A couple of years ago during the national gathering of "The Society of Biblical Literature," my friends and I were having dinner when I mused: "Southwestern doesn't have a reception for us. Have you ever wondered why? Duke, Harvard, Princeton, Fuller--they all have receptions for their alumni, wanting to celebrate their achievements, to stay connected. That's not the case for us." Then one of my friends (he teaches at a Baptist university and has written several "best sellers" in biblical studies) said, "You're right. I never thought of that before." To which I replied, "you'd think that they would want to celebrate your success, make it evident to everyone how proud they are of you and the rest of us. But they don't. It's as if we are academic orphans."
That observation has become evermore evident to me as my alma mater, Southwest Baptist University, is about to be taken over by forces within the Missouri Baptist Convention. If the convention goes their way in a few weeks, new board members will bring a majority vote to implement their agenda: to turn SBU into something it's never been--a fundamentalist/calvinistic college.
It's an odd thing to me: the Baptist institutions of higher education that produced me back then find me undesirable today. What my professors taught me--the value of higher education I received from them--is now considered a threat to theological education. It just feels so strange. These "mothering institutions" that had such a profound impact on me--the way I read the Scriptures, fostering my desire to obey Christ and serve His Church, helping me sort out what it means to make a difference for the kingdom of God--they don't want to have anything to do with "their children" born at a certain time. I entered their doors in 1975, left their buildings eleven years later (BA, Mdiv, PhD), ready to embrace the calling of God on my life, believing I had received the best education Baptist money can buy.
I believe I have fulfilled that calling as a pastor and a professor. And, I thank God that I have found a place to serve Him with a loving Baptist congregation who takes seriously their calling to be the Body of Christ. But, when I think about where I came from, the college and seminary that birthed me, I have this strange feeling that I don't belong. There will be no homecomings. I have no place to rest my "theological" head. I have no alma mater, no "mother" who will always root for me, will say she is proud of me, will claim, "he's mine."
It's a hard thing to admit, but it's finally dawning on me: I'm an academic orphan without a home.