Posts Tagged ethics

A ‘heretic’ returns to a formative place that once was home: Molly Marshall*

I did not expect the visit to be as poignant and memorable as it was. After being away for nearly 25 years, I recently returned to the campus of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. Over the past year I have been working on a podcast series produced by the Baptist Center for Ethics that will narrate portions of my life as a minister, scholar, theologian, seminary president and troubler of Israel – at least the Israel that Southern Seminary became as it lurched to the right over the issue of biblical inerrancy.

I taught at Southern from January 1984 until December 1994, and then I helped several Ph.D. students finish their work after I moved to Kansas and Central Baptist Theological Seminary in August 1995. Part of the deal I struck upon departing was that I might continue their supervision. After all, if one is not in teaching for the sake of the students, one does not belong. Nevertheless, I was soon barred from using the library even though I was doing work for the school.

As video producer Cliff Vaughn and I walked onto the campus, memories welled up as I remembered being there as a Master of Divinity student from 1973 to 1975 and then another stint as a doctoral student from 1979 to 1983. Studying at Southern had been transformative for me. I had come from conservative Landmark country in northeastern Oklahoma, and the larger view of Baptist origins – or even the Protestant heritage in general – was not in my area of knowledge. A new theological world opened to me, for which I continue to give thanks.

“The administration did not want me to ‘poison’ any more students since I was not theologically trustworthy to teach.”

I did know of the school through my maternal great aunt who had attended the WMU Training School, completing her work in 1920. She attended prior to the seminary’s relocation to “The Beeches,” its current campus, in 1925. So she studied at the “House Beautiful” located in downtown Louisville. Although they could not be enrolled in the same degree programs as the men, the women were allowed to attend lectures. My aunt spoke of sitting at the back of the room (quietly of course) when the famed New Testament scholar A.T. Robertson lectured. Sixty-four years later, I could stand (for a time) at the front of the classroom to offer my gifts as a seminary professor.

For the filming, we began at the library because I wanted to visit my old doctoral office, see if my dissertation was still on the shelf and view a historical display that chronicled the founding, theological drift, depths of heresy and resurgence of the seminary as interpreted by the current administration. Friends had told me of the tableau as I figured prominently as exemplar of the HEResy that required the drastic measure of my dismissal.

Entry to the library now required a driver’s license, and I had left mine in the car. I handed my business card to the young man protecting entrance and remarked that I used to teach here. He allowed me to enter, but soon the archivist was hot on our tail, helpful but perhaps a bit suspicious.

I told him what we were hoping to see, but he said it had recently been taken down. I had seen a picture of it; my name was not spelled right, and I was the poster child for what was wrong with Southern. He was not quite sure where the display now was and suggested that we might look in the historical area of the McCall Pavilion, a relatively new construction on campus named in honor of the late Duke K. McCall, president of the seminary, 1951-1980.

Our next stop was in Norton Hall, the main administrative and faculty office building. I wanted to see my old faculty office and reflect on the joy of lining up on the main floor according to rank prior to processing to the chapel for convocation or commencement. Our names were put on the wall to designate where we were to stand, and the goal was to move up the line as one got promoted. I did make it to associate professor, with tenure.

“Studying at Southern had been transformative for me.”

One memorable graduation when the forces of antagonism were at their frenzied heights, David Wilkinson, then the director of seminary relations, planned a wonderful tribute to President Roy Honeycutt and faculty. He invited churches to write notes of appreciation and then had them taped to the corridor walls for us all to observe. I remember one card, written by a GA group (Girls in Action), assured us that they “had been preying for Dr. Honeycutt.” It struck me that that was precisely what the newly-elected majority of trustees had been doing as they opposed and undermined Honeycutt’s many overtures to find a way through the controversy.

We visited my office on the second floor of the east wing, and I pointed out how we turned the men’s room into a unisex bathroom with state-of-the-art technology – a key. I also pointed out how one day I walked across the roof to my classroom, thanks to a structure that made it possible, even in a dress. The trustees were on campus that day, and I simply did not want to be interrogated by them, as some had a habit of doing whenever they encountered me.

We visited my favorite classroom where I taught many a theology class, which always began with scripture and a hymn. And then we went to the classroom where I was scheduled to teach in the fall of 1994. Just a couple of days prior to the beginning of the semester, I resigned under threat of a heresy trial, so my Master of Divinity courses were canceled. The stated reason was that the administration did not want me to “poison” any more students since I was not theologically trustworthy to teach.

I went to the first day of class anyway and told the students why I would not be their professor for that semester and commended them to the care of Dr. Frank Tupper, who had been my first theology teacher. I enacted the sacrament of defeat and left the classroom tearfully. I was allowed to teach a doctoral seminar that fall, ironically “Liberation Theology.” Evidently, the administration believed I could not damage the doctoral students further.

During my recent visit, I did have a memorable encounter with President Albert Mohler. But I will leave that story for another day.

*Dr. Marshall lectured at the Hamrick Lectures at First Baptist Church of Charleston twice. The congregation loves her and speak of her often.

