FORT WORTH?The day after announcing his retirement as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Ken Hemphill released a statement acknowledging that many people had expressed “conflicted feelings” relating not only to his departure, but for two professors whose tenure status remains unsettled.
“Grief, anger, confusion may be just a few” of the “conflicted feelings,” Hemphill said in the April 8 statement that also was recorded on the seminary’s telephone extension 8250. “Such feelings are not only related to my departure but have been elicited by concern for Drs. Bullock and Stookey.”
Karen O. Bullock is a professor of church history and serves as associate dean of the Ph.D. program. Stephen M. Stookey is an associate professor of church history. Some students have expressed concern that no action was recommended regarding tenure for the two professors at the recent board meeting.
Hemphill said the seminary has a process of tenure review that is being followed. “Any of us have the right to differ with the conclusion reached, but none of us should judge the motives of those involved. No man can see into the heart and God’s Word prohibits such human speculation.”
He praised both professors for having made a great investment in the lives of numerous students. “I encourage each of you to tell them of your love for them, and to relate to them the impact that they have had on your life,” Hemphill stated.
Academic Affairs Committee Chairman Denny Autrey of Lindale, Texas, said, “There was no report from administration” offered to the trustees regarding tenure for any faculty member. Thus, no action could be taken in regard to tenure for the two professors, he explained.
“The provost did present an updated proposal concerning tenure for all faculty,” Autrey told the Southern Baptist TEXAN. “That was discussed with academic affairs and the bylaws committee,” he said, adding that the full board received copies of the proposal.
The board voted to review the manner in which tenure is granted to faculty and report on the review at the next semiannual meeting of trustees. “We will revisit that issue in the fall meeting,” Autrey confirmed.
Hemphill said in his release, “We cannot publicly discuss the specifics of any personnel matter. This serves both the interests of the individual and the institution.” He went on to commend the two professors for having made “a wonderful investment in Southwestern,” stating that they “will always be a part of our legacy.”
He added, “I know them well enough to know that they share my conviction that God works through every circumstance for good to those who love him and are the called according to his purpose. I know they will continue to serve God faithfully. Such is their character and calling.” He told those interested in the situation, “You will best honor them by being faithful to your calling.”
Hemphill said, “In days of difficulty and challenging circumstances we can either become bitter or beautiful. As you crush a rose petal you serve only to release its beautiful fragrance. I pray that would be true for all who are feeling somewhat crushed by recent events.”
He spoke of having read in John 12:27-28 of Jesus glorifying God the Father at a time when his own soul was troubled. “Jesus had a singular focus. Glorify thy name,” Hemphill recounted, adding, “The ringing answer from the Father, ‘I have glorified it and I will glorify it again.'” He urged others to “stay the course” and glorify God’s name in the process.