November 17, 2022

BJU Board of Trustees Retains Dr. Steve Pettit


Just announced, "Bob Jones University Board of Trustees is pleased to announce the re-election of Steve Pettit to a three-year term as President by an overwhelming majority..."

Apart from an explanation from the board we can only speculate over how their decision was arrived at, what if any conditions were set down and what the decision means for the future trajectory of BJU. To that end we ask...

  • Does this mean that the board now affirms the direction Dr. Pettit is taking the school or that the board was backed into a corner and succumbed to mob pressure?
  • Where does this put the concerns of Dr. Bob III? "...over the last year some embarrassing, antithetical things, historically uncharacteristic things, which would have never happened in the past have occurred."
  • Did the board identify, "...the root cause from which the declensions of the last year have emanated and [find the] firmness to do whatever is necessary, however painful, to stop the hemorrhage?"
  • Has the board looked three years ahead and decided it's better to hang on for three years than to root the Pettit team out now and create a larger crisis?
  • Have any safe guards, boundaries and greater accountability been put in place as a condition of remaining in the presidency?
  • Will there be resignations from the school and board members who could not in good conscience vote to renew?
  • How many more of BJU’s remaining original constituents will now be moving on?
  • Having voted to retain Pettit, what assurances do we have that the school will not continue cooperating with ecumenicals like Franklin Graham?
  • Will the proliferation of Southern Baptist and Reformed Theologian hirings continue?
  • Will Pettit introduce drum kits and electric guitars into the worship music menu?
  • Will Dr. Pettit feel emboldened to accelerate his erasure of BJU's fundamentalist foundations?
  • Will Pettit and his administration push the university even farther to the left in a spirit of liberation (for them)?
The latter half of the Board's announcement is a carefully crafted statement. Reading it is like looking into a refrigerator full of food with nothing to eat in it. A reader could assign most any meaning he wants. Does, "The Board strongly supports the President..." imply the Board strongly supports Steve Pettit's eight years effort to eliminate and erase the schools fundamentalist, separatist foundation and legacy? Does that kind of strong support strongly suggest we can expect to see more, "embarrassing, antithetical things, historically uncharacteristic things, which would have never happened in the past?"


LM

UpDate: See comment section below for remarks stemming from Steve Pettit's morning speech to the student body.

Previous Articles in the Series 


November 14, 2022

While We Wait: Let's Talk About It

I
have published three articles addressing the pending, but uncertain contract renewal of BJU president Steve Pettit. They are in chronological order:




While we await the decision of the board of trustees let's talk about open letters, petitioners and the board.

Open Letters & Petitioning
I have read all of the open letters and articles I'm aware of. These are passionate appeals for the renewal of Pettit’s contract. They cite accreditation, tax exempt status and financial stability as compelling reasons to renew his contract. The business community would naturally applaud such accomplishments.

What I don't recall is any serious discussion let alone mention of the blasphemous fashion show Pettit's faculty and department heads allowed for. Entangling BJU students with Franklin Graham's ecumenical movement is brushed aside. A Midsummer Summer Night's Dream is passed over as if nothing to see here. The announcement of then sudden cancelation of NFL QB Trevor Lawrence keynote speaking for the Bruins Athletic Club 10th anniversary essentially flies under the radar. The open letter and petition crowd do not acknowledge any of these things as vital components for consideration in the contract renewal discussion.

They suggest the controversy is merely over, "preferences of Christian practice," such as dress codes, "questionable performances and musical selections." As one man observed,
"Why is it that the least of all concerns (dress standards) is the one so many are harping on? Dress standards have changed for various reasons from one generation to the next (I dare say that through the nine decades of the university's history, changes have taken place concerning dress standards). Biblical truth does not change."
In the open letters and petition comments I sense an underlying theme: subtle revulsion of fidelity to the best of personal holiness we can hope to instill into our young people. A friend who doesn't want to speak publicly at present and asked me not to name him said,
"Some are labeling carnality as spirituality just because they enjoy it and want to cast it in positive language. Such lying would be the devil’s way, indeed. And he would also lie about serious-minded holiness and call it legalism. A world in which both God and Satan are strongly at work is a complicated world indeed!"
At stake is whether or not Pettit will be allowed another three years to steer young people away from the best practices of sanctified living through a balanced biblical separatism. Since his arrival Pettit has incrementally transformed the school into a mill for molding students into non-separatist, compromised evangelicals. 

As one friend sees it, 
"The efforts of Dr. Pettit to move toward evangelicalism and away from the university's separatist, fundamentalist foundation, mooring are now almost legion. And no one who commends Dr. Pettit's actions cares to actually address the serious compromise. I believe they know that they are indefensible, so they instead, create straw men about rather inconsequential issues like dress standards and then defend Dr. Pettit on these issues."
Pettit and his administration prioritize a business model with greater concern for cultural relativism than fidelity to the whole counsel of God, giving God and His Word the benefit of the doubt and preeminence. Another BJU alumni observes, "The changes are a function of...primary forces. One of these is pressure to adapt to cultural viewpoints in order to maintain student population and to provide needed funds...."

Open letter and petition signers fail to recognize church/college history is replete with examples of accommodating the worlds culture in moderation eventually leads to extremes. Liberty University and Cedarville didn't become what they are now overnight. Slowly and incrementally the founding principles were chipped away at until what was meant to be moderation opened the door to the extremes. The pattern was true for other schools that instead of becoming new evangelical like Liberty and Cedarville, ultimately closed their doors. See, Why These Schools Collapsed & What Does it Mean for BJU?
"Why did Clearwater close, Northland close, Pillsbury close, Calvary Baptist Seminary close, Tennessee Temple close…. why did they fall, what happened and what can we learn?"
"Every failed school veered from its conservative and historic base to accommodate a new base…and each time it was the death knell of the school."
Steve Pettit and his administration are following the same pattern that led to new evangelicalism or closure. Only naive thinking would conclude "veer[ing] from its conservative and historic base" won't yield one of the two disastrous results.

