After a week of media circuses wherein every major news outlet in the state of Texas dutifully reported the prediction that Baylor President Robert Sloan would be fired by the university's Board of Regents, reporters and cameramen arrived on campus Friday for the denouement. Only a couple of months ago, Baylor's Regents secretly (but not so secretly) voted on Sloan's leadership and retained him by a slender one vote margin. Fresh from having harassed and annoyed the Regents into that vote, Bill Carden, head of the euphemistically-named Committee to Restore Integrity to Baylor University (CRIBU), confidently asserted that Sloan would be finished as president by the end of last week. Happily for Baylor, Carden, formerly a Y2K prophet of minor renown, once again demonstrated the poverty of his psychic powers. No vote was taken on Sloan at all. Thus, Baylor's Regents, demonstrating that they did not need a lesson in integrity from Mr. Carden, hung the gentleman out to dry.
After this high profile failure of fortune-telling, Carden and CRIBU may have a hard time once again commanding the front pages and five minute segments of Texas media outlets. No word, yet, on whether the group will stay together, but they did cancel a planned rally for Friday afternoon. One thing is for certain, after getting sucker-punched by the single vote margin in May, the Sloan administration is not likely to ever again present such a vulnerable target for Carden and crew.
No vote is happy news for the many American Christians who have pinned their hopes on Baylor making good on its bid to scale the top tier of research universities while reinforcing its Christian identity. If Baylor succeeds, it will join Notre Dame in a Catholic-Protestant combo that will provide a compelling alternative to dominant academic presuppositions which casually discount the Christian tradition.
For now, interested observers of the Baylor experiment will continue to hold their breath. Baylor's Regents will need to meet several more times without voting on the status of the presidential leadership before a banana republic atmosphere fully subsides. Nevertheless, last Friday's events may well mark an important day in history. July 23, 2004 may well be the day Baylor backed away from the precipice and once again seized hold of its unique destiny.
One or two decades from now, it's quite possible that Baylor will host the finest collection of Christian scholars on the planet and will amaze the academic world with the treasures that grow out of the renewal of the Christian mind. When that day comes, the town of Waco, intersected by the Brazos River whose full name means "Arms of God," will become the juncture of Athens and Jerusalem it has so long aspired to be.