This letter was sent to me by a Missouri Baptist pastor. Since we have published articles about the controversy at Southwest Baptist University, it seems fair to publish this response by the president, Dr. Eric Turner, to the controversy. It appears to be transparent and forthright.
Dear Missouri Baptist Pastor,
In Matthew 28, Jesus commands us to change the world with passion and compassion. During the past fourteen decades, Southwest Baptist University’s education, founded upon a Biblical worldview, has followed that command. SBU Bearcats are impacting the world as missionaries, pastors, educators, social workers, physical therapists, business leaders, lawyers, graphic designers, doctors, nurses, musicians, computer programmers, and so much more.
SBU is a Southern Baptist university — a Missouri Baptist university. SBU has a fierce commitment to transforming lives through Christian higher education. Indeed, our mission statement calls us to be a Christ-centered, caring academic community preparing students to be servant leaders in a global society. With our rich history, we must be diligent to preserve the core values and Baptist identity that have sustained our University for generations.
Since coming to SBU, I have become aware of concerns regarding our values and identity. Through a strategic and purposeful process, we are addressing these concerns.
A recent step in this process was the commissioning of an external peer assessment committee, led by Dr. David Dockery, chancellor of Trinity International University. The committee conducted a review of Southwest Baptist University’s integration of faith, learning, and doctrine. In particular, the committee evaluated the key elements of Baptist distinctiveness that inform SBU’s identity as a Missouri Baptist institution.
To aid in their assessment, the committee met with SBU administration, faculty and staff, SBU trustees, and Missouri Baptist Convention leaders Dr. John Yeats and Dr. Jeremy Muniz.
The key finding of the committee is the University’s Statement of Faith has not been implemented effectively across the fabric of the University. The Statement of Faith was adopted in 1921 and recently reaffirmed by Missouri Baptist Convention messengers in 2012. For the long-term health and faithfulness of SBU, the institution must clarify its Statement of Faith to be a clear and compelling theological framework.
In addition, the committee determined, due to the lack of a clearly implemented Statement of Faith, the doctrinal position of SBU has been perceived as ambiguous. This lack of clarity has led to an erosion of trust between the University and Missouri Baptists. SBU and the Missouri Baptist Convention must work together to restore that trust.
Since my arrival at SBU, I have recognized the need for SBU to strengthen our relationship with the Missouri Baptist Convention and its churches. This assessment affirms that position. We must collectively work together to rebuild trust between SBU and Missouri Baptists.
Over the coming weeks and months, you will see evidence of SBU’s thoughtful response to this assessment. We are currently working to clarify, boldly articulate, and implement our Statement of Faith that will further align and strengthen our Baptist identity and Christian faith.
Southwest Baptist University values the partnership of the thousands of friends like you who have faithfully supported our mission for over a century. Moving forward, we desire your confidence and trust as we engage the next chapter of SBU. As SBU President, I commit to serve our shared mission with all I have to offer: faith, integrity, and love. I ask you to join me as we work together to make SBU the exemplar Christian University.
Shaping our story together,
Dr. Eric A. Turner
Southwest Baptist University