Baylor U.'s sports troubles leak into school's religion debate
When Weblog last talked about Baylor University, President Robert Sloan was about to face off against critics who accuse his ambitious Baylor 2012 campaign of being some kind of fundamentalist ploy.

Sloan seems to have emerged from that meeting relatively unscathed, and Provost David Jeffrey got in a good dig at Sloan's detractors by subtly suggesting that they, not he, were the fundamentalists. "I know something about fundamentalist institutions," he said. "They're anti-intellectual, parochial places that resist change at all costs. They do not share qualities with the Baylor of Robert Sloan."

However, more recent Baylor news has potential to create more serious problems for the college, its president, and his efforts to make it "the finest Christian institution of higher learning on this planet."

The body of basketball player Patrick Dennehy was finally found Friday. His former teammate, Carlton Dotson, has been charged with murder.

But Dennehy's family is further complicating the situation, saying Baylor basketball coaches violated NCAA rules, such as paying for his tuition and living expenses when he wasn't on his scholarship. Baylor coach Dave Bliss has denied the allegations, and the school has set up an inquiry panel made up of members of the law school.

In today's New York Times, columnist Selena Roberts suggests that these and other sports troubles suggest a problem with the school's character. "How could this God-fearing university find itself in the middle of a murder investigation involving two gun-toting players who may—or may not—have been part of a corrupt program?" she wrote. But Roberts's efforts to paint Baylor as the Elmer Gantry of higher education don't wash. The mark of a truly Christian university is not whether it faces scandal, but how it deals with it.

While the school continues to take such hits to its image, it's also feeling pain in its pocketbook. The Christ Is Our Salvation Foundation, which has endowed the school's Truett Theological Seminary with a $5 million, interest-free loan since 1993, has decided not to renew it. Foundation executive director Kent Reynolds, who a few months ago withdrew $2.6 million in loans for middle-income students, said "the new emphasis on outward religiosity rather than quiet spirituality" was one of the reasons for not renewing the loan.

Baylor spokesman Larry Brumley told the Waco Tribune-Herald that Reynolds's loan demand is not big deal, expected, and intended to embarrass the university.

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With only one year elapsed in Sloan's 10-year plan, there's much to come in the battle for Baylor.

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Sexual ethics:

  • Vatican seeks to stop okays for gay unions | Instructions to be released this week outline a course of action for politicians and other lay people to oppose extending the rights accorded to traditional couples (Associated Press)

  • New York public school set to open for homosexual teens | Harvey Milk High School, actually an extension of an experimental homosexual program that has existed since 1984, will be located in the East Village. Officials said about 170 students are expected to enroll (The Washington Times)

  • Pa. Gov. bars gender ID discrimination | Gov. Ed Rendell has signed an executive order barring state agencies from discriminating against employees based on their gender identity, adding transgendered people to the list of those whose rights are protected (Associated Press)

  • Birth-control research delves into the molecule | Contraceptives' side effects and failures are spurring scientists to develop high-tech alternatives (Los Angeles Times)

  • Lutheran youths vote to accept gay members | The official youth office of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has voted overwhelmingly to accept gay and lesbian members, even as the church remains divided on its policies on human sexuality (Religion News Service)

  • Gays help reclaim Jesus' words | I began my return to Bible study with the notion that the liberal left had allowed the term "Christian" to be hijacked. I believed that the word ought properly to describe someone who was more like — well — me. Then I actually reread the Gospels, only to discover that they made me squirm. (Fenton Johnson, Los Angeles Times)

Gay debates loom over Episcopal Convention:

  • Homosexual debate threatens Episcopal unity | Starting tomorrow, the Episcopal Church will enter a 10-day melee involving church liberals and conservatives fighting for the future of one of America's most elite religious bodies at its General Convention in Minneapolis (The Washington Times)

  • U.S. Episcopalian stance on gays riles conservatives | Proposals to ratify election of a gay bishop and bless same-sex relationships will fire debate at the upcoming convention of the U.S. Episcopal Church (Reuters)

  • Gay issues could split Episcopal Church | Delegates to the Minneapolis convention will decide whether to approve blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples and confirm the church's first election of an openly gay bishop (Associated Press)

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Church life:

  • Churches govern their own funds, court rules | The highest court in the Presbyterian Church (USA) has ruled that local churches cannot be forced to give money to the denomination, but called withholding funds in protest a "serious breach of trust and love." (Religion News Service)

  • That old-time religion | Some parishioners at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Orange, N.J., say that their new priest is using elements of the traditional Latin Mass, which opponents say undermines attempts to make the church more accessible (The New York Times)

  • Parishes replenish from other shores | A fusion of religious ritual and immigrant traditions is fast becoming an integral part of parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Boston (The Boston Globe)

  • A pastor accused, a congregation torn | At Trinity Lutheran in Ventura, the Rev. David Hall faces allegations of crude jokes and actions. He refuses to step down and members have taken sides (Los Angeles Times)

Politics and law:

  • Accusation of bias angers Democrats | The battle over judicial nominations has grown ever more bitter on Capitol Hill, but Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee say they are particularly outraged over the latest turn: the accusation that their resistance to some conservative nominees amounts to anti-Catholic bias (The New York Times)

  • Also: Beyond the pale | Who exactly is "playing politics with religion" in the William Pryor confirmation battle? (Editorial, The Washington Post)

  • Also: Bad faith advertising | Ads claiming William Pryor is being opposed because of his "deeply held" Catholic beliefs are a lie (Richard Cohen, The Washington Post)

  • Dems doing worst to lose 'Catholic vote' | In a deliberate act of political bigotry, the Democratic National Committee is daily telling Catholic voters to get lost (Mark Shields, CNN)

  • Turning foreign aid into an investment | Charity, for the most part, is the wrong way to think about foreign aid (Daniel Altman, The New York Times)

Clergy sex abuse:

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