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May 10, 2014 11:26 AM EDT

Christian College In Tennessee Changes Statement Of Faith


A change in Bryan College's statement of faith has cause "an exodus of sorts," Campus Reform reported.

The Christian liberal arts school's statement of faith, which all faculty and staff must sign each year, was changed in February by the school's president and Board of Trustees.

It originally stated "that the origin of man was by fiat of God in the act of creation as related in the Book of Genesis; that he was created in the image of God; that he sinned and thereby incurred physical and spiritual death[.]"

The statement of faith was changed to say, "We believe that all humanity is descended from Adam and Eve. They are historical persons created by God in a special formative act, and not from previously existing life forms."

Although the "clarification" has struck a nerve with the personal beliefs of some faculty, "it's the swiftness of the switch that has caused the most uproar on campus," Campus Reform reported.

"We have never been told by the president or board members or anyone why it had to be done right now," Dr. Phil Lestmann, professor of mathematics and head of the school's Natural Sciences department, told Campus Reform. "They really didn't seem to care or even think about the faculty who were forced to leave because of their actions."

AT least two tenured professors - Dr. Stephen Barnett had taught at the school for 31 years and Dr. Steve DeGeorge 12 years - at the school were fired after they submitted their contract with the original statement of faith and not the updated one.

"[T]he College refused to renew the annual contracts of these tenured professors because they would neither affirm nor deny what the Board of Trustees calls a 'clarification' to that part of the Statement of Belief pertaining to Creation," Ed Nanney, a lawyer representing both men, told Campus Reform.

Bryan's charter states that the updates statement of faith "cannot be changed, leaving many faculty and students questioning the motives behind the president's desire to draw a fine semantics line between 'change' and 'clarification,'" Campus Reform reported.

At least nine professors have either resigned or been fired since the statement had been updated. According to students at the school, several of their peers have opted to transfer to a different school for the next semester.

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