2008: Top 10 Religion stories

JP: Interesting from Dan Burrell.

Whirled Views “Top Ten Religion Stories Impacting Evangelicals and Fundamentalists in 2008.”

Highlights:

10. Persecution of Christians in India Escalates

2008 was the year in which believers in India were brazenly attacked while much of the year yawned. Particularly in the area of Orissa, multiple accounts of murders, burnings, beatings, and threats against evangelical and Catholic adherents were reported. While there was some condemnation and outrage expressed, few have pressured their governments to get involved in protecting India’s Christian minority against Hindu and Muslim militants, which have declared “open season” on followers of Christ. Particularly silent on the topic has been the American church.

9. Bob Jones University Apologizes for Racist Policies of the Past

In a stunning admission and public apology, America’s most historically militant fundamentalist university addressed its segregationist past, which included a refusal to admit blacks into its student bodies and an even longer policy that did not permit interracial dating. While Bob Jones III lifted the ban against interracial dating several years ago in the waning years of his presidency, it was left to Stephen Jones—fourth generation of Jones leadership at what is billed as the “World’s Most Unusual University”—to try to address the stigma that has certainly been an unwelcome stain on the reputation of what most would acknowledge as one of the finest institutions of its kind in the area of academic rigor. Many believe that part of the motivation behind the public apology was due to an online petition started by bloggers, alumni, and supporters of the university. University officials have denied that their response was due to the public pressure and went so far as to declare the petition drive “unbiblical” and “unprofitable” in a recent faculty meeting, according to sources who were present. It would appear that Stephen Jones may be working to moderate a strident reputation that has settled over the university in recent decades and has reduced its influence and pool of supporters. In addition to the reversal on interracial dating, the university has also announced that it would seek accreditation for the first time—albeit from a second-tier agency (TRACS). Some are hoping that other changes will follow, including lifting a policy that precludes intercollegiate athletic competitions and a softening of what they see as an extreme position on music, which has caused great division in Fundamentalism and which many alumni, students, and even faculty privately disdain or ignore altogether.

7. Enrollment Woes and Problems Plague Colleges

2008 was not a good year for many smaller and private colleges. With the exception of schools like the perennial powerhouse Liberty University, most conservative evangelical and fundamentalist schools were not exempt. In a stunning turn, the historic Pillsbury Baptist Bible College in Owatonna, Minnesota, announced that it would close in December just weeks after installing new president, Greg Huffman. Baptist Bible College in Clark Summit, Pennsylvania, reported a dramatic drop in enrollment in the fall. Atlantic Coast Baptist Bible College announced its closure and the merging of its assets with Piedmont Baptist College. Two of the finest seminaries in the SBC, Southwestern and Southern, have  undergone significant budget cuts due to the economic downturn. Tennessee Temple University is aligning with the Tennessee state Southern Baptist association in an effort to forge a working relationship that will bring students and dollars to its campus. Cedarville University is reportedly undergoing internal conflict that is alienating some within its historic base of GARB-aligned churches over the direction that it is charting under President Bill Brown. Several other colleges are offering dramatic tuition discounts and other tactics in order to attract new students. The world economic crisis and problems attaining student loans are also contributing to the difficulty many Christian colleges are having in holding enrollment and in staying in the black financially.

Comment: Select link for full list. Image from Time

Dan Burrell is the executive pastor of New Testament Baptist Church and vice president of Dade Christian Schools in Miami, Florida. He is also the site director of the South Florida campus of Davis College and serves as an adjunct professor for Liberty University and Boston Baptist College. His blog is “Whirled Views” at http://www.danburrell.com. He has been married for nearly 25 years and has four children ranging in age from 20 to 11.

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