Building the Faculty at a Christian University: The Significant Contribution Model
Mikeal C. Parsons, Professor of Religion
In considering the implications of being a serious Baptist and Christian university for faculty hiring, tenure, and promotion, Mikeal C. Parsons notes some important distinctions between the words "Baptist" and "Christian" as applied to a university. The word "Baptist" in this context suggests matters of religious style, such as freedom of conscience and non-creedalism. The word "Christian," on the other hand, points to matters of religious substance which are common to all Christian denominations, including Baptists, such as belief in the One Triune God and the efficacy of Christ's death and resurrection for sinful human beings. At Baylor, Parsons contends, both traditions are applied together and in some tension. This leads him to an exploration of and advocacy for a "Significant Contribution Model" in faculty hiring, tenure, and promotion at Baylor. Parsons argues that faculty members should be hired and evaluated, in part, with a clear estimation of their potential or actual contribution to the Baptist and Christian character of Baylor. Parsons shows not only that this model is tacitly in place at Baylor today, but also that there are important reasons to favor such a model. The task ahead, he points out, is to make clear the expectations of this model.
...The Baptist hallmark of religious liberty, of course, has much to contribute to a Christian university. In a now famous quotation, Thomas Helwys, one of the Baptist founders, said, "Let them be heretics, Turks, Jews, or whatsoever, it appertains not the earthly powers to punish them in the least measure." It is entirely appropriate as a matter of practice for this view to shape a response that is warm and welcoming to persons, especially students, of all faiths or no faith at all, a sincere form of Christian hospitality. I doubt seriously, however, anachronisms aside, that Helwys would have imagined using this notion of religious liberty as the defining substantive criterion for faculty tenure at a Baptist university.