A Failure to Stay the Course [Handbook changes at BJU]

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Jim's picture

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While the University has failed to stay the course in its disciplines, its alumni have failed to hold its administration accountable for its direction.  Fundamental pastors, so quick to point out the flaws and failures in other ministries in the past, have been all but silent while the board and leadership at BJU steers the University away from its fundamental moorings.  Why the silence?  Why the accommodation of changes we know are not welcome in our own ministries, but are being thrust upon us and our children by an institution we loved and trusted?

Aaron Blumer's picture

I personally have no strong opinion one way or the other on whether the school should have adjusted its dress code, but the idea that doing so is a betrayal because the kids will be exposed to standards less strict than those they were raised with? They're going to be exposed to less strict standards for everything all their lives unless they live deeply embedded in the fundamentalist ghetto.

The kids are going to have to live in the culture we have, not the culture we might wish we had. Is it really all that huge if they start living in something a bit more like it a few years sooner rather than later? Isolation can only accomplish so much, and only for so long. (Unless, again, the plan is "stay in the ghetto"... but there is not much left of the ghetto, so I suggest a different plan.)

WallyMorris's picture

This is a complex topic that often has "red herring" arguments. Anyone who didn't see this coming wasn't paying attention. As far as "silence" among some people, I and others have expressed concerns to the BJU administration and got nowhere. The issue is not "being exposed to different standards" but the issue is "What should those standards be?" Everyone has their arguments pro & con. But at a minimum BJU is beng influenced by our casual culture and is adjusting its policies accordingly, probably to maintain enrollment. Using Biblical arguments to support the changes is a cover for the real reason: keeping the school open. I'm not going to say anymore on this - don't have the time. The arguments that will appear in this discussion are the same arguments used over & over by all positions on this issue, and no minds/opinions will be changed or convinced one way or the other.

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

amomentofcharity.blogspot.com

Steve Newman's picture

I will use quotes from the author:

Admittedly, there were some things in BJU’s Student Handbook that did not make sense in my era (for example, guys wearing ties to classes in the morning, but not in the afternoon; men wearing suit jackets to dinner and ties to go off campus; women wearing hose year round).  All of those irritants are gone now, but so are many of the disciplines that instilled distinctive Christian virtues in the student body.

So the author admits that some "disciplines" turned into "irritants." But, honestly, how do disciplines of dress instill distinctive Christian virtues? Yes, there are standards of modesty. But BJU isn't saying they don't have standards of modest dress. They are just saying they are modified. And how do the particular standards the author refers to instill Christian virtues? They only do if you are doing them for the right reason, pleasing the Lord. The fact of dressing a certain way in and of itself does not. 

The distinctive disciplines that set BJU apart from the likes of Furman University, Liberty University, and Cedarville University are eroding as is the polished character that was BJU’s hallmark.

If the measurement is to be "more modest in dress than these other schools," then he would be right. But we don't base what to do on what other institutions do, but what pleases God. If we compare ourselves with others, we are not wise (I think I've heard that somewhere). 

What the author is saying is that BJU standards are changing and he doesn't like it. He has the right to do that, I guess. But this isn't like the Northland bait-and-switch from the past decade.

apward's picture

Culture and appropriate clothing will always change, not Biblical doctrine and principles. It seems to be a common fundamentalist error to place dress code and clothing standards on the level of doctrine. Not that everyone makes this error, thankfully, but it can be pervasive.

Culture and clothing will always change. Always. That's not pragmatism. BJU is probably the campion at being the slowest to change, but gets criticized for not being even slower. People have always disagreed about clothing standards, whether too tight or too loose. I'm glad BJU still has any clothing standards at all when most schools have dropped them completely.

But by all means, let's avoid equating changing dress code to changing doctrine.

TylerR's picture

It's the end of the world as we know it ... and I feel fine ...

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

mmartin's picture

The author admits that even in his day some dress code rules didn't make sense.  When I went to BJU in the middle 90's, the dress code was even more relaxed compared to what the author experienced in his day (late 70's).  We didn't have to wear ties off campus nor suit jackets to dinner and the girls could wear denim skirts.

So, was the relaxing of the dress code from his time to mine bad (wrong, slippery slope to destruction) as well?

If not, then how were those changes OK, but these changes are not?

Just trying to get at the logic of the author's arguments.

Northland didn't close because they relaxed the dress code.  They closed because of stupid leadership.  And while a relaxing of the dress code can be a litmus test of potential relaxing of other, more important standards, you need to show me more than just the dress code changes before I start fussing at BJU.

I don't know for certain, but I would expect Pettit would've moved forward on these changes with the board's approval.

