Saturday, August 26, 2006

And the winner IS...

There simply are no words to describe how excited I am that the Baptist & Reflector discovered that there are three universities in Tennessee associated with the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Congratulations to the PR departments at Union, Carson Newman, and Belmont for getting the good news about your U.S. News and World Report rankings in front of the editors at the B&R. Now, we have clear evidence of who the favored children are and who are the adopted children in our Baptist/Christian college ranks.
    Here is the breakdown of the article*:
  • Union's record of ten years worth of recognition as a top tier school, this year ranking 25th in the Master's category takes up roughly 60% of the space in the article.

  • Carson Newman's recognition as the only Tennessee College in the Best Value for the money category received 25% of the space.

  • In the also mentioned, Tennessee-Baptist, adopted-child category, is a token mention of Belmont University achieving a Top Ten ranking (Number 10), a mere 15 places above Union's ranking in the same category.

It is pretty obvious to me that Union University is the Baptist and Reflector's favorite child...and rightly so, Union's advertising in the B&R surpasses that of Carson Newman and Belmont by a considerable favorite Union University ad is the one in the last issue that included a nearly life-sized picture of Rev. Jerry Sutton, Union's poster boy for encouraging cooperative program destruction in the Southern Baptist Convention. With friends like that, Union may continue thier cheer of "We're Number 25!" Whoopie! As for Carson Newman, their teacher to student ratio and the low cost (after scholarships) makes them a great deal on the value-for-your-money list. I hope they can survive and prosper and maintain their course without (more) hassles from the TBC.

I have seen publicity for a number of Ice Cream Sundays in area is an idea whose time has come. If only the former Church Training Department from the Baptist Sunday School Board could have altered their Church, the Sunday Night Place promotion to say Church the Sundae Night Place, then we might still be enjoying good numbers in Sunday evening worship. Phil Harris would have liked that a lot. Here's to a double scoop of homemade, candy cane, ice cream...the perfect collegiate cooler for celebrating our institutions of higher education.

*Actual count using MSWord
Total Words in B&R Article = 550 Words
Union 320 - 58.2%
Carson Newman 135 - 24.5%
Belmont 95 - 17.3%

Monday, August 21, 2006

They ARE meeting, I was wrong!

In my impatience over the lack of Belmont University vs Tennessee Baptist Convention news, I speculated that no negotiations have taken place since the May scourging of Belmont's Board at the Two Rivers house of failed SBC presidential politics. As it turns out, good sources from within the TBC told me that the committee of 14 has met more than twice...(that count may have been an actual meeting followed by substantive discussion in the parking's the Baptist way). Although I was not able to get a positive confirmation that the committee had actually included Belmont representatives in the negotiation discussion, the committee has at least been meeting and talking. I was wrong in my earlier speculation. I apologize.

I'd recommend fried chicken, mashed potatoes, pink congealed salad, and sweet tea for the committee's next covert meal...that way they would know for sure that everyone in attendance was Baptist, and would be forced to talk about something besides the food! Can I get an A-men?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

If Liberalism is Destroying Our Universities...How is Conservatism Doing in Our Baptist Churches?

My ultra-conservative friends over at CTB placed this quote in front of a full reprint of Alan Finder's July 22nd New York Times article (I'm sure they requested re-print permission, being the ethical group they are):
"...It reveals the destruction that liberalism has caused in many Baptist colleges. This same damage has happened at Belmont University in Nashville, TN."
Belmont is certainly suffering. Just this year: They still have a Board of know, the very same Baptist men and women that Tennessee Baptists' elected/approved, then summarily vacated back in May, but who are STILL running the university. They are suffering through a record enrollment of over 4500 students. They are suffering over a brand new dorm, two new parking garages, a new health sciences building, and an upcoming new theater facility. They are suffering over an unprecedented fifth consecutive year of academic success in conference athletics (not to mention an NCAA tournament milestone). They are suffering through growth in the School of Religion and their 7 new majors. They are suffering over breaking into the U.S. News and World Report's Top 10 list. Damn those liberals...see how they are destroying Belmont!

Meanwhile, the conservative leadership in our Baptist Convention is celebrating(?) yet another year of decreased percentages in Baptisms across the convention...and attempted to elect a convention president whose Tennessee Baptist Church didn't give a dime to the Cooperative Program in 2005. Hmmmm, perhaps conservative Baptist pastors and denominational leaders should do a little more work on their congregational flocks before throwing up smoke screens, diverting attention away from their own failings (bless their hearts).

Meatloaf SandwichMeatloaf there's a dish that Belmont's cafeteria could use to support the suffering on campus. But then, they'd probably mess it up with a liberal coating of sauce.

Belmont ranks 10th... and Union's 10th Year

I know that "fundamentally" that 10 isn't the perfect number, but stay with me for a second. For the 10th year in a row, Union University has been listed as a top tier school in the U.S. News and World Report's rankings...this year holding up a 25th position. That is impressive!
And Belmont reached a number 10 ranking for the first time in its historically Baptist history...That, is incredible! A top 10 school that Tennessee Baptists could be proud of if they'd just stop squabbling long enough...doesn't that just beat all!

As a Tennessee Baptist, I am proud of both of these institutions. I look forward to seeing the conversion of Union to a fine, fundamentalist seminary...and Belmont to convert to something more Christian than Baptist (All right, lighten up. I'm kidding!)

Fruit tea. Yes, that's it! Let's raise a mason jar and salute these accomplishments. You have a good recipe for fruit tea by any chance that is fundamentally free of sour tastes??

