Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Tripling Down

I'm not sure exactly what I expected., I am:  I expected either something bad that would clear the way for redemption and reconciliation, or something bad that would further inhibit redemption and reconciliation. 

Instead, we got...nothing.

Which, as I think about it, is pretty much the same thing as the latter (although less destructive, but only in the short term).

Word broke Wednesday morning that Dr. David Alexander, President of Northwest Nazarene University, and Dr. Randy Craker, Chair of the Board of Trustees, would be making a 'special announcement' in NNU's Chapel Service.  A scheduled Faculty Meeting that was to take place not long after chapel was cancelled.  The student Question & Answer session with Dr. Alexander, planned for Wednesday night, remained on the schedule.

And with that, "#thesocialmedia" became a flurry of activity.  I issued a call to prayer for 12:10 PM EST to all of my Facebook friends.  I do that sort of thing very rarely, precisely because I take prayer so seriously.  We ought not to flippantly make serious calls for serious prayer because we stubbed our toe.  God cares when we stub our toe, and God wants us to talk to God about it when we do.  But it's not the kind of thing for which I usually solicit the prayers of hundreds of other people.

What continues to unfold at NNU in these days is of much greater gravity than stubbing one's toe - although you would not know it based on what we heard was said from those who were at the chapel (which is all we could do, since NNU made the decision to not Live Stream today's chapel service, even though that is standard procedure, thus making the announcement much less accessible and transparent to alumni, online students, families, members of the Church of the Nazarene around the world, and other rightfully interested parties).

Instead, what is at stake, among thousands of as yet unforeseen unintended consequences, is academic freedom and integrity in Nazarene institutions of higher learning, the future of ministry training in the Church of the Nazarene, and quite frankly, the future trajectory and viability of the entire denomination...and oh, yes, "by the way," the lives and livelihood of one very brave and incredible family, the Oord's (and many other brave and incredible families, as well).

One week ago today I sent a letter to the President of NNU and the entire Board of Trustees, and posted such openly here on my website along with sharing in many locations in "#thesocialmedia."  While they are admittedly no doubt overwhelmed with communication, I am disappointed to report that this two-time graduate/alumni has not received a single response to my letter from the President or a Board of Trustee member.

Not.  One.

In these days when more and more of us are being faced again and again with the question, "Is there a place for me in the Church of the Nazarene?," the silence is loud and clear: 

No.  There is not. 

We value you so little (though seemingly so much at the time you were pouring in tens of thousands of dollars to the university's coffers) that we don't even think what you have to say on this, or any, subject merits even so much as a one line response.

This is unacceptable.  But, this is not about me.  It's about us, and about who the Church of the Nazarene wants to be going forward:

Do we want to be the Wesleyan-Arminian fellowship of believers we have always claimed to be?  Do we want to be the "big tent" that we always were meant to be?  Do we want to be people who are known for their love and their welcoming and their openness to all?  Or something else?

The reports we hear coming out of today's chapel announcement suggest that all of these questions and many more are not important to the leadership of Northwest Nazarene University and the Church of the Nazarene.  We are not valued.

The faculty of NNU presented a "Framework for Collaborative Governance" on Friday of last week, expressing grievances over how this situation and many others have been handled at NNU, and charting a course forward for reconciliation. 

Over the weekend, released late on Saturday night and early on Sunday, were statements in which Dr. Alexander apologized for the manner in which Dr. Oord was notified of being 'laid off.'  I appreciate those apologies, because being notified at the last possible moment, while on vacation with your family, in an email, was inappropriate, to put it mildly.  However, this is the only mistake that has been admitted, and the rest of what was written was merely a doubling down on being justified in this 'lay off.'

Yesterday, the Faculty of NNU met, voting 77% to 23% in favor of a "vote of no confidence" in President Dr. David Alexander. 

Today, in a chapel for which all calendars and schedules were asked to be cleared for a 'special announcement,' Dr. David Alexander and Dr. Randy Craker replied with, essentially, "I'm sorry you've lost confidence in Dr. Alexander, and we do intend to 'try harder' to 'hear' your concerns, but we are going to keep doing what we have been doing, because God has a new day for us all, so let's all smile, work together, and move along - there's nothing to see here."

The problem is, there is something to see here.  And we all see it very clearly unless another rational explanation can be given. 

The problem is, among all the myriad of problems I have already made mention of, you have failed, brothers, to answer the following question, in the following context (because as a great professor at NNU so often says, "context matters"):

Given that you have publicly stated that the 'laying off' of Dr. Tom Oord...

a.)      is NOT for any academic reason,
b.)      is NOT for any theological reason,
c.)      is NOT "for cause" in any way,
d.)      IS due to financial/budget limitations/reallocations/restructuring

...then WHY was Dr. Oord the one chosen to be laid off?  WHO selected Dr. Oord to be laid off, and what was the process/rationale that led to his being chosen, as opposed to any other person in the department in question?  In short, "why TOM?"

Whatever else has happened, whatever else has been said, whatever other actions are taken, whatever other questions we may have (and we have many), and whatever other wide-ranging implications this episode has for the Church of the Nazarene (and it most certainly does), you MUST answer this question. 

Your failure to do so is unacceptable and you will be held accountable to give a satisfactory answer to this question.  We will not go away until this question has been satisfactorily answered.

And if there is no satisfactory answer to this question, then Dr. Tom Oord must be reinstated, immediately.  Whatever other actions must necessarily go along with that are the consequences of your past decisions and actions over many weeks, and many years.

We are not asking for much, really:

1.)      Truthfully and transparently answer the question above,


2.)      Reinstate Dr. Tom Oord

Doing nothing is not a response.  Tripling down is not a response.  Waiting it out until the on campus students are largely gone for the summer is not a response.  Full #transparencynow and truthfully answering the question above, whatever the outcomes of answering such a question may be, is the only response.

Those of us who Support Tom Oord and support Northwest Nazarene University will settle for nothing less.  And we will remain active in pursuing this goal until it has been achieved. 

We will not be deterred.  We will not be dissuaded.  We will not go away. 

We will continue to pray.  We will continue to mercifully seek justice.  We will continue to speak the truth in love. 

What will you do?

#NNU #Oord #SupportTomOord

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