April 28, 2013

Baptist Ministers Seem to Vote to Cover Up Sin

Rondall Reynoso
Tony Perkins

Lewis Richerson Pastor of Woodlawn Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana wrote a commentary in the Town Talk today which called for David Hankins (Executive Director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention) to step down from his voting position on the Louisiana College Board of Trustees. Essentially, his argument is that the Convention should not be able to exert that type of pressure over the college. I agree. Considering that half of the Board is made up of ministers that gives Hankins an inordinate amount of influence.

This influence can be seen in the recent controversy at LC. After the Independent Investigation found cause to fire Aguillard, Hankins motioned to throw out the investigation and was almost successful, failing only 11-13. Hankins was then tasked to be a part of the special committee that investigated the whistle-blower allegations against Aguillard. Again this puts a tremendous amount of power in the hands of the already most influential Baptist in the state. The Town Talk further published an article that pointed to intrigue behind the scenes within the special committee. The Town Talk reported the members of the committee were:

Chenier, chairman of the committee and pastor of Trinity Heights Baptist Church in Shreveport.

Waylon Bailey, president of the Louisiana Baptist Convention and pastor of First Baptist Church in Covington.

David Hankins, executive director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.

Jack Hunter of Metairie, an attorney and executive director of the New Orleans Baptist Association.

Gene Lee, pastor of First Baptist Church in Rayne and chairman of the full LC board.

Perkins, a Baton Rouge native and former member of the Louisiana Legislature who now lives in the Washington, D.C., area.

Glenn Wilkins, a retired educator from Coushatta.

Kris Chenier

The Town Talk reports that Chenier, Bailey, Hankins, & Wilkins voted in favor of the resolution: “In response to the allegations against Dr. Aguillard, the committee finds that the President has not acted improperly and no further action on this matter is needed.” Hunter, Lee, and Perkins voted against the resolution.

Reports indicate that after the committee passed the resolution that Dr. David Hankins sought to convince the committee to report the committee vote as unanimous. While this attempt failed, it seems, according to the Town Talk article, that Aguillard was so close to the committee that he actually was informed of the results of the committee’s investigation before the entire Board of Trustees was notified. It seems that Committee Chair Chenier sought to follow the spirit of Hankins’ desire to show unanimous consent when he told the Town Talk “There’s a lot of evidence that these were all misunderstandings and not fraudulent actions.” Further, his e-mail to the rest of the Board similarly insinuates that the Committee was unanimous.

Perkins took offense to this insinuation and according to the Town Talk wrote to Chenier saying, “The message below [presumably the message Chenier had sent to the entire Board] and The Town Talk article, which lists the members of the special committee, suggests this action was unanimous. As you know, it was not. It was a 4-3 vote. If votes now are being reported to and commented on in The Town Talk, then I respectfully request full transparency.”

The influence seems apparent when considering that three of four ministers on the committee voted that there was no improper action by President Aguillard. Interestingly three of the Pr0-Aguillard votes came from ministers (Chenier, Bailey, & Hankins), and the fourth came from a retired educator who had previously served as a part of Dr. Aguillard’s faculty at LC (Wilkins).

While the powers that be within the LBC seem to continue in a game of obfuscating truth for their own ends, it seems that they are becoming less and less able to sway public opinion. When I first arrived in Central Louisiana in 2007, Aguillard was already a divisive figure but he was largely admired within conservative circles. That has changed. Certainly, there are still supporters. The spin on the recent turmoil at LC has been that there is a cabal of Liberal Calvinists who are out to destroy Baptist life in Louisiana. Further, there has been the implication that the critique from bloggers is just personal animus not grounded in real evidence and claims that the critique from the professional media is either liberal bias or satanic influence.

Dr. David Hankins
Dr. David Hankins

The public, however, no longer seems to believe it. The posts on social media and the Town Talk website defending Aguillard have greatly decreased over the last couple of years. Further, a poll administered by this blog shows that at the time of this post 87% of people believe that the problems at Louisiana College are directly due to President Aguillard and only 9% blame the ruckus on bloggers or attacks from Satan against the administration and only 5% blame the media. More interesting though is that the public seems to be convinced that the Board of Trustees (74%) and David Hankins (73%) are also culpable for the problems at LC.  While the poll is not scientific it does show a large cross-section of people and indicates that the political winds which have supported Aguillard and Hankins in the past seem to be shifting.

It is sad to see though that in this particular situation the majority of ministers seem to lack the integrity of the laity. I hope that the winds are indeed changing and that while the Board and Hankins have not shown the ability to do right for its own virtue that they may do right out of political expedience if nothing else. The sins of Aguillard seem beyond dispute at this point.