As a BJU alumn, I have no problem with these changes.

Andrew K's picture

apward wrote:

Culture and appropriate clothing will always change, not Biblical doctrine and principles. It seems to be a common fundamentalist error to place dress code and clothing standards on the level of doctrine. Not that everyone makes this error, thankfully, but it can be pervasive.

Culture and clothing will always change. Always. That's not pragmatism. BJU is probably the campion at being the slowest to change, but gets criticized for not being even slower. People have always disagreed about clothing standards, whether too tight or too loose. I'm glad BJU still has any clothing standards at all when most schools have dropped them completely.

But by all means, let's avoid equating changing dress code to changing doctrine.

The utter falsity of that statement makes want to snap my garters and tear off my powdered wig with rage.

Larry Nelson's picture

TylerR wrote:

It's the end of the world as we know it ... and I feel fine ...

REM is still prohibited (at least officially) per the Student Handbook's music section.....     Smile

 

Dave White's picture

Bert Perry's picture

Not to ruin everyone's fun by saying something serious here, but as the dad of four daughters, I've got to applaud the modification of the athletic shorts requirement.  Getting anything besides basketball shorts to go anywhere close to the knee for girls is tough, and girls often hate them because even those are generally cut more for a boy's physique.  Unless we're going to sew all our own clothes, the dress code has to be possible when one goes to Macy's or Kohl's. 

Hopefully these changes in the dress code will free BJU to see clearly what its Biblical mission ought to be.

Ron Bean's picture

Small Thought #1: Think of the radical changes between 1927 and 1977. 

Small Thought #2: My wife recalls objections to  the installation of carpet in the dorms because students wouldn't  know how to wax floors.

Small Thought #3: In the history of fundamentalist institutions, the most notable contribution of alumni has been criticism.

Small Thought #4: No one is forcing women to wear pants, They are simply allowing them to make a choice they will also make in the real world.

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

Larry Nelson's picture

"Dress and Grooming Standards

The dress and grooming of both men and women should always be modest, neat, and clean, consistent with the dignity adherent to representing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and any of its institutions of higher education.

Modesty and cleanliness are important values that reflect personal dignity and integrity, through which students, staff, and faculty represent the principles and standards of the Church. Members of the BYU community commit themselves to observe the following standards, which reflect the direction of the Board of Trustees and the Church publication For the Strength of Youth. The Dress and Grooming Standards are as follows:

Men

A clean and well-cared-for appearance should be maintained. Clothing is inappropriate when it is sleeveless, revealing, or form fitting. Shorts must be knee-length or longer. Hairstyles should be clean and neat, avoiding extreme styles or colors, and trimmed above the collar, leaving the ear uncovered. Sideburns should not extend below the earlobe or onto the cheek. If worn, moustaches should be neatly trimmed and may not extend beyond or below the corners of the mouth. Men are expected to be clean-shaven; beards are not acceptable. Earrings and other body piercing are not acceptable. Shoes should be worn in all public campus areas.

Women

A clean and well-cared-for appearance should be maintained. Clothing is inappropriate when it is sleeveless, strapless, backless, or revealing; has slits above the knee; or is form fitting. Dresses, skirts, and shorts must be knee-length or longer. Hairstyles should be clean and neat, avoiding extremes in styles or colors. Excessive ear piercing (more than one per ear) and all other body piercing are not acceptable. Shoes should be worn in all public campus areas."

https://policy.byu.edu/view/index.php?p=26

[Bolded highlights mine.]

Jonathan Charles's picture

He did not mind a change from rules he did not like from the 70’s, but he does mind a change of dress code now. 

I’m tired of old fundamentalist arguing that we need to have higher standards when those higher standards have nothing to do with Biblical commands or with modesty (in the case of dress).  They want higher standards for their own sake, and they want the prerogative to determine what those higher standards should be. 

Steve Davis's picture

Once again the issues raised are about application of biblical principles but not biblical issues. I was there in the culture of the 70s, tie, jacket, formal meals, dating parlor, etc. That was then. This is now. Times have changed. Culture has changed. Jesus hasn't changed. The gospel hasn't changed. As long as BJ stays the course on Jesus and the gospel I'm not only not concerned about the changes but encouraged by them. BJ is committed to the Word of God as the supreme authority in faith and practice. There's room for disagreement in areas related to culture except for paranoid people trapped in their little sub-sub-culture who fixate on a golden past. It does not signify a drift. 