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How Christian Ethics Guide Cultural Engagement – Guy Sayles – EthicsDaily

Guy Sayles

How Christian Ethics Guide Cultural Engagement | Guy Sayles, Ethics, Culture, Community, Civility, Virtues, Discipleship

“We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us,” Winston Churchill said. “The Churchill principle” is a “church principle,” too, Sayles writes.

How can Christian ethics guide our engagement with U.S. culture?

That is the question my students and I are exploring together this semester, seeking the ways in which various approaches to Christian ethics conflict and converge with the values of U.S. culture or cultures.

One of our conversation partners is Albert Borgmann, a professor of philosophy at the University of Montana, whose book, “Real American Ethics: Taking Responsibility for our Country,” is one of the assigned texts.

Borgmann asserts that Americans’ best ethical commitments include “landmarks of decency” (equality, dignity and self-determination), “virtues of excellence” (wisdom, courage and friendship) and practices of justice, grace and stewardship. Clearly, both Aristotle and Christian faith inform his perspective.

It’s his concept of “real” ethics that I find to be especially helpful. “Real” ethics, he explains, means “taking responsibility for the tangible settings of life.”

Borgmann uses what he calls “the Churchill principle.” In 1943, when the House of Commons had to be rebuilt after Nazi bombing, Winston Churchill said to the members of Parliament, “We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us.”

The tangible settings of life are the “buildings” – the institutions, shared public spaces, cities, neighborhoods, voluntary associations and households – in which we live.

Corporations, governments, schools, parks, coffee shops, bookstores and families either nurture or constrain our abilities to live ethically.

Borgmann writes, “If we are unaware of how the shaping of our household typically shapes our practices, we can tell our children to do their homework, to stay away from soda pop and snacks, to talk to us and to practice their instruments till we are blue in the face – it will only create frustration and resentment unless our home is so arranged that doing the right thing comes naturally or at least does not require heroic self-discipline.”

It’s a powerful idea: We may and should arrange all our “tangible settings” so that the kind of life we hope to have seems possible.

Our focus is too narrow if we see an individual’s choices and decisions in isolation from the shaping contours of context and community.

Our tangible settings make and unmake us or, at the very least, they enlarge or shrink our vision of what we may become.

“The Churchill principle” is a “church principle,” too. Faith communities make it either more or less likely that people will be able to live a Jesus-kind-of-life.

It’s difficult to nurture peacemakers in a faith community that uses attack as its main way of relating to culture, to encourage love in a group that uses fear to manipulate people’s behavior, and to celebrate the essential equality of all Jesus-followers in a community that privileges the ordained, males, Anglos and the “successful.”

By contrast, a community of servanthood provides an alternative to the culture’s jungle of competition.

A community of generosity offers an alternative to the marketplace of greed. A community that treats people the way Jesus would treat them – not as strangers, but as friends – opens up an alternative to our society’s too-common alienation and loneliness.

Mennonite theologian John Howard Yoder once said, “A racially segregated church has nothing to say to the state about integration. … [And] only a church doing something about prisoner rehabilitation would have any moral right to speak – or have any good ideas – about prison conditions or parole regulations.”

What a community says matters only if its words become deeds. Truth calls for more than announcing; it demands enacting.

We need alternative communities guided and inspired by the Jesus-story in which people develop, by means of steady and shared practice, greater capacity for living in the Jesus-way and in which faithful and functional structures support and reflect the Jesus-mission.

Guy Sayles is a consultant with the Center for Healthy Churches, an assistant professor of religion at Mars Hill University, an adjunct professor at Gardner-Webb Divinity School and a board member of the Baptist Center for Ethics. A version of this article first appeared on his website, From the Intersection, and is used with permission.

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Profiles in Goodwill – Mitch Carnell – www.ethicsdaily.com

Profiles in Goodwill: Mitch CarnellEthicsDaily Staff

Profiles in Goodwill: Mitch Carnell | Mitch Carnell, Profiles in Goodwill, EthicsDaily Staff

Mitch Carnell, an EthicsDaily.com columnist, admires Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jimmy Carter and Pope Francis.

Mitch Carnell is a consultant specializing in effective communication and the founder of the Say Something Nice Day and the Say Something Nice Sunday movements.

Mitch’s articles that have appeared on EthicsDaily.com are available here.

1. Where did you grow up?

Woodruff, South Carolina.

2. What is your favorite Bible verse, book or story? Why?

Matthew 22:37-39.

I think it sums up all of Scripture and gives us unmistakable guidance.

3. What is your favorite movie? Why?

“Driving Miss Daisy.”

It demonstrates in a beautiful way how love and respect can overcome racial, cultural and religious biases.

4. Who are three of the people you admire?

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jimmy Carter and Pope Francis.

5. What is one little known fact about yourself?

I taught practical speech to Cuban refugees in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Because of the popularity of the television program, “Sing Along with Mitch,” it quickly became known as “Speak Along with Mitch.”

 

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Fifty-two Keys for Living, Loving and Working

Be loyal

Absolutely no one admires a traitor. As long as you take a pay check from an organization, you have an obligation to be loyal. When you discover that you can no longer agree with the direction an origination is going and you are helpless to change the direction, it is time for you to leave. Cherish your friends and colleagues. If they are headed in the wrong direction, speak to them about what lies ahead. Help them do the right thing. Never turn your back on a friend. You do not have to agree with what she or he has done.

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