Published May 17, 2012
Georgia Baptists should be deliriously delighted and eternally grateful for what is happening at our Georgia Baptist institutions of higher education.
Truett-McConnell College, flying under the banner of being “Biblically centered and distinctively Baptist,” is flourishing under the strong convictional leadership of President Emir Caner.
Brewton-Parker College, with its motto, “Honoring Christ – Inspiring Excellence,” has been set on a path of strength and stability by the gracious and experienced leadership of President Mike Simoneaux.
Shorter College, now Shorter University, was essentially lost to Georgia Baptists eight years ago, but as a result of a decision by the Supreme Court of Georgia the school was restored to the Convention.
Under the able leadership of Georgia Baptist Convention Executive Director J. Robert White, Shorter Trustee Chairman Nelson Price, and college President Harold Newman, the Rome college began to make its way into the favor of the accrediting agency (the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools), achieved financial solvency, increased enrollment and even attained university status.
On June 1, 2011, the university welcomed Dr. Donald Dowless to succeed Newman as the 19th president. Dowless and his wife, Teresa, share a devotion to Christian higher education that is fueled by a desire to see students grow in their faith.
Georgia Baptists have in Dowless a president who is dedicated to leading Shorter to become a viable, respected, Christ-honoring university that will uphold the principles of our Baptist heritage and the original intent of Alfred Shorter, the one for whom the school is named.
Shorter, as founder, made this statement to which current leadership is committed to honor: “I can but wonder why the Lord allowed me, a poor boy, to make all this money. He must have intended that I use it for His glory, and I know of no better use to which I may put it than in building a school where God’s name may be honored and where young women may be fitted to occupy stations of honor and usefulness, and thus make the college a blessing to humanity and a glory to God.”
In order to honor Alfred Shorter’s name, Dowless has wisely and carefully put in place a suite of personal and lifestyle statements that the faculty and staff are expected to sign. The Lifestyle Statement includes such things as (1) agreeing with the university’s statement of faith, (2) being active members of a local church, (3) rejecting as acceptable all sexual activity not in agreement with the Bible, including, but not limited to, premarital sex, adultery and homosexuality, and (4) restrictions on the use of alcoholic beverages.
Providing quality education for college-age students is a responsibility of great significance. The administration, faculty and staff should be required to teach by example as well as precept. To do otherwise is hypocritical and superficial. Instructing and molding America’s future leaders is a weighty responsibility and “to whom much is given much is required.”
We should expect our Baptist institutions of higher education to offer academic excellence and spiritual fervor to their students. David Dockery, president of Union University in Jackson, TN, explained, “Baptist institutions can successfully navigate the treacherous course between fundamentalism and liberalism by being Christ-centered and church-connected.”
A Baptist university cannot do that without having a faculty with strong convictions and a consistent Christian lifestyle.
Referring to the Lifestyle Statement, Dowless has remarked, “We want to be sure mothers and fathers of students know this is our belief system. We are simply clarifying our core values.”
The vast majority of Georgia Baptists would say a hearty “Amen” to Dowless’ statement and would also agree that faculty and staff receiving Cooperative Program money should have no hesitancy about signing such a statement. In fact, The Christian Index would like to go on record in saluting Dr. Dowless for taking such a bold and courageous stand.
However, such gallant leadership in this society of tolerance and political correctness cuts against the grain of those who prefer compromise over convictions and who are more content with the misty flats than the challenging heights.
Mary Zane Morris, a former chair of the Shorter communications department, recently sent a copy of an email to The Christian Index with a foreboding prediction about the future of Shorter due to the requirement of the administration for faculty and staff to sign the Lifestyle Statement.
I fully believe that her projected demise of the Rome university of which she was once a part is undoubtedly a subjective, disappointing, and inaccurate assessment of the situation at Shorter. In my opinion, her prognostications may prove to be nothing more than the forlorn lamentations of a sullen soul. In fact, the university just graduated almost 500 students, including the university’s first graduates who received a bachelor of science in nursing.
Those attending the graduation ceremony at Barron Stadium on May 4 had no reason to doubt that Shorter University is alive and well and has become a formidable force for quality higher education and Christian witness in the Rome community.
We should pause to give thanks to God for Dr. Dowless, who in less than one year has made some dramatic changes that is shaping Shorter University into the school Georgia Baptists have dreamed it would become.
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