Conservative, moderate, liberal: A few more thoughts on Baylor, Baptists and theological labels

In my post Thursday, I delved into the religious background of Baylor University's first female president — a Baptist supportive of female senior pastors.

In that post, I noted that the Dallas Morning Newsin a front-page story — referred to Baylor as a "conservative Baptist school."

I wrote:

I'm not certain that "conservative Baptist" is the best description for Baylor, particularly in Texas. Longtime observers know that Baylor in the 1990s "survived a fierce struggle between conservatives and moderates at the Southern Baptist Convention." As Christianity Today notes, Baylor maintains a relationship with the moderate (in Baptist terms) Baptist General Convention of Texas, which "selects a quarter of Baylor’s board of regents and provides a sliver of its annual operating budget."

I also suggested that describing Baylor as "conservative" was questionable given its hiring of a president, Linda Livingstone, who has attended churches affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. The CBF, I said, "includes progressive Southern Baptist and former Southern Baptist congregations."

My post drew some excellent feedback from two longtime observers of Texas Baptists — and I wanted to highlight their insight in this follow-up post.

The first comment came from Jeffrey Weiss, the former award-winning Godbeat pro for the Dallas Morning News. Given that Weiss is in the midst of a cancer battle about which he has written eloquently for his own newspaper and Religion News Service, I was especially grateful to hear from him.

Here is what Weiss said:

I would gently suggest that BGCT remains "conservative" if one need not be extreme to justify the word. CBF is a different story, however. Fascinating!

I always appreciate gentle comments from faithful readers. Many thanks, kind sir!

The other response — equally gentle — came from GetReligion's own tmatt, a Baylor alum who grew up in a Southern Baptist household and is now an Eastern Orthodox Christian:

In recent years, the BGCT has -- behind the scenes -- had its share of tensions about Christian doctrines linked to the usual Sexual Revolution issues. Those of us who grew up as moderate Southern Baptists also know that there are differences, of style and substance, on issues linked to evangelism and salvation.
But not all CBF and BGCT churches are alike -- that's crucial. There are congregations in Waco that can accurately be described as theologically liberal. There are many "moderate" churches in town that are not liberal.
It appears clear that the new president has a long history of connections with Jimmy Carter/Bill Clinton Baptists. Yet her husband, in DC, was a leader in a school with strong and very clear statements on moral issues.
There is much for reporters to explore here. Issues of style and substance matter, in a place like Texas.

Trinity Christian School in Fairfax, Va., is the school where Livingstone's husband, Brad, serves as dean of students and teaches history. That school's foundational principles include:

We believe that God wonderfully and immutably creates each person as male or female (Exodus 4:11; Psalm 139:14; Matthew 19:4; Mark 10:6). God has purposefully designed each person, in his image, with the biological gender with which he or she was born. These two distinct, complementary genders together reflect the image and nature of God (Genesis 1:26-27; 5:1-3; 9:6; 1 Corinthians 11:7-12; James 3:9; 2 Corinthians 3:18). One’s biological sex reflects the wisdom of God in creating, and the intent of God in placing the image of God within that particular gender and person. Recognizing our sex, male or female, as a gift from God leads us to understand that conduct designed to redefine the unique, purposeful, God-ordained gender assigned by God to each person is not in accord with biblical teaching (Genesis 1:26; Deuteronomy 22:5; Jeremiah 1:4-5; Psalm 139:13-16; John 1:3; Galatians 3:28). Efforts to adopt an outward identity contrary to a person’s gender, deny God’s creative purpose and providential intention in making us male or female. 

In response to tmatt's comment, I asked:

To what extent would you consider her husband and his school relevant to coverage of HER background?

His reply:

As relevant as LGBTQ activists in the Big 12 sports/TV wars make it. Or the New York Times/Washington Post, in no particular order.

OK, but what would tmatt do? Maybe he'll reply and keep the conversation going. My personal thought: Focus on the new president, not her husband. That's why I didn't mention the above detail in my original post.

Your input would be most welcomed, too, dear reader. Please remember that GetReligion is focused on journalism and media coverage issues.

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