My denomination is now in a circular firing squad. The latest misadventure is a candidate for national office who admitted falsifying his resume, crediting himself with degrees he’d never earned. The intriguing thing is he worked for a Baptist group in another state for 15 years, and no one seemed to care about his resume.
I remember a discussion about educational credentials when I served as youth member of our pastor search committee. I’m grateful my church gave me this experience as a high-schooler. This is how Baptists get a new pastor—we go to another church, hear their preacher and then convince him it’s God’s will he come to us. This creates a perpetual chain reaction since the church he left then elects a committee to do the same thing.
A member of our committee discounted looking at college or seminary transcripts. He reasoned many students work long hours and maybe didn’t study like they’d wished to. Now that I’ve been one of those students, I appreciate his empathy. It’s said that seminary is designed for a single student with no financial obligations. If one of these stats change, the situation grows more intense.
I remember talking with our county denominational leader when I was about to graduate from Auburn University. I served a church in the area and asked his counsel about remaining another year at the church and continuing the part-time construction job I had. He advised me to go to seminary as quickly as I could in order to ensure a better future.
I’m grateful for my seminary experience, but today we have more options. Online education and satellite hubs allow ministers to remain in their places of service and get needed training.
I’ve taught at a number of community colleges along the way, and, of course, each school wants an official transcript of grades and verification of graduation. But no church that I recall asked any details about my educational credentials. They simply accepted the resume as written. Thus I understand how easy it would be to fraudulently enhance a resume.
I occasionally wear a Harvard baseball cap, and several have asked if I attended Harvard. I sometimes reply affirmatively, neglecting to tell the inquirer that it was for only one week at an educational conference!
Sadly, modern churches must do criminal background checks and credit reports for prospective employees.
I remember a former church getting calls from creditors because we didn’t do this, and the staff minister owed more money than he could pay.
We were naïve not to do due diligence.
Intentional deception isn’t the norm for the overwhelming majority of gospel ministers. However, public failures like this embarrass the church of Christ.
“Reflections” is a weekly faith column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church, Alabaster, Alabama. The church’s website is siluriabaptist.com.
See complete story in the Journal Record.