BTW, I graduated in 1978 and a son who graduated in 2006. I don't know which alumni the author refers to who have failed to hold the administration accountable or have "stayed the course." Most alumni I know are glad for the changes.

dcbii's picture

Ron Bean wrote:

Small Thought #3: In the history of fundamentalist institutions, the most notable contribution of alumni has been criticism.

Of course, BJU has actually asked for this with the agreement they wanted all those who graduated to sign, promising they'd do something if they saw the university slipping (I don't remember the exact wording there).

Otherwise, I pretty much agree with your post.  A few years ago, I attended an open meeting on campus between parents/alumni and Steve Pettit and other administrators, to discuss some of the changes being implemented at that time.  The mood in the crowd was largely in favor of the changes (especially after direct explanation by the administration), but it was certainly not unanimous.  There were some there who were against changes being made, even if they could give no really good grounds for their opposition.  It boiled down to either "it's a change from what we knew," or "that's just not Christian" but with no direct biblical support.  That's a bit of an oversimplification, but it's close.

BJU, like every other institution out there is going to make some changes over time.  (I'm assuming even those complaining don't really want BJU to look exactly like it did in the 1920s when founded, with the same dress standards and all.)  There will always be disagreement, but unless the changes directly conflict with scriptural commands, people are going to have to learn to not get bent out of shape over every small change, since not every change is a move towards "worldliness."

Dave Barnhart

Bert Perry's picture

....is that the modification of dress codes offers BJU (and others) offers them a great opportunity to dig through the rationale for the codes--I've never really been persuaded that 1 Peter 3:3 and 1 Tim. 2:9 are primarily or even significantly about how much skin is covered and how--and make them more truly Biblical.  And (H/T Larry) not virtually indistinguishable from BYU, of course.  

Larry Nelson's picture

Students at BYU must be befuddled by the school's beard prohibition, whenever they glance at many photos of the school's namesake. 

TylerR's picture

Behold, the Prince of Preachers and his beard, in all its glory ...

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

DLCreed's picture

Travis wrote in his article... "The board and administration of Bob Jones University are following its smaller predecessors to its own ruin.  Pillsbury Baptist Bible College, Northland University, Tennessee Temple University, and Clearwater Christian College (to name a few), all drifted from their distinctive character as fundamental Bible Colleges and because of that drift their demise became inevitable.  I am afraid their end will be sadly the same for the University. "

I almost snorted my diet drink on my computer screen when I read that paragraph.  None of these schools closed for the same reason as any other schools on the list, but one thing they all had in common is the fact that they WAITED TOO LONG to address the extra/non-Biblical regulations that drove students to consider less-restrictive schools at which they could receive a quality education in a solidly-Christian environment.

I, under a different name than I am posting under here, wrote a series of articles on the coming demise of Fundamental Christian Colleges a little over 15 years ago which created a personal fire storm for me as they went viral in the communities that they touched.  I predicted then that there would need to be some adjustment on issues like accreditation, dress codes, tone, music styles and affiliations or many would close.  I was accused of being a compromising infidel and worse and then I watched so many of my predictions come true.  BJU and Pensacola Christian have managed to survive, largely due to the large cash-flows provided by their publishing branches, but even cheap tuition leading to an unaccredited degree could not prevent enrollment drops.  Pensacola stayed somewhat stronger by building an amazing, world-class campus -- but they recently announced significant changes in their own codes as well.  Bob Jones has undergone huge enrollment drops, layoffs, etc... and finally started moving to undo their horrific reputation on racial issues, received accreditation and with this important move -- may have a chance for survival as a result.  I live in their backyard and for the first time in two decades, I'm hearing young people at least "considering" BJU as an option.  I've watched the children of alumni absolutely rise up in incredible rebellion at attempts by their parents and pastors to force them to go there -- these weren't bad kids -- one is now a missionary -- but they weren't going to go to a school with BJ's rules and reputation.  They had other choices and were determined to exercise them.  I watched one family kick their daughter out of their house for refusing to go to BJU and she slept in her car for a week before finding someone to take her in.  Today, she is a wonderful wife and mother who is active in our church.  She didn't want to be affiliated with BJ's racism and had grown up enjoying freedoms (not of a sinful kind) that she wasn't about to give up now that she was a young adult.

I commend the administration.  I was accused of wanting to destroy fundamental colleges/universities with my criticisms years ago and nothing could have been further from the truth.  I just wish we could have salvaged a few more along the way.  Some needed to close.  Some closed because of market forces that had nothing to do with rules/regulations.  Some closed unnecessarily -- they were just too bull-headed to acknowledge that recalcitrance on non-essentials would lead to their demise.  Sadly -- I do believe this is a fact -- there are some, including the author of the article in question, I suspect -- who would rather see places like Bob Jones close, than consider that they weren't as right in the past as they claimed to be and to make necessary adjustments to a changing world.

