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.
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.
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.