In one of the open letters the writer posits the potential for legal action if Pettit's contract is not renewed. He raises raises the specter of "legal action...or incoming suits" if Pettit is not retained? How does that square with 1 Corinthians 6:1-8, love for BJU and the brethren?

Now let's talk about...

The Board of Trustees
A board of directors or trustees serve in similar capacities. A board of trustees is similar to a board of directors but is more commonly found in private organizations. Such is the case with BJU. I think the BJU board has some crossover responsibilities as directors and trustees. A board is charged with hiring the president, directing, overseeing and assessing the organizations strategy, maintaining certain standards, principles and practices. The president or CEO is responsible to and serves at the pleasure of the board. The board can hire, dictate to and/or fire the organization's president at will.

Why might a board appear to be a dictatorship? It's because directors dictate to, set and maintain the overall direction of the organization. If a board believes the president is taking the organization in a contrary direction the board can admonish, make demands of or if all else fails terminate the president.

The board of Apple fired Steve Jobs (1985) Later rehired Jobs (1997).The board of Papa John's fired "Papa" John Schnatter (2018). The BJU board is and will act within its capacity and according to its mandate.

If we read the Scriptural principles of how we are to respond to authority, outside forces wouldn't be trying to undermine or intimidate these men whom God has given the position of trustee. (Romans 13:1-4; Ephesians 6:5-8; Hebrews 13:17.) 

Another quote from my friend above added,
"If necessary, I would rather see the school close gracefully than to see an extremely ugly conflict blot the name of Christ. The spiritual failure I've been concerned about in recent years is that of the faculty and administration who might take the school seriously leftward. Now I am contemplating the possibility of spiritual failure by the whole constituency, or some significant faction(s) of it, whose conduct could perhaps prove highly unbecoming of the gospel."
Instead of veiled threats of legal action, ginning up public outrage and political pressure wouldn't the best choice be praying for all involved among the administration and board to seek the mind of God and follow their conscience as the Holy Spirit guides?

Pray that each of the principals involved be like little Samuel. That they might die to self and in a humble spirit say "Speak [Lord], for thy servant heareth." (1 Samuel 3:9-10)

Yours faithfully,


LM

Related Reading



"The anecdotal argument, then, is that when a school abandons its core positions—separation, music, standards, associations, conservative theology the base notices and they withdraw support because they were trained to do so by the institutions that have now betrayed them."

November 4, 2022

Bob Jones III, "No One Wins Unless the Cause Wins"

Following is a copy of a letter written by Dr. Bob Jones III. My understanding this letter was sent to persons troubled by the controversy taking place at the university.  I am speculating, but I believe the letter was his reply to people who inquired with him about these things. I don’t believe it was sent out as anything like an open letter or some other unsolicited message. So he was not ramping up a communications effort; he was only providing a reply to inquirers. His letter is an example of Christian charity, wisdom and statesmanship. I trust his measured words will have a calming effect.


Dear
 _____:

Your concerns for the future of the University are not unwarranted. I delight in you and all other graduates like you who want the University to stay spiritually strong and aligned with its founding purposes. If I sat where you sit, I would see a favorable picture of BJU just as you do. There is so much to be thankful for over the years that Dr. Pettit has been at the helm. I consider that we are personal friends and by many important measurements the University is doing very, very well.

However, over the last year some embarrassing, antithetical things, historically uncharacteristic things, which would have never happened in the past have occurred. From all over the country the Board received pleas from graduates and others, to look into these matters fearing that the University had veered in its direction, and unique distinctives without which it would become irrelevant. Naturally, the Board was obligated, by reason of its existence, to step in. One Board member put it this way. “BJU has no future if we have a Board that has no say so in BJU’s future.” The Board did the right thing by coming to the president, who is their employee, for answers. These discussions are ongoing.

If a successful solution results, it will only occur if both parties maintain an overarching understanding that the University’s best interest is to be served more than the personal interest of either side. Each side must show that no ones [sic] wins unless the cause wins. Only one side, the university’s side, must come out the winner. That will not happen if the permanent is sacrificed on the altar of the immediate.

I find myself–by request both from the president and from the Board–deeply involved. There is so much more I would like to share with you but cannot. I do ask that you realize that the Board would not be involved if it did not feel its bylaws mandated it to be the protector of the institution’s character, and as the one to whom the president is accountable. Hopefully, everyone involved in this wants the outcome to leave the University in a stronger place than before, and with its mission protected from the seepage of religious or cultural compromises.

I would simply ask that every graduate who has “continued in the things which you have learned” (2 Tim 3:14) and wishes the University to maintain its spiritual character and mission give the board wisdom to know the root cause from which the declensions of the last year have emanated and firmness to do whatever is necessary, however painful, to stop the hemorrhage.

Kind regards,

Bob Jones III

For More in the series see, While We Wait: Let's Talk About It

Site Publisher Addendum:

Examples of, "embarrassing, antithetical things, historically uncharacteristic things, which would have never happened in the past occurred," include

BJU Fashion Design Runway Show

BJU Embraces Franklin Graham's Ecumenical Movement

BJU Compromised Spiritual Sanctification for Secular Pragmatism

Previous Articles in the Current Series:

Steve Pettit's Tenure at BJU in Question

IFCA Meddling in the Affairs of BJU