William Jewell senate president takes stand for morality
By Allen Palmeri
December 2, 2003
LIBERTY , Mo. – Tim Perkins comes across as a budding politician.
The college sophomore from Smithville, son of Mike and Diane Perkins and a member in good standing of Grace Community Church , a Missouri Southern Baptist congregation in his hometown, tends to be very careful with his words. He presides over the Student Senate at William Jewell College —a Baptist arts college that in November was voted out of the 2004 Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) budget because of its theologically liberal positions on education and homosexuality. The move by the MBC marked the end of a 154-year relationship.
“There are people here (on the William Jewell campus) who are as far right as you can get, and there are people here who are as far left as you can get," Perkins said, indicating with tact his concern for both sides.
Lately Perkins has been tossed into the middle of something he calls a “healthy debate." It revolves around language in the Student Bill of Rights that has been circulating on campus for a year.
The Student Senate in November voted to approve a student ballot issue on an amendment that would have added sexual orientation to the list of protected classes such as religion and sex in a nondiscrimination clause. Perkins chose to veto it.
Was it courage on his part or simply a young man doing his duty?
“Yes and yes," he said with a laugh. “It was definitely a very hard decision to make, but ultimately it came down to doing what I thought was in the best interest of the student body and in keeping in line with what is in our mission statement, which is to stay loyal to the ideals of Christ."
In the process of looking at the issue from both sides, Perkins crafted a 36-word statement that has lifted him above the fray. That statement reads as follows:
“I am in no way in favor of the mistreatment or abuse of homosexuals. However, I am also called to in no way tolerate or promote sin in my own life or the lives of others."
Upon further review, every word stands as written, Perkins said.
“As of yet (Dec. 9), I don’t have anything that I would change in it," he said, adding that reaction to his veto has been “more positive than negative."
A student vote that had been scheduled for Dec. 8 and 9 had to be canceled, and a senate override attempt failed to muster the necessary two-thirds majority. A petition drive has been launched to bring the amendment to a student vote, but there is no guarantee that will succeed.
Perkins sees vigor in it all.
“It’s not necessarily about whether homosexuality is wrong," he said. “Most people are already set in their opinion on that on either side. The biggest topic of discussion has been whether to add sexual orientation to the non-discriminatory clause. That turns the conversation in the direction of what does it mean to discriminate.
“It’s been healthy in that we’ve discussed the definition of what it actually means to discriminate. I think it’s been a good learning experience."
The MBC cuts its ties with William Jewell after of series of discussions and letters between leaders with the convention and school failed to produce agreement on a variety of subjects. Issues prompting the MBC to end the relationship included:
- The student body government’s procedure concerning the homosexual movement on campus;
- The non-direction given to professors on teaching the creation account of Genesis;
- The freedom for homosexual support groups to meet on campus;
- The amount of lewd sexual content included in “The Vagina Monologues," a play performed on the William Jewell campus on Feb. 14.
- The content of the campus newspaper, The Hilltop Monitor. Perkins confirmed that the campus newspaper has expressed opposition to his veto.
School officials countered that they would not allow the convention to interfere with the direction of the school. William Jewell has long been governed by a self-perpetuating trustee board.
The Kansas City Star reported that Perkins vetoed the amendment based on morality.
“I’m of the belief that everything in life is about morality," the newspaper quoted him saying. Asked by The Pathway to expound on what he meant, Perkins began to touch on the reasoning behind his decision.
“People are often quick to say an issue is not about morality, when I’m of the belief that everything we do as humans is about morality," Perkins said. “Things are right or wrong, and there’s got to be some basis for that. Whether people admit it or not, in most cases, the common thought of right and wrong all goes back to God and the Bible."
Perkins points out that the actual Student of Bill of Rights “doesn’t have any authority." School officials have said the student measure will have no impact on the institution’s policy. William Jewell is affiliated with the American Baptist Churches , U.S.A. , and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF), a group of former Southern Baptists who oppose the theologically conservative direction of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Roy Dameron, a member of the MBC Executive Board, brought Perkins’ stance to the attention of the full 67-member board during its regularly scheduled meeting in Jefferson City Dec. 9. He encouraged board members and all Missouri Baptists to remember Perkins and the student body in prayer and to send Perkins a word of encouragement. An untold number of students from theologically conservative MBC churches still attend the school.
“Maybe one day we can live together as a community seeking after Christ, and our actions of love toward one another will make such a thing as a Student Bill of Rights unnecessary," Perkins said.