Not Baptist Enough for Baylor?

I appreciated Wade Burleson’s comments on the recent appoinment of Ken Starr as the new president of Baylor University.  Even though he is a devoted follower of Jesus Christ, some people don’t think Starr is “Baptist enough” for the appointment.  It brought to mind our ongoing conversation at Richmond’s First Baptist Church about receiving members from other denominations who have not been baptized as believers by immersion.  Are they Baptist enough to be members?  Is Ken Starr Baptist enough to be president of Baylor?  I’ve attached Wade’s thoughts on the subject below.  I hope you will appreciate them as much as I did.

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It seems that the Ken Starr is a down to earth, conservative evangelical Christian with a brilliant mind and some pretty powerful connections throughout the United States. Unlike the media’s portrayal of Ken Starr during the Clinton era, Ken is no conservative ideologue. He has a legal mind second to none. He has demonstrated an ability to raise enormous amounts of money at Pepperdine, and the students and faculty love him. [My friend Brooks Douglass, a Southern Baptist “missionary kid” and former Oklahoma Senator] told me that two current United States Supreme Court justices had clerked for Starr, and if it had not been for the Lewinsky debacle, Ken Starr would be the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court today. Brooks said Ken Starr’s Christian values, established connections, and track record of superb leadership makes Ken Starr a five star hire by Baylor University. I was pleased to hear such a strong recommendation from a man I respect.

Then I begin to read the blogs of Southern Baptist religious ideologues about Ken Starr’s hiring at Baylor. Most of them are not happy. Why?

Ken Starr is not Baptist enough. Though Ken and his wife are devoted followers of Jesus Christ, that is not enough. Though he and Alice were longtime members of McLean Bible Church, a conservative evangelical church in Washington, D.C.– that still isn’t enough. The fact that he has been baptized upon his profession of faith in Jesus Christ isn’t enough, for he hasn’t been “baptized in a Baptist church.” The fact that he will be “joining” a Baptist church upon arrival in Waco doesn’t quite cut the mustard either. That’s just a “farce,” according to Bart Barber, a trustee and employee at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Ken Starr is not a true, blue-blood Baptist. He shouldn’t be President of Baylor University because being a Baptist is more important than being a Christian. {Edit: Bart Barber says that I have misunderstood the point of his blog. He writes in his post: “If you will no longer require that your presiding officers (at Baylor) actually BE Baptists, please stop coercing them into joining Baptist churches.” I freely admit not always comprehending things correctly, and apologize to Bart if I have misunderstood he was inferring Ken Starr wasn’t Baptist enough to be an approprate choice for the office of President of Baylor University.}

Listen to this quote from a Southern Baptist pastor named David Worley:

“Sooooooo, I wonder what (Baptist) Church might receive Starr and his wife without requiring them to be baptised first? Or, will they both willingly get baptised (sic) in this Baptist Church? Interesting, huh?”

That kind of thinking reminds me of the trustees at the IMB who said they would rather pay thousands of dollars to fly a Southern Baptist pastor from the United States to China to baptize a convert than to allow a SBC missionary who was not “properly credentialed” to perform it.

I think that we Southern Baptists, unfortunately, are becoming more and more known for being Southern Baptists than devoted followers of Jesus Christ. When we are more concerned about the President of Baylor University being baptized in baptist waters than we are the spiritual condition and maturity of the man who takes the office, then we have sacrificed our “Christian” heritage on the alter of religious ideology. Soon, there will be little difference between the ritualism of us Southern Baptists and that of Mormons who must baptize in special places, wearing special underwear, at the hands of a special under… er, well, you get the idea.

Take it from a person with the same last name as the first President of Baylor University in Waco, Texas–Ken Starr is a great hire.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

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Click HERE to read Wade’s post in context on his blog.

3 thoughts on “Not Baptist Enough for Baylor?

  1. As one who worked for several years in the Federal court system with many insights into our Federal legal system, and as one who has had many insights into higher education, I have to agree that Ken Starr IS an excellent “catch” for Baylor as their President in my humble opinion. I have also known of people, who became Presidents of historically Baptist higher education institutions, as well as some who became Presidents of other denominationally connected institutions, who not only were not Baptist but who seemed to have questionable Christian beliefs. Now here is Ken Starr who is a Christian AND who is willing to join a Baptist church when he gets there. BONUS! I just hope that the church he joins, in that area, will not require him to be re-baptized like a Baptist church in another part of Virginia required me to be rebaptized when I joined it. Even so, um, what up with the Mormons and the “special underwear”? Hope that’s not like the big ol’ white choir robe I had to wear which really wicked up the water! Ha, ha!

  2. You know, I have to say that we Baptists need to struggle to reframe what it means to be Baptist within Christianity. We’ve started thinking of ourselves as Christianity and others as subsets of ourselves … and oft heretical subsets at that.

    One Baptism. That’s all. Not one “correct” baptism.

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