February 25, 2003
LIBERTY – William Jewell trustees have voted overwhelmingly to deny a request for information from the Missouri Baptist Convention’s interagency relations committee.
Trustees, meeting Feb. 14 on the William Jewell campus, voted not to answer three questions contained in a January 24 letter from Charles Burnett, chairman of the interagency relations committee to David Sallee, William Jewell president.
The requests were:
1. A complete list of professors at William Jewell along with their present home church and a list of boards and/or committees served on outside of their William Jewell responsibilities;
2. A complete list of the William Jewell trustees, including their home church and boards and/or committees served on away from William Jewell; and
3. A statement concerning the official teaching position of William Jewell on the first 11 chapters of Genesis, specifically the creation account.
The MBC Executive Board’s interagency committee formally launched an investigation into the William Jewell, following reports about pro-homosexual activity on the campus.
Burnett said he was "not surprised" by William Jewell’s action.
"I believe William Jewell has set their course and will not alter that course," Burnett said. "The things we asked for were simple. We felt those were things that would help us understand them a little better. We didn’t think the requests were out of line."
The letter initiating the inquiry also asked for a meeting between MBC leaders and the William Jewell board.
Burnett said Sallee and Don Duncan, board chairman, have agreed to meet with the committee, David Clippard, MBC executive director; Monte Shinkle, MBC president; and Jay Scribner, chairman of the MBC Executive Board’s administrative committee. A tentative date for the meeting, Burnett said, is March 13.
Burnett said he could not speculate what course the inquiry will follow.
In the letter to Sallee, Burnett, pastor of Harmony Heights Baptist Church, Joplin, assured Sallee that there is no intention by the MBC to take away the college’s autonomy.
"However, you must understand that the Missouri Baptist Convention is responsible for the purpose and intention of the dollars that we distribute to agencies, mission causes and other sources," Burnett wrote.
"It is our belief that the dollars we distribute to these causes are to be used for the expressed interest of propagating the Gospel of Jesus Christ and that the receiving agencies and mission causes be in sympathy and alignment to the beliefs and doctrine of the MBC and the SBC.
"Our Scriptural authority is the Holy Scriptures and a firm adherence to the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message."
Burnett told Sallee that the committee sees the importance of confirming "from you" and the board the practices and scriptural stand of the college.
"We are being inundated with questions and concerns from Baptists across the state, and we believe it is in the best interest of WJC and the MBC Executive Board to dialogue and bring about a unified answer to our constituent churches," Burnett said.
William Jewell issued a press release following the board’s decision.
"Since our founding, we have enjoyed a good relationship with the MBC. But fundamental changes brought on by new MBC leaders are seriously challenging that relationship," Duncan said. "We respect the Convention’s right to self-governance; we simply ask the same from them. Regardless of the outcome of our deliberations with the Convention, we will continue to reach out to Missouri Baptists and those of other faiths who desire a superior liberal arts education."
Sallee said he was gratified by the action taken by the William Jewell board.
"William Jewell College was founded upon and continues to be devoted to the model of education as exploration.
"There are some who want us to adopt the model of indoctrination, simplifying truth to easily digestible nuggets and translating it into uniform action, both personal and corporate.
"We will not do that," Sallee said.
The president said William Jewell is at its best when inclusion and the free exchange and exploration of ideas are present in the collegiate experiences of students.
"As a result," he added, "we expect our college to address any and all topics, with confidence in the academic freedom we enjoy. We also expect that freedom, like every freedom, to be exercised responsibly."
The MBC last year designated $1,643,000 for William Jewell from Cooperative Program money.