The story of Louisiana College (L.C.) burning is a story thousands in the SBC are following. The morale on campus is as low as it has ever been since my arrival at L.C., and as a graduate student at the Caskey School of Divinity it is heartbreaking to see this division over Calvinism taking place on campus. The news of three professors’ non renewals, a “position on Calvinism” released by the President, the eruption of the blogosphere, and a confusing and incomplete follow up statement from the President have all made the L.C. campus an interesting place to be recently. These events have led to many facebook discussions, distracted students, and very concerned faculty and staff. L.C. is not a favorable place to work or study at the moment.
There is hope in the midst of this turmoil, however. There is a leader across the river in the Louisiana Baptist building. The Executive Director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, Dr. David Hankins, is for cooperation. He has served as Vice President of the Cooperative Program and Vice President for the Convention Policy of the Executive Committee. He has served on the Executive Board of the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the Board of Directors for Dallas Baptist University. Dr. Hankins also served on the Executive Committee of the SBC.
Dr. Hankins spoke at the L.C. graduation in December of 2012. Dr. Joe Aguillard lauded him as a Baptist legend living in our time. It is clear from his comments at the convocation, that Dr. Aguillard holds Dr. David Hankins in the highest esteem, which brings great joy to my heart. Perhaps he will use his influence to calm the storm on the campus of the only Baptist college in Louisiana.
Dr. Hankins co-authored a book with Dr. Chad Owen Brand entitled, One Sacred Effort: The Cooperative Program of Southern Baptists. In One Sacred Effort an observation that brings great hope to this seemingly hopeless situation is made. It reads:
A common phrase in describing the role of doctrine in Baptist cooperation is, “Unity in essentials; diversity in nonessentials.” Many issues about which various Southern Baptists disagree heatedly (e.g., eschatology, alien baptism, Calvinism) have not become matters of fellowship and cooperation for the Southern Baptist Convention.1
The chapter continues by quoting Jimmy Draper on the four essentials of Southern Baptist doctrine, which are the deity of Christ, the substitutionary atonement of Christ, the bodily resurrection of Christ, and belief in justification by faith. The message of the chapter is clear: Calvinism is not an essential issue, and therefore should not cause division in the SBC.
Will Dr. Hankins stand by the words recorded in his book? In times like these men like Dr. Hankins are needed to rise to the occasion and captain our ship through these troubled waters. As noted above, Dr. Aguillard has nothing but respect for Dr. Hankins. His leadership in a time such as this is imperative; his level of influence should not be underestimated.
Louisiana College is “the only college operated by Louisiana Baptists,” and the LBC contributed $3,224,517 to L.C.2 Louisiana Baptists have a vested interest in this institution; sitting idly on the sidelines is not an option. Cooperation is essential. Division over issues such as these put the crown jewel of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Cooperative Program, at risk. Dr. Hankins has served the SBC and LBC well for so many years. The Convention is watching. Dr. Hankins, please do not fail us now.
1 Brand, Chad, and David E. Hankins. One Sacred Effort: The Cooperative Program of Southern Baptists. Nashville, Tenn: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2005. p. 180.
2 LBC Convention Annual, 2011.
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