Jim Davila has updated his page on the Chris Rollston controversy I wrote about last week and about which everyone else has written. But, again, it seems only Davila (I may have missed someone else) is able to admit that ‘Emmanuel Christian Seminary finds itself in a difficult position.’ Because, Davila rightly says: ‘Naturally, they want a good relationship with trustees, affiliated institutions, and donors.’ West, et al, are off the handle again, talking about Emmanuel bowing to Mammon (though, I must admit, Joel Watts has the most creative title). But I think the real issue is they are afraid of not being able to pay their light bill. I doubt they’re in the dark room lighting up the smuggled Cohibas and pouring the Gnac.
Davila is right again:
But at the same time, dismissing someone from a tenured academic post is no small matter. The larger academic world is watching, and whatever decision they make could have an effect on their wider academic reputation and their future efforts to recruit high-quality academic staff.
In fact, I think ECS has already made clear to the wider academic world who they are, but this is the other problem: in a job market as bleak as this one, many bright young scholars are themselves willing to compromise. If we are being fair, and arguing the real concern of the case, which is the fuzzy definition of ‘tenure’ in these institutions, I don’t know how one can accuse ECS of cowering in the face of donors. They are rather doing what their Faculty Handbook warns all prospective faculty they can do, tenured or not: they can send you packing if you step out of line, a line which could be determined in no certain, clear-cut manner, but could be wholly decided upon based on the makeup of the administration at the time you step a little this way or that. Wheaton College and others, I am told by friends with direct knowledge, routinely receive applications from those not suited theologically, but who try their hardest in their application to play the part for the job.
It is doubtful to me, still, that the conversation being had on the blogs is the right one. Perhaps the right one is not to keep beating the same drum, but to realise that ECS is going to carry out what they said they would in their Handbook, given to all faculty when or in some cases before they join, and instead to say to all would-be academics: don’t sign a contract at a place that can redefine your tenure and can you at will. And even though Chris did not become something he wasn’t, many do in order to get the job. Don’t be one of them. Don’t become something theologically you are not because you want a job. It would be better for you and for the hiring institution if you went and flipped burgers instead of trying to put on the false cloak of theological correctness. Be real. Be who you are. Don’t even apply.