Southern Baptists and Higher Education: Rediscovering the “Christian” in Christian Higher Education -- By: Bob R. Agee

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 01:3 (Fall 1997)
Article: Southern Baptists and Higher Education: Rediscovering the “Christian” in Christian Higher Education
Author: Bob R. Agee

Southern Baptists and Higher Education:
Rediscovering the “Christian” in Christian Higher Education

Bob R. Agee

Bob R. Agee has been the president of Oklahoma Baptist University, Shawnee, Oklahoma since 1982. Under his leadership, OBU has been rated one of the top ten liberal arts colleges in the Southwest by U.S. News and World Report. Agee has been active on regional accreditation teams and Southern Baptist education committees. He is a much sought-after speaker on educational issues and a consultant on long-range educational planning. He is also the author of several scholarly articles.


The Southern Baptist higher education family is going through a tremendous period of transition and upheaval. Historic relationships between colleges and universities and their sponsoring state conventions are being put to the test with several of our oldest and finest schools choosing to sever or dramatically alter the nature of their relationship with their convention family. The decisions by boards have certainly not come easily nor are they always with evil intent. Because the Baptist papers seem to carry stories of these departures far too regularly these days it is inevitable that pastors, members of local Southern Baptist churches, and other denominational leaders wonder about what the ultimate shape of Southern Baptist involvement in college and university education will be.

A careful analysis of church-related colleges and universities across the U. S. reveals a variety of approaches as to how to understand the relationship between the various colleges and universities and the church bodies to which they do now or have at some time related. There are those institutions, for example, which can be categorized as “formerly church-related,” i.e., at some point in their history they were started by or had a formal relationship with some church body and for a period of time operated with a close tie to that religious constituency. Early in their pilgrimage they operated with a strong commitment to teaching the Bible as sacred literature and to the centrality of Christian thought as they dealt with the various academic disciplines. Their catalogs and other promotional material conveyed strong ties with some facet of the Christian family and they boasted of approaching education with strong emphases on Christian values. They gave the training of ministers prominence in their programming and actively involved themselves in supporting and promoting the mission and ministry of the church to which they were related.

At some juncture in their history, however, and for a variety of reasons those schools severed their formal ties with the founding church-constituency. It may have been because they wanted their trustees to be ...

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