BOLIVAR, Mo. — Southwest Baptist University begins its search this month for the next dean of the University’s Redford College of Theology and Ministry.
Rodney Reeves, who has served on the SBU faculty for 19 years, 15 of those years as College dean, has resigned to serve as senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Jonesboro, Ark.
In an Aug. 4th Facebook post, Reeves announced that he would be leaving SBU to enter the pastorate.
“It is with great joy and a grateful heart,” Reeves wrote, “that I can say the Lord has called me to be the senior pastor of the sweet fellowship that is First Baptist Church, Jonesboro, AR. But it is a joy mingled with sorrow, leaving the work I have loved for 19 years at SBU, my outstanding colleagues (especially at Redford College), and our dear friends at FBC, Bolivar. We will miss all of you. Pray for us; we will pray for you.”
According to an Aug. 4th post on the FBC Jonesboro Facebook page, Reeves was overwhelmingly called to serve as pastor by a vote of 374 to 1.
SBU President Eric Turner asked Missouri Baptists to pray for SBU as they seek a new dean for the Redford College.
“We have no specific timeline for a hiring decision. We would like to fill the position as quickly as possible, but we also want to take enough time to follow all University procedures in the hiring process. Until the position is filled, SBU Provost Dr. Lee Skinkle is serving as interim dean,” Turner said. “Please join me in praying for the University as we conduct the search process.”
The job listing may be viewed online under Faculty Vacancies at https://www.sbuniv.edu/about/employment.php.
Reeves’ resignation follows submission of peer assessment committee report
Because it is a personnel matter, SBU made no comment as to whether Reeves’ resignation was connected with the findings of a external peer assessment committee that was submitted in late June.
His resignation comes less than a month after SBU released a preliminary statement about the findings of this committee, which was commissioned last December to foster “dialogue regarding faith and learning,” including “deeper conversations and evaluations regarding orthodoxy” within the university. The committee was led by David Dockery, chancellor of Trinity International University.
The committee found that SBU’s current Statement of Faith had not been implemented effectively across the fabric of the campus. It also encouraged the university to clarify its Statement of Faith. SBU President Eric Turner praised the work of the committee and said he was committed to lead the efforts needed to ensure the spiritual vitality of SBU.
“Dr. Dockery and the committee,” Turner said, “have accurately and effectively surmised the situation in which SBU has found herself. Over the coming weeks and months, you will see evidence of SBU’s thoughtful response to this assessment.”
As reported previously in The Pathway, the peer assessment committee was commissioned after the Nov. 28, 2018, termination of Clint Bass, a tenured associate professor in SBU’s Redford College of Theology and Ministry. According to the SBU administration, Bass was terminated because of alleged violations of the SBU Faculty Handbook and the “ethical and professional canons of the teaching profession.” In January, the Educational Policies and Personnel Committee of SBU’s board of trustees affirmed the administration’s decision and reasoning for his termination.
But Bass disputed these claims, saying he was fired for defending theological conservatism. Prior to his termination, he alleged last year that some faculty members in the Redford College – including Reeves – contradicted the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 (BFM 2000) by denying biblical inerrancy and by affirming what Bass described as problematic doctrinal views. Similar allegations were soon posted online and on social media – including in an open letter signed by 14 SBU alumni, which was posted on the SBC Voices blog in April.
Reeves and other Redford College faculty members denied allegations of theological unorthodoxy. Nevertheless, as a result of these allegations, SBU moved up previous plans for starting conversations about faith and learning on campus and commissioned the external peer assessment committee.
Alongside their other concerns, Bass and his supporters have asked why one Redford College faculty member attended a church affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF). By this, he referred to Don Denton, chair of the department of theology. According to his biography on the SBU website, Denton attends University Heights Baptist Church, Springfield, The church is listed as a partner of CBF Heartland on that organization’s website (http://www.cbfheartland.org/wp/churches/).
The CBF was organized in 1991 after moderate churches withdrew from the Southern Baptist Convention over theological and philosophical differences during the SBC’s Conservative Resurgence.
FBC Jonesboro, where Reeves soon begins his new ministry, also partners with the CBF of Arkansas.
However, the church is also aligned with the SBC-affiliated Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC). Additionally, one Arkansas Baptist leader told The Pathway that many dually aligned churches in Arkansas contain a large majority of members who favor the more conservative conventions, both on the state and national levels.