Saturday, September 20, 2014

Thank you, Jacob Lupfer and Save OBU

This past Tuesday, on his Save OBU blog, Jacob Lupfer announced 'the end of Save OBU' or - at the very least - the end of his involvement in it.

I couldn't let this announcement pass without saying a public word of thanks to Jacob for the significant contribution he's made to the cause of academic freedom and integrity in Baptist circles.

Jacob reached out to me right at the beginning of this movement in December 2011. He had run across some of my TBC 'Baptist Briefs' videos on YouTube and thought I might be interested in the stand he was taking and the movement he was starting. Little did he know!

For one thing, he had no idea that I am a fellow OBU alum. I care deeply about my alma mater. It was at OBU that I learned to think for myself and seek out a faith I could call my own. Some of the great influences in that faith journey were part of the OBU community: Cary Wood, my roommate; Ron Russey, who lived in the adjoining room of our suite at the end of D section, 2nd floor, in Brotherhood Dorm; Jerry Barnes, pastor of University Baptist Church; Dr. Bill Mitchell, whose remark one morning, while teaching 'Dante's Inferno' in Western Civ, started me on the journey of my life - and FOR my life - which continues today; and others.

There is an unexplainable peace that I feel whenever I'm on Bison Hill, a peace that I feel nowhere else on earth. Although I had grown up in Baptist churches, the son of a preacher, had made my profession of faith at age 10, had grown up in youth choirs and as a leader among my youth group, it was at OBU that I first began to truly understand what faith is. When I 'visit' Bison Hill, I am truly home, and my heart is full.

Maybe that's why it's so important to me that OBU remain a place where students can freely ask questions; no, a place where they are ENCOURAGED and PROMPTED to ask questions . . . to speak their doubts . . . to search like I did. That it remain a place where guys in Brotherhood Dorm (though it no longer goes by that name, it will always be Brotherhood to many of us) - can challenge each other in late-night bull sessions; oh, those bull sessions were where I truly learned to think for myself, to ask questions, and to either defend what I was thinking or rethink it!

Until Jacob Lupfer came along, I had figured OBU - being under control of the Fundamentalist-led Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma - was a lost cause. But Jacob and Save OBU gave me - and many of our fellow OBU alums - hope that OBU could truly be 'saved.'

In his final blog post, Jacob has expressed regrets and made some apologies. Those are between him and God, and between him and those he believes he has wronged. For my part, though, I can do nothing but affirm his handling of Save OBU from beginning to end.

What has especially impressed me has been the depth with which Jacob has researched and interviewed to develop a wealth of information about the situation at not only OBU but other Baptist schools as well. He never wrote careless accusations; he documented what he wrote. Many of us in Baptist life, but especially OBU grads, owe him a great debt.

Where does Save OBU go from here? I'm not as sanguine about OBU's present and future as Jacob is. Experience with Fundamentalist Baptist leaders here in Texas - as well as nationally - has taught me that they are relentless. It is not their nature to co-exist - to 'live and let live'; no, it is their nature to control. They are not cooperative Baptists; they are controlling Baptists (an oxymoron if ever there was one).

Jacob writes, 'By the middle of 2012, however, I began to doubt that my efforts were helping.'

I respectfully disagree. It seems to me the beginning of the Save OBU watchdog movement was followed - in short order - by definite changes in administration activities. Jacob writes that things have calmed down since December 2011. I see a strong correlation, and I worry about what will happen with the end of Save OBU's watchdog activity. I hope someone will take up the movement that Jacob started.

The battle here in Texas has changed; the fight moved from the highly visible convention battles to subtle, stealthy attempts to sway local churches. By going somewhat 'underground,' Fundamentalists have convinced many that 'the battle is over' and there is no more need for a watchdog like TBC. But the Southern Baptists of Texas are more active than ever - they've got their own convention now, so it's churches that they're out to control.

By the same token, I suspect that the 'calm' at OBU is only on the surface. The BGCO is run by people who don't like ambiguity, people who discourage the asking of uncomfortable questions, people who ultimately want their theology taught as incontrovertible truth. Again, I hope that someone will take up this cause.

In November 2012, I drove up to Shawnee - following Homecoming - to meet with Jacob and a group of Save OBU supporters and inquirers on campus. I've tried to give Save OBU as much support as possible, because I believe this movement is a natural 'fit' for Texas Baptists Committed - and because I care so deeply about OBU. However, like Jacob, I have my own regrets. I wish I could have done more. I promised Jacob, early on, that I would write a post for his blog, and I failed to keep that promise, for which I have apologized to him. Actually, last spring I began writing what I planned to be a series of posts relating my experience at OBU to the importance of preserving academic freedom - and a robust liberal arts education - on Bison Hill. Unfortunately, I haven't had the time to complete that series. I still plan to do so, however, and will ultimately post them either on the Save OBU blog - if it's still available - or here on the TBC blog.

Well, I've said more than I had planned, because I felt that I needed to put some context around my comments. The bottom line, though, is that all real Baptists owe Jacob Lupfer a debt of gratitude for his commitment to academic freedom and an authentic liberal arts education at OBU and other Baptist schools; for his dedication to keeping OBU truly Baptist.

Jacob, you've accomplished more than you know. Thank you for your dedication, your hard work, your integrity, and your friendship.

God bless OBU.