Bob Jones University: Epicenter of Fundamentalism's Future?

"a controversy over the future of both Bob Jones University and fundamentalism is raging. That fight centers on the presidency of Steve Pettit. Will he stay or will he go? Part of the fight centers on this basic question: what, exactly, is fundamentalism?" - Joshua Valdez

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Don Johnson's picture

Given the power politics, what else could they do? 

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Ron Bean's picture

God's will has been done!

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Don Johnson wrote:

Given the power politics, what else could they do? 

There's probably more to it than that, including (as others have mentioned) who would be the replacement.  Even if the majority of the board would have preferred a replacement, they will need quite some time for selection, vetting, etc., and it might have caused a lot of instability they weren't ready for at this moment.  I suspect it was partially a pragmatic decision for the immediate present, with a principled change to come.  Hopefully we'll end up hearing more about the reasoning involved.

Actually, they may need to make a change soon anyway.  In three more years, given Pettit's age, it's reasonable that he might already be considering stepping aside for younger blood, just as was done for Steven Jones a decade or so ago.

Dave Barnhart

Don Johnson's picture

dcbii wrote:

 

Don Johnson wrote:

 

Given the power politics, what else could they do? 

 

 

There's probably more to it than that, including (as others have mentioned) who would be the replacement. 

I doubt that was a serious consideration. No one is indispensable. 

 

dcbii wrote:
it might have caused a lot of instability they weren't ready for at this moment.  I suspect it was partially a pragmatic decision for the immediate present, with a principled change to come.

The trouble with pragmatism is that it works.

But seriously, all of us who have had complaints also like Steve. I mean, we all think of him as a personal friend. We've had a very long relationship with him. We admire a lot of what he has done. We just want BJU to continue as a fundamentalist institution. That doesn't mean it won't change and adapt with the times, but it does mean it should be guided by a certain philosophy.

dcbii wrote:
Actually, they may need to make a change soon anyway.  In three more years, given Pettit's age, it's reasonable that he might already be considering stepping aside for younger blood, just as was done for Steven Jones a decade or so ago.

That's true, but Steve is older than Steven.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

RajeshG's picture

Holding that a man who has long hair is not fit to be held up as exemplary to impressionable Christian youth is fully biblical:

1 Cor. 11:14 Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?

Taking seriously everything that God says in such statements is viewed by some as "cultural" fundamentalism, but in reality it is fidelity to Scripture and to our God who has inspired it for our profit.

dgszweda's picture

Don Johnson wrote:

Given the power politics, what else could they do? 

Even though I may offer a lot of rebuttals on here, I do share your concerns with some of the direction.  It may not be as dire as you, but I don't want to see it go in the direction of Northland.  My understanding, hearing it directly from a board member, is that there was a very vocal minority.  I know at least one board member who was in the vocal minority that moved to approving his contract.  Many of the board members were working to bridge the concerns through policies.  This is about as much as I know coming from primary sources.  It obviously wasn't a unanimous  I don't think removing Steve would have been the best decision, unless he refused to accommodate any concerns.  I think working with Pettit on the concerns, understanding his heart and putting in policies is probably the best of both worlds.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Don Johnson wrote:

I doubt that was a serious consideration. No one is indispensable.

[...]

That's true, but Steve is older than Steven.

Obviously, my previous post was too brief for clarity.  My fault.

I agree with you that absolutely no one is indispensable.  What I meant was that if they were planning to dismiss Steve, when that happens they will need to have someone already waiting in the wings to take over.  They still need the right candidate and cannot afford to choose quickly or indiscriminately.  Continuity and a sense of what the future will bring is indispensable to constituents, financial supporters, current and future students, etc.

Even if Steve would have been around until May as a lame duck while the next candidate was prepared, that would have been terrible for morale in the mean time.  For this to work well, they would have had to have a candidate ready to announce as Steve was being dismissed/not renewed.  From discussions with someone who knows members on the board, I do, in fact, think that this was one consideration, as to my knowledge, they had not yet vetted and prepared a replacement.  Not all that person knew was shared with me due to confidentiality, but I got a pretty good picture.

And what I was referring to with Steven was Dr. Bob III standing aside for Steven, not Steven stepping down due to illness, even though the situation is similar in that he would have been unable to keep up with the job.  Dr. Bob III was about the same age then that Steve is now, or very close, and obviously felt it would be better to pass on day-to-day leadership to a younger man.  There's no doubt in my mind that Steve will have thought about this as well, and in three years, after the current contract runs out (and he's 3 years older, not insignificant when one is in his 70's), I would suspect he will also be considering stepping aside willingly to let a younger man (the right man) lead, though I would fully expect the board to have that candidate ready before making the announcement.

Now that Steve has been renewed, I would expect, as other posters have said as well, that there will be "guardrails" in the form of policy changes to help guide the president.  I'm praying that this will be done and handled well, as I think the future of the university will depend on how well it is done.

Dave Barnhart

AndyE's picture

Dr Bob III was 66 when he stepped down as president.

Dr. Pettit will turn 67 on Nov 27.  I actually thought he was younger than that.

