This originally appeared in the Macon Telegraph, November 18, 2005.
As a Mercer alumnus and a pastor, I am tremendously relieved by the decision of the Georgia Baptist Convention to sever ties with Mercer University. As the GBC has continued its descent into the far-right margins of evangelical Christianity, Mercer has continued to move forward in building a well-respected regional university. The two directions are obviously inimical, and neither institution was well-served by association with the other.
My primary concern has been with the credibility of the seminary. As an inaugural graduate of Mercer’s McAfee School of Theology, I have winced every time the GBC has made another reactionary or ill-informed statement on society, on the roles of women or on homosexuality. The anti-intellectual, misogynistic and homophobic rhetoric that regularly pours out of the GBC and its member churches has the potential to greatly impair the credibility of a McAfee education in the larger Christian world. It is hard enough to teach people that not all Baptists oppose gay marriage, the ordination of women, or the teaching of evolution. Having to explain that a Mercer education is not the same thing as a Georgia Baptist or Southern Baptist indoctrination is even more tedious.
I am confident that the gospel is so powerful that it will survive the adulterations imposed on it by fundamentalism and the current leadership of the Georgia Baptist Convention; and I am confident that the gospel can also change lives despite whatever impediments mainstream Christianity presents it. Nevertheless, the GBC has moved so far into the absurd extremes of cultural conservativism that any association with it compromises the ability of mainstream Christians to do the work of the gospel with authority and authenticity.
Thank you for allowing us to go our separate ways.