Ron Bean's picture

Small Thought #3: In the history of fundamentalist institutions, the most notable contribution of alumni has been criticism.

From my perspective the fundamentalist base including alumni has seldom been generous in their praise or financial support of our institutions. They have, however, been generous in their criticism when things happen with which they disagree. To some their expressions of concern seem trivial and their allegiance has been described as fickle.

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

TylerR's picture

This article seems to reflect a flavor of Baptist fundamentalism I've left long behind.

If fundamentalist Baptists are looking for doctrinal conservatism, Baptist convictions, and good principles for Christian living and teaching, I suggest you look to the GARBC. Contact the representatives for the regional fellowships and start attending fellowships. You'll discover that a whole, healthy and constructive world exists beyond the crumbling and rotted edifices of IFB cultism. I've no idea if this author would identify as an IFB Baptist; my comments are more about the mindset this article appears to represent.

I still think there's a good book or booklet to be written on "Three Views on the Spectrum of Baptist Fundamentalism."

The author recently posted an update:

I realized my earlier blogs stating my observations and concerns regarding Bob Jones University  would not be received well by some.  While I expressed my thoughts in a spirit of love and sorrow, I was aware I might be greeted with a vitriol that might turn personal and caustic.

Like the culture we live in, I have found many believers infected with a strident spirit that maligns and attacks. Indeed, it is that harsh vindictive spirit that chides many into silence.

I have no interest in debating ad nauseam my concerns, nor do I have time to address every critic.  My concerns are my concerns. If you do not share them, that is fine by me; however, do not attack me for daring to express them.

My blogs were not written with a spirit of malice, but as an expression of a shepherd who loves his sheep. After nearly 33 years of ministry at Hillsdale Baptist Church, I am content with being a pastor and have no interest in being a crusader for or against any institution.

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Steve Davis's picture

I love it when concerns are expressed in a "spirit of love and sorrow" but detractors greet them with "vitriol that might turn personal and caustic" and "believers infected with a strident spirit that maligns and attacks" with a "harsh vindictive spirit that chides many into silence." Now what kind of spirit was that? Seriously, I haven't seen what he's describing here on SI. Maybe elsewhere. He didn't need to respond. Now he sounds thin-skinned and I say that with no vitriol, neither caustic nor personal, nor strident, nor maligning.

I'm glad to see that he's been faithfully pastoring the same church for 33 years. But if you're going to write and criticize (or express) then you need to put on your big boy pants and be able to handle the pushback.

Bert Perry's picture

Noticing that no one seems to be openly discussing the more "culturally conservative" side of the argument.  Nobody here (not even whoever's disliking quite a few comments?) is willing to stand up for that?  Really, even as (most likely) one of the least "culturally conservative" folks here, I'd be willing to at least give it a read--though I'd admit that you'd have a tough time convincing me that the clear imperative from Scripture is to follow a "look" that most closely resembles that of the 1950s.  Seems to be a little problem with "causality" there, to put it mildly.

But if you're out there, and you've got an argument, put it up. 

Along these lines, one of the most damning things about Smith's writing (I've read all nine of his comments) is that he's really assuming his conclusion--the new modesty standards are in his view Biblically wrong, but he's really not providing any Biblical evidence for that position.  It's almost as if he's trying to prove my claim that there simply isn't much there.

Donn R Arms's picture

DLCreed wrote:

I, under a different name than I am posting under here, wrote a series of articles on the coming demise of Fundamental Christian Colleges

Are you using a pseudonym now? Why?

Donn R Arms

Jim's picture

Donn R Arms wrote:

 

DLCreed wrote:

 

I, under a different name than I am posting under here, wrote a series of articles on the coming demise of Fundamental Christian Colleges

 

 

Are you using a pseudonym now? Why?

*** MOD NOTE: Approved by the S/I leadership. Please do not pursue further. Thanks - Jim Peet ****

DLCreed's picture

Donn R Arms wrote:

 

DLCreed wrote:

 

I, under a different name than I am posting under here, wrote a series of articles on the coming demise of Fundamental Christian Colleges

 

 

Are you using a pseudonym now? Why?

Because of the nature of my current work.  I no longer blog as I once did and the moderators here are aware of that and have given me permission to use a pseudonym.  Otherwise, I could not post or participate.  I'm grateful for their willingness to allow me to do this as I am deeply interested in this world.  They do know who I am as do a few others on here.

