and 1990s.

Winds of theological and political change prompted Georgia

Baptists to part ways with their flagship Mercer University in 2007.

They also opened

the door for the 37-year-old Caner, founding dean of an undergraduate program

at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, to become the youngest

president in Truett-McConnell’s history in 2008.

“The 20th century saw the degradation of sound, biblical

theology,” Caner said. “But thankfully on a national level our seminaries, mission

agencies, the (SBC) Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and our other

agencies are now faithful to the Word of God, but we can’t say the same about

all our state Baptist colleges. I will stand on the Baptist Faith and Message.”

Southern Baptists originally adopted the Baptist Faith and

Message confessional statement in 1925, largely to respond to the debate over

evolution then dividing religious bodies. They updated the faith statement in

1963 to quell concerns about biblical authority.

After a conservative faction

solidified control of denominational entities in the 1990s, the convention

updated the Baptist Faith and Message in 2000, adding restrictions on the roles

of women and removing

a key phrase citing Jesus Christ as the lens through which Scripture should be

interpreted.

Sam Pelletier, chairman of the college’s Christian studies

department, said he supported the change and has been requiring new hires to

affirm not only the Baptist Faith and Message, but also a statement on biblical

inerrancy for eight years.

The Christian Index also quoted Truett-McConnell mathematics

professor Roy Hardy, who questioned the wisdom of the change. He said he agrees

with most — but not all — of the Baptist Faith and Message and does not believe

the statement is infallible.

“I feel it goes well beyond the ‘essentials’ of

the faith,” he said.

The Christian Index reported that Caner told current faculty

they would be given 18 months to decide whether or not to sign the document

because he wanted to be “pastoral” in his approach.

Caner,

who was raised as a Sunni Muslim in Ohio before converting to Christianity as a

teenager, is well-known in Southern Baptist circles for lectures and writings

critical of Islam.

Unveiling Islam, a book he co-authored in 2002 with his

brother Ergun

Caner, president of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, was cited by

former SBC President Jerry Vines as source for his controversial quote that

year labeling the Prophet Muhammad a “demon-possessed pedophile.”

Established

in 1946, Truett-McConnell College sits on 288 acres in the mountain community

of Cleveland, Ga., near the headwaters of the Chattahoochee River. Enrollment

in the fall of 2008 totaled 451 students.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Allen is senior writer for Associated

Baptist Press.)