Just hearing the word “Probation” throws your mind into a judicial framework of a person not sentenced to incarceration but to a sentence with regulated activities on the “outside.” For the younger at heart, they may remember their moms pronouncing, “Alright young man, into the corner you go for a time out!” While the restraints are not fun at the moment, people become better people because of the discipline.
As you read this issue of The Pathway you can see the story released by Southwest Baptist University about the ruling from the Higher Learning Commission. Their concerns related to academic freedom, governance, and leadership issues. The really big deal was the governance issues.
During and after his arrival, I have heard SBU President Dr. Rick Melson explain that the Higher Learning Commission is very sensitive to processes. Dr. Rodney Harrison, president of Missouri Baptist Homes & Healthcare Ministries and an expert on institutional accreditation, affirmed Dr. Melson’s assessment. When the accreditors perceive an institution has stepped outside of its processes or changed their processes without informing the accreditation agency, it gives them pause for investigation. They may “throw a flag on the team” until the agency believes the institution is back on track with its processes. They call that “probation”.
During the probation time, every SBU degree program is fully accredited. SBU’s faculty members are leading scholars in their fields of study, and they are champions of integrating faith and learning. Every year, SBU programs win accolades for excellence. The student body is engaged in demonstrating a faith that works in their chosen professions and after graduation. Through relationships, they impact their communities.
SBU Board Chair Dr. Eddie Bumpers, pastor of the CrossWay Baptist Church in Springfield, is leading the board to work in tandem with Dr. Melson to address every issue the Higher Learning Commission has identified. Several of the deficiencies have already methodically been addressed. Others are in process. Of course, the recent actions the board has taken have been coordinated with the Higher Learning Commission.
What about the governing documents? The SBU charter of the previous century remains intact and has stringent provisions for how SBU relates to the convention and who elects its trustees. Does it need to be updated? Absolutely, but it will take time, conversations, and coordination with the Higher Learning Commission. The MBC Executive Board, through its Entity Relations Committee, is briefed on a regular basis about SBU’s progress. The SBU administration and Board of Trustees are making great strides, and before long the probation with be a small thing in the rearview mirror.
What can be done? What can Missouri Baptists do to assist SBU in the process? The SBU board, president, administration, and faculty do most of the heavy lifting, but Missouri Baptists have some very important action steps to take:
1. We can all pray for SBU and our other higher learning entities—HLGU and MBU.
2. Take a visit to campus. They would all love to show you around and introduce you to renown scholars and exceptional students.
3. Send them your students. Don’t be victimized by the rhetoric of state government institutions that do not share your biblical values. If money is the issue, consider the high cost of secular education. At one of our institutions, talk with a financial aid officer. You may discover the costs are very competitive.
4. Consider a financial gift to your favorite MBC-affiliated university.
5. If you haven’t updated your will and estate plan, contact the Missouri Baptist Foundation. They have ways for you to make a difference now and into the future.
6. If you hear someone trash-talking one of our MBC educational institutions, share the truth in love with them.
7. Be patient and kind to one another.
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Promotion for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions is just around the corner. There are wonderful videos and other resources available online at imb.org. Learn what the missionaries you support through your local church are doing to making a huge difference for the cause of Christ.
I challenge you to add Lottie to the gift list for your children. Whatever amount you give to each child, consider making an equal gift to this year’s LMO. Your gift touches the lives of one child, one family and millions just like them for the cause of Christ.
Missouri Baptists’ combined goal for LMO is $4 million. We exceeded that goal significantly last year. Every dollar passes right through the MBC and to the International Mission Board and on to the field. I heard as you did IMB President Paul Chitwood tell us that all the money goes international. None of it stays here in the states. Let’s break through that goal bodaciously!