Congratulations, Union University, You Made the B&R!

Miraculously, Union University's announcement of the opening of a new field house for their sports teams made the Baptist and Reflector. Congratulation! Lonnie stopped patting himself on the back long enough to squeeze in a tiny story at the bottom of an inner page for you. 'Sorry, but your story didn't make the online version...that would be a lot to ask.

Let's look for news about Carson Newman later in this decade. Have they been behaving again?

Vanilla ice cream with some of that great, rich, Mexican vanilla (via a mission trip, of course) would sure taste good right about now at Wednesday night supper, yummmm!. Oh dear, will that have to go into checked luggage next trip?

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Why colleges are severing Baptist ties

I have not seen a more well stated case for what is happening between colleges and their respective Baptist state conventions than today's Anniston Star editorial, "H. Brandt Ayers: Faith of my father". It is well worth the time to read. Quoting from the editorial:
"Diplomatically or not, there is a great rending between Baptist body and soul that is tearing the best Baptist colleges and universities away from church officialdom.

This cleavage between faith and reason, between a doctrine of godly perfection and an intelligent, fallible Christian's struggle to find his way in a sinful world shouldn't be black-and-white choices.

But churches, like newspapers and governments, do want the world around them to conform to their views. And, if they have the means to enforce their way, it very likely will.

Despite that apparent triumph of Baptist fundamentalism, there is a growing realization among the membership that fierce conformity isn't winning converts. The denomination grew a tiny .02 percent in 2005 and declined again in its most important measurement, baptisms."

Saturday, August 12, 2006

TBC and Belmont Negotiations? No. Apparently, Not Yet

BP News just ran a story that paints an interesting scenario for what Tennessee Baptists may witness later this year regarding the "Belmont situation".

The Georgetown College divorce from the Kentucky Baptist Convention is no surprise, but it at least looks like people spoke with one another before the break took place...and seem to be speaking, still. From a reliable source at Belmont, there has been no contact from the TBC with Belmont to begin/discuss arbitration, mediation, or other settlement since the May TBC meeting. That was three months ago. Call me impatient, but I would like to see and hear of some effort or progress to fullfill the wishes expressed in the motion that the TBC messengers approved. Let's at least pretend that something besides litigation is in the works and not dishonor the expanded committee members.

For my CTB friends, I have read the entire 1951 agreement between the TBC and Ward-Belmont and understand the wording completely. I have also read the subsequent changes in the TBC's constitution that relinquish claims of ownership of it's educational institutions to the respective boards. The historical and legal relationship has changed. The 1951 document is being defended by some like the innerancy of the scripture...that makes for good sermon material but not very good business, particularly in light of post-1951 documents.

I believe that it is in the TBC's best interest to view Belmont as a center where Baptists of diverse beliefs/opinions are welcome, missions will be a focus of service learning, and the TBC is welcome to be a part of Belmont's ongoing success. I would much rather have my TBC affiliation attached to Belmont, Carson Newman, and Union rather than the failed (or failing) ventures in Baptist Hospitals and one failed (previously) Baptist retirement center immediately adjacent Belmont's campus.

'Sorry, my usual reference to food at this point in the blog is missing, intentionally. The thought of using TBC cooperative gifts to line the pockets of lawyers is an appetite killer for me. I do have some sour grapes on order, however. *smile*

Friday, August 11, 2006

Tennessee Baptist Paper Shuns Good News at Belmont University

Tennessee Baptists should be proud of Belmont...however, you must look for the good things that are happening at Belmont these days somewhere besides the Baptist and Reflector. The editor apparently choses not to cover anything positive about Belmont. The latest story about Belmont features a retired professor dealing with his wife's dementia. It is a touching story, but it represents the sum total of anything positive printed in the Baptist paper mentioning Belmont University in over three months! I have been reading the B&R all summer looking for some of the news stories that I discovered on Belmont's News site. What is going on, B&R?

Why has there been zero recognition of the new Gordon Inman Health Sciences Center at Belmont? With a huge nursing shortage just over the horizon, Belmont has partnered with some great companies to make the future brighter for health care...not a word to the Baptists in our state from it's principal news source on a twenty million dollar facility for Christian men and women to study health care. The B&R had no problem covering the faltering east Tennessee Baptist Hospital, but can't bring itself to cover a successful project at Belmont...sad, really sad!

And where is the B&R news about Betty Wiseman and the student athletes who went to South America back in May? (it would have been "news" in May, June, or July) If I read things correctly, they were there as part of celebration/recognition of the 25th anniversary of TBC's partnership with Venezuela...and boy what a celebration it turned out to be. By the estimates of the IMB missionary who worked with the Belmont group, well over a thousand young Venezuelans accepted Christ during that two-week trip. So what has been in the Baptist and Reflector? NOTHING! Good grief, Lonnie, if that isn't news that Tennessee Baptists need to hear, what is??

News is slow at the B&R these days. I read in this last edition that Tennessee Baptist "overwhelmingly support abstinence from alcohol"...only to find out that the total number of online respondents to the survey was 36. Although I agree with the abstinence part, a sampling of 36 Tennessee Baptists is laughable, particularly to label the results "overwhelming".

What we need is an officially endorsed Baptist coffee: Bitter enough for fundamentalists, smooth enough for moderates, and weak enough for liberals. Then we could get an "overwhelmingly" supported creamer from a B&R poll..short on substance, easy to write about, and luke-warm journalistically. *meow*