Journal issue draws criticism
December 14 2001 by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor

Journal issue draws criticism | Friday, Dec. 14, 2001

Friday, Dec. 14, 2001

Journal issue draws criticism

By Steve DeVane BR Managing Editor Two N.C. Baptist divinity schools are reevaluating their relationship with an academic journal that has come under fire for views expressed in an issue on sexuality. One of the Review & Expositor's (R&E) main sponsor schools has ended its support and other minor sponsors are calling for changes in the journal's editorial procedures.

At issue is the R&E's latest edition, which deals with "Sexuality and the Church." The lead article, "Embodiment versus Dualism: A Theology of Sexuality from a Holistic Perspective," has drawn the most criticism.

The article, written by Leslie Kendrick Townsend, a pastoral counselor and marriage and family therapist in Louisville, Ky., includes frank, clinical language to discuss issues such as menstruation, intercourse and genital function. Townsend quotes another author to suggest that "the sexual feelings, functions and meanings of our genitals" can be "important modes of revelation" about God.

The latest issue of the R&E is dated Spring 2001 but was released a few months ago. Schools with ties to the journal started distancing themselves from the publication shortly after Baptist Press published three articles on Dec. 6 critical of the issue.

Baylor University's Truett Seminary in Texas ended its sponsorship of the R&E on Dec. 10. The seminary's faculty called the journal's latest issue "irresponsible" and "contrary to sound theological scholarship."

Logsdon School of Theology at Hardin-Simmons University, meanwhile, indicated it could sever ties with R&E if the journal's editorial board does not take steps to prevent similar problems in the future. Both schools are in Texas.

The Christopher M. White School of Divinity at Gardner-Webb University said it was "reevaluating" its relationship to the journal and called on the journal to review its editorial procedures.

Divinity school dean Wayne Stacy said in a written statement on Dec. 12 that the school does not endorse the perspectives in the issue. Divinity school officials were not given an opportunity to review the contents of the issue in advance, he said.

"Had we done so, we would have expressed our view that some of the articles in this issue incorporate poor scholarship and questionable theology, and that this particular issue casts a shadow over the storied history of one of Baptists' most respected scholarly journals," Stacy said. "While the subject itself, 'Sexuality and the Church,' is an appropriate topic for responsible theological reflection, especially at a time when sexual impropriety in our society is rampant, the Spring 2001 issue of Review & Expositor incorporated some treatments of the subject that were, in our judgment, irresponsible and inappropriate."

Campbell University President Norman A. Wiggins and Divinity School Dean Michael G. Cogdill said in a statement Dec. 13 that they were "shocked and disappointed" at some of the content in the issue.

"Had we been consulted prior to its publication, we would have urged those of the Editorial Board who approved the article for publication not to do so," they said. "In content and theological expression we do not feel the article meets the high standards heretofore that made the Review and Expositor one of the nation's finest publications in the field of theology.

"The Divinity School does not affirm any theological proclamation, oral or written, that is not consistent with our mission to exalt Christ, be faithful to the Bible, and promote the mission of the Church. It is apparent that this article is not supportive of these purposes. Sadly, we will reevaluate our future association with the Review and Expositor, beginning with a review of the process by which articles in this journal are approved for publication."

Wayne Ballard, an assistant professor of religion at Campbell University, became associate editor of the journal while the Spring 2001 issue was in the development process and did not edit the issue.

Ballard said the R&E wanted a broad range of viewpoints on the issue of sexuality and the church. He said he is sorry if the issue put any of the institutions in a bad light.

"The journal up front clarifies we are not the voice of any one institution," he said.

Ballard said he thinks the Spring 2001 issue is "filled with diversity" on the left and the right of the theological spectrum.

The lead article is outside traditional Baptist views, but the other articles are "close to home," Ballard said.

Ballard said the R&E's mission is to be a "quarterly Baptist theological journal dedicated to free and open inquiry of issues related to the Church's mission in the contemporary world."

Ballard pointed out that issue editor Daniel McGee wrote in his introduction that "We do not necessarily agree nor do we endorse each other's viewpoints on sexuality or the church."

McGee, an employee of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, said later that the views represented in a controversial article are not his own and are "radical" and "provocative."

R&E, like many academic journals, appoints an issue editor each quarter. That person works alongside the journal's managing editor and associate editor. Nancy deClaisse-Walford of McAfee School of Theology in Atlanta is managing editor of R&E.

The faculty of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., originally published the quarterly theological journal. In 1996, the seminary faculty declared the journal to be independent of the seminary. A new coalition of sponsor and patron schools was announced.

The three lead schools sponsoring the journal became McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University, Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, Va., and Truett Seminary at Baylor. Each gives $1,200 annually.

Five schools were enlisted as patron institutions: Campbell University Divinity School, Central Baptist Theological Seminary, Christopher M. White School of Divinity, Logsdon School of Theology and Northern Baptist Theological Seminary. These five schools give $1,000 per year.

Joel F. Drinkard Jr., a professor of Old Testament interpretation at Southern, remained involved with R&E as its business manager. Baptist Press reported that Southern President Albert Mohler has "formally asked" Drinkard to resign from the R&E position.

Despite criticism of the issue and Townsend's article, deClaisse-Walford stands by the decision to publish it.

"When I read the article, I thought, 'This is going to raise some eyebrows,' but one of the things I try to emphasize is that the people for whom this journal is written are pastors and leaders in churches. They should be seminary educated and should be familiar with the language and issues being talked about."

(EDITOR'S NOTE - Marv Knox and Mark Wingfield of the Baptist Standard in Texas and Jimmy Allen contributed to this article.)

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12/14/2001 12:00:00 AM by Steve DeVane , BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments
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