I don't think 70 is any sort of magic number for this position, but I suspect a transition to a younger man is something that will occur before too long.  

But as my daughter texted me yesterday, "It may have been Papa Johns last day today, but not Dr Pettit's!"

 

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

AndyE wrote:

Dr Bob III was 66 when he stepped down as president.

Dr. Pettit will turn 67 on Nov 27.  I actually thought he was younger than that.

I don't think 70 is any sort of magic number for this position, but I suspect a transition to a younger man is something that will occur before too long. 

Thanks for the correction, Andy.  70 is not quite the same as "70's," and I thought he was older than 67.  You're right that it's not a magic number, but one does need a lot of energy to lead well.  Maybe that won't be an issue for him in 3 years.

Dave Barnhart

AndyE's picture

dcbii wrote:
Thanks for the correction, Andy.  70 is not 70's, and I thought he was older than 67.  You're right that it's not a magic number, but one does need a lot of energy to lead well.  Maybe that won't be an issue for him in 3 years.

These ages don't seem nearly as old to me as they once did. :)   Joe Biden is turning 80 this weekend and look how well he is doing as president...oh, wait....

W. T. O'Harver's picture

AndyE wrote:
But as my daughter texted me yesterday, "It may have been Papa Johns last day today, but not Dr Pettit's!"

Is "Papa John" a board member? If so, why would it be his last day?

AndyE's picture

W. T. O'Harver wrote:

 

AndyE wrote:
But as my daughter texted me yesterday, "It may have been Papa Johns last day today, but not Dr Pettit's!"

 

Is "Papa John" a board member? If so, why would it be his last day?

It's a pizza joint on campus in the "den" -- not sure why it was going away.  Just know that it did.

Bert Perry's picture

I can't speak about BJ2 or BJ3, and how they were at age 65+, but I did meet Dr. Pettit a couple of months back, and he seemed to be really on top of his game at that point.  He needs to make sure he's bringing up people to follow him, as any smart person knows he won't be there forever, but there's no need to replace Pettit due to age or declining mental ability.  

We'll see what the end result is beyond Pettit keeping his job.  I'm hoping that BJU's move away from cultural fundamentalism continues, because "Steve or no Steve", I don't believe they can survive without walking back some of the policies they've had over the years, and they can do that without violating Scripture, IMO.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Bert Perry's picture

A chain I've known & loved. Roommate of mine had their number on the emergency contacts list. :^)

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Bert Perry wrote:

I can't speak about BJ2 or BJ3, and how they were at age 65+, but I did meet Dr. Pettit a couple of months back, and he seemed to be really on top of his game at that point.  He needs to make sure he's bringing up people to follow him, as any smart person knows he won't be there forever, but there's no need to replace Pettit due to age or declining mental ability.  

It's been 3-4 years since I personally interacted with Steve Pettit, but I agree he seemed quite sharp.  And he might be one of those who ends up being sharp into his 80's.  Still, being the president of a university is a big job, the amount of energy necessary is definitely more than average, and the stress levels are probably quite high.  But some people do thrive in that environment.

Dave Barnhart

G. N. Barkman's picture

There's a lot of rejoicing on campus, both faculty and students.  Nearly everyone who is directly involved with the school believes that BJU is thriving under Steve Pettit's leadership.  There will always be critics, that's human nature, but the vast majority are thankful for the new emphasis on Biblical exposition, and relaxing rules that are cultural rather than Biblical.  

As I see it, the school has not dropped it's standards, but is making a serious effort to make them solidly Biblical.  That's not easy, as many details are not spelled out in Scripture.  That's why there is such a wide variety of opinions regarding the details of dress, music requirements, etc. 

For example, I personally strongly prefer conservative traditional music.  But I have to be honest with Scripture to acknowledge that the Bible doesn't give us details.  When people ask me why we don't have "contemporary music" in our church, I say something like, "Because I don't believe it is the best way to worship God and edify His people, and God has given me the responsibility, as Pastor, to make decisions regarding how we will worship."  I don't say others are wrong.   Its a judgment call.  I'm responsible for the decisions I make, but I leave it to God to judge both me and others.  It's not a separation issue, but a matter of preference.  There are far more serious matters that require we take a militant stand.

G. N. Barkman

JohnS's picture

G. N. Barkman wrote:

As I see it, the school has not dropped it's standards, but is making a serious effort to make them solidly Biblical.  That's not easy, as many details are not spelled out in Scripture.  That's why there is such a wide variety of opinions regarding the details of dress, music requirements, etc. 

. . .  I don't say others are wrong.   Its a judgment call.  I'm responsible for the decisions I make, but I leave it to God to judge both me and others.  It's not a separation issue, but a matter of preference.  There are far more serious matters that require we take a militant stand.

Well said.  I believe that many times the strong prescription of preferences is related to a struggle to trust God the Holy Spirit to lead others to a right conclusion.  Which if we wait long enough and trust Him, He may move that person to even agree with our preference.  And at the end of it all, the fundamentals are what matter.  I suspect that in heaven we'll kinda wonder "why was [fill in a preference] such a big deal to me?"

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