December 16, 2002
JEFFERSON CITY — A Missouri Baptist Convention Executive Board subcommittee has voted to open an inquiry into reports of a homosexual agenda on the William Jewell campus at Liberty.
Meeting at the Baptist Building in Jefferson City, the Executive Board’s inter-agency committee decided to take the action following news reports about pro-homosexual activities at the MBC-affiliated school at Liberty.
A string of recent news reports about William Jewell precipitated the inquiry, including:
- Reports by both Baptist Press and KMBC, a Kansas City television station, about some William Jewell students campaigning openly for a pro-homosexual plank in the Student Bill of Rights; and
- A scheduled controversial play that presents a variety of women talking about sexually explicit issues.
Charlie Burnett, pastor of Harmony Heights Baptist Church, Joplin, and chairman of the Executive Board’s inter-agency committee, said both he, David Clippard, MBC Executive Director, and Kenny Qualls, MBC president, had been flooded with emails and phone calls following the initial news reports about the pro-homosexual agenda at William Jewell.
"Missouri Baptists want to know what is going on," Burnett said.
The Baptist Press report dealing with the scheduled performance of "The Vagina Monologues" on Feb. 14-15 on the William Jewell campus was released the day after the Executive Board convened.
In a related story, Baptist Press also quoted the chair of the William Jewell department of psychology saying there is a pattern of accepting homosexuality at the school. She cautioned Missouri Baptists that the spiritual and intellectual souls of the students are at risk.
Patricia Schoenrade, a William Jewell professor since 1989, told the news service that she is very concerned about the advocacy of homosexuality as a viable lifestyle being affirmed at the school.
Rob Eisele, William Jewell’s director of communications, told Baptist Press that action by the students would have no impact on official school policy.
"If it is approved it would simply be an expression of the students’ expectations of the college and would not influence policy," Eisele told the news service, adding that there is nothing in William Jewell’s policy in support of or opposed to homosexuals.
Baptist Press attempted to contact David Sallee, William Jewell president, to ask about the appearance of pro-homosexual activities on the campus of the MBC institution. Sallee did not return calls to Baptist Press, but he did make a presentation to the MBC inter-agency committee on Dec. 9 and another presentation to the full Executive Board on Dec. 10. He refused to take any questions from board members following his presentation.
Sallee told the inter-agency committee that the "tempest" had been created by a small number of students.
"If the amendment is approved, it won’t affect how the school handles threats of discrimination," Sallee said. He added the student amendment is not legally binding and would not change administrative practice.
Both Qualls and Clippard sat in on Sallee’s presentation to the committee. After listening to Sallee, Qualls said he was more concerned about the attitude of the William Jewell administration toward homosexual activity on campus than about the action of the students.
"We want your students to hear ‘Thus saith the Lord,’" Qualls said. "I think the spotlight is on the students and also on the faculty and you as the administrator of William Jewell. I think you ought to stand up and say this is what we believe and what the Bible teaches. I find nothing in Scripture where the opposite view of what God said is brought before the people."
"There seems to be a reoccurring major difficulty," he said. "We want to be able to treat this fairly and understand it, but there are certain things we stand for. At the top is that God’s Word is very solid, true and inerrant. We will have to dig into this deeper and would like your cooperation in this matter."
Sallee held firm in his defense of the William Jewell position.
"We offer a great liberal arts education," he said. "We are proud of the multiple views that are presented. You can find people on all sides of the issues. If we’re going to provide students a good education, we’ve got to give them multiple views. Kids need to hear both (Jim) Talent and (Jean) Carnahan and Paul Duke and then make a decision for themselves."
Carnahan was one of two Southern Baptist senators to be defeated in the 2002 elections. She was the school’s 2002 commencement speaker. During her campaign, Carnahan was noted as a pro-choice and pro-homosexual candidate.
Duke, son of G. Nelson Duke, former pastor of First Baptist, Jefferson City, has been a key spokesman for the pro-homosexual faction within the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF). He delivered the school’s 2002 baccalaureate address. Duke is a former member of the CBF’s Coordinating Council and a New Testament professor at the CBF-supported Mercer School of Theology in Georgia.
"Paul preached a marvelous sermon to our students," Sallee said.
Committee member Gary Barkley posed a question to Sallee during the inter-agency meeting:
"Does what you are doing make it institutional acceptance?" Barkley asked, adding that he believes students need to be guided, not indoctrinated in that process.
Sallee responded that some will "see it the way you see it and others will not. As educators we deal with multiple issues and multiple points of view."
In a statement to Baptist Press, Clippard called on the William Jewell administration to respond immediately to the pro-homosexual atmosphere.
"I’m shocked that this kind of thing would be debated on a Baptist college campus," Clippard said. "With that kind of film being endorsed and shown on campus, there needs to be some severe accountability. It may be a liberal arts school, but it is a liberal arts school that receives Cooperative Program dollars. I believe there needs to be some accountability to the Missouri Baptists that support them."
Qualls told Baptist Press he believes there is an "obvious trend" toward support of the homosexual lifestyle at William Jewell.
"I am totally opposed to an openness of embracing homosexuality on a Baptist school campus," Qualls said. "We need to love all people, but we do not compromise on the Word of God. It’s not a conservative or liberal issue; it’s a right and wrong issue."
Both Qualls and Clippard are urging Missouri Baptists to contact William Jewell’s administration and trustees and let them know that "this clear falling away from the teachings of the Bible" is not acceptable.
Qualls described the William Jewell issue as "key" and "pressing."
"If the administration does not take a stand, William Jewell will take a step toward losing its distinctive as a Bible-based Christian school," Qualls told Sallee. "Missouri Baptists want to know: What is the William Jewell philosophy and is it a philosophy we want to agree with."
The inter-agency findings will be presented to the Executive Board at its April meeting.