March 7, 2014

Louisiana Baptist Executive Director David Hankins: The Consolidation and Corruption of Power

Rondall Reynoso
Pastor Jay Adkins
Pastor Jay Adkins

I have to confess that when I left Louisiana I had a real distrust of SBC Pastors and Theologians. I felt betrayed by some. I saw the true lack of character in others. And, in others still, I saw them stay quiet in the face of evil, seemingly for their own personal benefit and self-preservation. I always thought it was odd that “The Art Guy” was the one standing against the blatant wrong-doings while those with seminary degrees stayed quiet or even helped the institution take Christ’s name in vain. One person who has done a great deal to restore my faith in ministers and theologians is Jay Adkins. Jay serves on the Board of Trustees for Louisiana College and has been willing to speak truth while still honoring his duty to the school. His latest blog post, On Power and Protection,  shed’s a great deal of light on the situation in the Louisiana Baptist Convention.

After I left Louisiana I realized that the problem was much deeper than just Aguillard. That does not excuse the horrible things Aguillard has done but I learned that the real power behind the veil was David Hankins. Since that time I have been striving to hold both Joe Aguillard and David Hankins accountable for the situation at Louisiana College. I first tried to make this connection in the post, David Hankins, Joe Aguillard, and the Train Wreck Louisiana College has Become.

Jay Adkins does a good job in his post of explaining the problems. I encourage you to read Jay’s article as it has all the important details. Here I will hit the highlights and point out what I consider to be the most important parts of the narrative.

It is important to understand that when the LBC wrote its constitution and bylaws it was concerned about the distribution of power. Baptist life is very much about being decentralized so the idea of a lot of power in a single set of hands is historically distasteful. However, that is something that has been changing in recent years. The LBC constitution gave the Convention President (a position elected every year) ex officio status on all standing committees and boards. The Executive Director is given, according to the constitution, ex officio status only on standing committees. Further, the LBC bylaws when Hankins came to office stated explicitly that salaried officials could not “serve” on any LBC Boards, that would preclude the Executive Director from serving on the Louisiana College Board of Trustees. In 2007, two years after David Hankins became Executive Director, the language was changed to say “eligible for election” rather than “eligible for service.” This opened the door for Hankins to serve on all four Boards that are a part of the LBC. In at least the case of Louisiana College, he is now a vocal, voting member who exercises considerable political control of Louisiana Baptist life and uses that influence to control the direction of the college.

Guinn Auditorium
Guinn Auditorium

Adkins correctly points out that despite the change of that single word in the bylaws, the act of Hankins serving on these Boards is in direct opposition to the  LBC’s rules because that bylaw continues to state “except as provided in the constitution of the Convention or these bylaws.” There is no place in either the constitution or the bylaws that allows Hankins to serve in the positions he does. This has meant that over the last seven years Hankins has accumulated a tremendous amount of power that is has gone unchecked.

Why do I say unchecked? Jay Adkins writes about how he put forward a motion to limit the Executive Director’s power and return to the checks and balances desired by the Louisiana Baptist founders original intent. But, when the motion was put forward Hankins was allowed to speak against the motion and then recommended that the motion be refered to the Executive Board for study. The catch is that Hankins is in control of the Executive Board. So, Hankins was able to speak up first, and second have a motion about limiting his power moved to a committee that he controls. Not exactly a model of healthy checks and balances.

Importantly, Adkins offers his opinion about the current situation at Louisiana College:

 I firmly believe that the current President of Louisiana College would no longer be in that capacity were it not for the protection of the Executive Director of the LBC. As is now finally being proved, there was never a “Calvinist Conspiracy” that demanded attention… Not from the faculty nor from the Board (this allegation, which I continue to hear paraded around to engender support from the anti-Calvinist lot, is absolutely laughable considering that there were only two of us on the board who identify with Reformed Soteriology… TWO of 35 members). The only reason the issue was directed at Calvinism was so that the Executive Director could rid the school of reformed leaning professors. If he could identify Calvinism as the strawman and then extol the LC President as protecting the school from such a “takeover” then numerous uninformed and uneducated people (including some board members who much like the President couldn’t articulate a definition of Calvinism if you made them) would be misdirected enough to rally around the President and subsequently disregard the preponderance of information regarding the clear lack of leadership or at least the bungled nature of so many things coming out of Louisiana College… exempli gratia: Facilities in disrepair, SACS issues, failed Law School, failed Medical School, failed film school, loss of donors, unreasonably high turnover of Vice President’s of Academic Affairs, high legal fees from litigation, etc.

The important thing to remember here is:

Yes, Aguillard is at fault for so many terrible things at LC. But, Hankins has known about them and supported Aguillard  for years despite them.

 

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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