Rondall Reynoso


Rondall is an artist, scholar, and speaker. He is currently an Assistant Professor at Lee University in Cleveland, TN. He holds an MFA in Painting and an MS in Art History from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY and is completing a Ph.D. in Art History and Aesthetics from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA.

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  • Lauren Bristow says:

    Okay here are my thoughts: I believe everything that you have uncovered in your blog. I am a graduate of LC and I know a couple of the board members and they are as troubled by all of this as I and you are but, I think it may be time for you to let go and let God handle this. It seems that no matter what is reported there is some sort of spell under those who still support Aguillard. It is beyond me why or how, but they will answer to God if all this is really true. (As I said I believe it is.) While it is sad to see the college falling apart, I am not sure that obsessing about this is, or will, do any good. You have moved on and God is blessing your life. You are away from all of the hoopla, and while you want to see yourself and others vindicated, it is not your problem anymore. God has this and He will handle it. Remember King Saul? God let things continue for very long time while he prepared and trained David to take the throne, in HIS time, not man’s. I have seen God vindicate myself and others many times. You seem to have a successful life despite the issues in little Pineville, LA. Let go Rondall, move on and continue to pray.

    I hope you will accept my opinion and thoughts in the Christlike manner I have intended and I will pray for God to continue to bless your life and career. Thank you for all you have done to enlighten everyone about LC.

    Because of Him,

    Lauren Bristow

    • Thank you Lauren for your concern. This has never been about me. I know many good people who are at LC who have no voice. I speak up for them. As you say, I have been able to move on but there are many have not. From the time that God decided to judge Israel until he actually judged them was many years yet in that time he sent prophets like Ezekiel who were called to speak to Israel knowing they would not repent. Still the mark of his faithfulness was to speak to a nation that would not hear. I thank God I am not Ezekiel. I would hate to lay on my side for 390 days only to turn over to the other side for 40 days all for a people who would not hear. But, I feel compelled to speak Truth into a dark situation. I pray God will soon release of of this. But, until He does I will speak. Not for me but for those who cannot speak and out of the deep love of have for Truth.

      In Christ,
      Rondall

      • I understand and please do not think I was questioning your motives or your heart. If this is what God has given you to do then by all means do so. I wish there was something I could do. This whole thing makes me sick. I loved LC.

        I will pray for you and hope that God resolves this soon.

        Lauren

  • Susan McCurdy says:

    I think sometimes we get the idea that an institution is a “democracy” rather than an institution founded by a group of fallen human beings who will not do everything right. This idea of “democracy” is so instilled in our psyche in middle school that we think everywhere we go we have the right to make things be the way we want them. Perhaps in a democracy but not so in an institution. It is set up by a board and the rights remain with that board. It can be abused…true…but so can the democracy. You had the responsibility to tell the truth about what you knew. You did…I hope without bias. If so, then you did your best and I agree with your friend Lauren. Let it go. Know that Jesus knows and the wheels of justice will grind. God is not unrighteous. He will remember.

  • In the legal field, substantial evidence demands either an aquittal or an indictment. What did the evidence show–guilt or innocence? We must go with the evidence. Reverend Kris Chenier just did his job while being covered in prayer by his church. Apparently, he saw innocence via the evidence. Louisiana Baptists abide by their polity and go forward, so why relive the past? It doesn’t exist anymore.

    • First this post is a month old and was written when relevant. You are right of course that the question is “what does the evidence say?” The independent law firm, the lawyer on the committee, and the nationally know conservative advocate all felt the evidence was against Aguillard. Add to that the donors who were willing to pull millions in support and serious concerns are raised. Beyond that, Hankins was reportedly exerting “significant pressure” on the ministers within the board to exonerate Aguillard and important Board figures such as Tommy French were telling people that the purpose of the meeting was to exonerate Aguillard. The question then gets raised as to whether the LBC polity is more concerned with LBC politics or Truth.

  • While I am not a Southern Baptist, my theology is quite baptistic and I have, therefore watched this drama unfold with concern. I understand that no religious organization is righteous. They are comprised of people and therefore, sinners. I am not nearly as surprised by the wrongful actions allegedly committed by Joe Aguillard as much as I am shocked at the LC trustees refusal to be trustworthy.

    • Rob, I completely agree. I understand a bad apple gaining power. But, what I don’t understand is so many of the LBC leaders looking the other way and putting some other concern over the name of Christ.

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