**** After much thought and prayer, the following is my response to the issues that have thrust my beloved University into the spotlight. I hope it is read and considered with the same sense of love with which it was written. My heart is broken, not just for the situation at hand but the implications that this one issue may have for the future. If you would like more information on the in’s and out’s of what is going on… you can look here: http://support-tom-oord.wikia.com/wiki/Tom_Oord_Dismissal**********
I have wondered what to say. I have wondered when to say it. I am one of those who even with a multi-generational connection to both the Nazarene Church and University System ended up leaving the denomination of my youth. I LOVED my time at NNU. Good or bad… those memories are ones I will treasure for the rest of my life. I will be the first to admit that I often did not agree with the theological stance of various professors in various departments. However, it was our differences that taught me to go to God’s Word. They taught me to seek out Truth and decide for myself. I am eternally (literally) thankful that I was never told WHAT to think, but rather HOW to go ABOUT thinking. As a teacher, I strive daily to instill that in my own students. I have given them nothing if I have not given them a love for learning and thinking. Early in my career I was known to teach 5th grade history lessons from the perspective of Hitler etc. I often had parents in my room questioning what I was teaching, but when it came down to it, the value of the thinking process was applauded. Now as I teach a younger population in a private school setting, I love nothing more than when kids ask the hard questions about the Bible. They want to understand things. (“Where are the dinosaurs in the Bible? Do people go right to Heaven when they die? Why do bad things happen?”) Our nation is lost if we do not have critical thinkers and those who love questioning and learning.
One of the great benefits of a Liberal Arts education, is that there is room for discourse and inter-curricular connections. However, if we fail to have diversity of thought we suddenly have created a space where there is no room for discussion and development of personal thought and belief. Unfortunately, with a denominationally backed institution people can tend to get really hung up on being “right.” With that, the question must be asked, is there then room for non-Nazarenes in a Nazarene backed University? I don’t know if there is a right or wrong answer to this. Instead it needs to be an overall philosophical discussion by our denomination as a whole. Consider this; If I was to attend BYU, I would not be surprised to be taught from the Book of Mormon. I think the disconnect is this. For many years Nazarene institutions have been a place for people from many different backgrounds to converge and learn from one another. At the same time there was a balance that those from differing backgrounds understood that they had indeed come to a Nazarene institution and they knew that was the background from which they were taught. Personally, I consider this a very healthy balance.
Let’s face it… The disciples were very different people. Thus, it stands to reason that we won’t all fit into the same denomination or even non-denominational church. This is healthy. As a Christian, my job is not to help with grow the Church, but rather the church. I think the major disconnect comes from those within the Nazarene Church that cannot decide what is more important. There is often a cry for “relevance” to the current and upcoming generations, but when we try to get to that place of connectivity, there are equal cries of heresy. By no means am I saying that one approach is right or wrong… I’m just saying that this is where I see the philosophical crux of the matter.
The church as a whole is at a crossroads. Even in the kindergarten classroom, I see kids with a hunger for authenticity. There is a sweet “demand” for understanding and a need to know where they fit in the big picture.
So how does a good leader respond in these changing times? Well, I think we have to look at what a good leader really looks like. A good leader will strive for unity among parties. They will strive for mending of division. They will speak with love even to those they consider a Pharisee or Sadducee… (And by love I mean the “believe the very best” kind of love.) When Jesus turned the tables over in the temple it wasn’t an act of division, rather it was an act of uniting. He wanted to get people’s attention. To point them toward Truth.
The dismissal of a professor to me is just a product/symptom of the response to change on the horizon. I believe this is not even a question of ethics. (while there are some financial and ethical questions that DO indeed need to be answered.) Instead this is a question of philosophy. I think we need to be asking Why was the Nazarene Church founded? Why was the University system established? Does the Nazarene Church/school need to stay the same, or should it change? How much change is good change? How much change is healthy change? Who does the church really trust to lead? (On all levels… pastoral, presidential etc.?) And whose voice is indeed more relevant; the voice of the past or the voice of the future? When we can answer these questions, we will again arrive at a vision and purpose that can drive us to the future. If we do not answer these questions, or if we decide to get caught in an “I’m more right than you are” debate, I am afraid that the church and school may have more to worry about than this dismissal of one professor.
The only solution I see for the situation at hand is an open dialogue. Even if Dr. Oord is not reinstated more harm is done in silence. I also see need for a leader to step up and find a place of restoration of relationship among systems and people. The chasms that exist right now will surly only lead to new fractures and greater division if something is not done.