Bert Perry's picture

What's important here, in my view, is that DLCreed put together a list of things that he's noticed correlated pretty well with why young people in his circles weren't considering fundamental Bible colleges.  I've discouraged my own children from going to Bible colleges for really about the same reasons.  Peer reviewed statistical evidence it is not, but even so it's an observation that ought to be very interesting to those running, and supporting, fundamental Bible colleges and universities.  

And if we're more interested in what his genuine identity is than in whether this critique is correct, we've revealed quite a bit about how we think, don't you think?

One thing to note as well is that the kids of things he mentions aren't just operative at the college level, but also for things like what church to attend and whether, and where, to go to summer camp.  My daughters have developed, shall we say, very limited patience for people who lecture all the girls about modesty when it's obvious to anyone with a pulse who is pushing the boundaries.  Put in other terms, if you can't handle seeing a few inches of a teen girl's thigh, you just might not be cut out for ministry to teens, and if your church's dress code makes your teens instantly recognizable as insiders, you're going to have problems.

TylerR's picture

Here is an excerpt from another article in this series by the same author, where he (deliberately or not, who can tell?) echoes the unfortunate Frontline article by Dan Unruh from November 2016. This article is entitled, "Hijacked: You can lose your church while sleeping in the pew!" and it illustrates where the author is coming from quite well:

The typical scenario is a trusting, aging church calls a young, dynamic pastor to take the helm of their church ministries following a faithful veteran pastor who retired, moved on or was pushed out by church members who wanted a change.   Reasoning the young pastor would bring new ideas and the church would be blessed with an influx of youth, the trusting church settled into a familiar rut of “watch and wait” unaware they were setting a course that would inevitably abandon the legacy and heritage of the church, its traditional worship services and often its own membership.

Before I am misunderstood and taken to task, allow me to state emphatically I am not arguing against change.  Change is an inevitable dynamic with the passing of time, membership and new leadership who bring different skills, spiritual gifts and their own strengths and weaknesses.  It is impossible for a ministry to experience a change in leadership and not face the reality of changes within the body of that organization. [Let’s face it; some people oppose change regardless of how inevitable, necessary or valid the change.]

The changes I want to address are at first subtle, pragmatic and sometimes deceptive.  The doctrine begins a subtle shift, the music style begins to drift, and inevitably unrest takes hold in the body of the church.  Several examples come to mind where young pastors who, lacking an appreciation for the heritage of the church and its godly legacy, reasoned if a new generation is reached the church must “Change or Die”.  Because the congregation dutifully followed the previous pastor for a generation, church members fail to question the young pastor.  Church leaders participate in the changes without asking for the guiding principles behind the young pastor’s “Change or Die” narrative and what those changes might be.

In fairness to the young pastor, his youth, inexperience and the pressure to be successful sends him searching for the keys to a successful ministry.  Seminars, conferences, headliner national speakers, peers and “Ministry for Dummies” books and blogs soon become his fare at the sacrifice of prayer, Bible study, and the counsel of older, experienced mentors.  Like Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, the young preacher rejects the counsel and cautions of his elders and embraces the counsel and example of his peers (1 Kings 12:6-8) who flatter his ego and inflame his pride.

In light of this (and other examples from the website), readers should probably give the author's comments and concerns all the weight they believe he is due. He who has ears to hear, let him hear ...

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

dcbii's picture

Actually, I think it's the attitude and atmosphere of the school that makes the difference with regard to standards, not the exact standards themselves.  Anyone can learn to live under really strict standards, as long they are handled properly, and the students not treated as too dumb to know any better.

I didn't require either of my children to attend BJU, and like most teenagers, they proclaimed their desire to go elsewhere.  Interestingly, they both eventually chose to go there on their own, after considering other options.  I did tell them that in some ways they were going to probably chafe under some of the less well-thought-out rules, but that if they chose to go there, they knew what they were getting into and needed to do it with the right spirit.  They could also see that attitude-wise, there were some really good changes taking place under Stephen Jones, and then Steve Pettit, which basically dealt with the atmosphere on campus, which, as far as I could see, was much less adversarial than when I was there, and had really improved, and IMHO, made BJU something they should really consider.  They still had some occasional complaints about things that were just plain dumb (and others they just didn't like), but overall they had a good experience there.  However, even they can see that some things needed changing and were happy to see some of the changes, even though they don't benefit from them personally.

I still think a lot of the changes are good, but no matter what the rules and standards are, what you get out of it is in large part determined by what you put into it.  Having understanding faculty and staff also can make the difference between a school that one can be proud of vs. one you are happy to be done with.  BJU has definitely recently done a lot to be the former.

Dave Barnhart

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