Trustees of Hardin-Simmons University in West Texas have adopted a new declaration of faith which focuses on “two genetic sexes” and marriage as “a lifelong covenant relationship between a genetic male and a genetic female” as Articles of Faith.

The new doctrinal statement — which is silent on many other issues that Southern Baptists include in their statement of faith — comes just as the Texas Baptist General Convention is being asked to adopt a separate statement that also emphasizes strict views on gender and sexuality.

Exactly how the new statement of faith will be enforced and whether teachers will be required to affirm it is not yet clear. Information available on the university’s website does not answer the question, and the university’s designated spokesperson did not return a detailed request sent by Baptist News Global.

Some alumni and donors of Hardin-Simmons have protested actions in recent years that appear to be positioning the school in Abilene, Texas, in an ever more conservative direction. These actions include the closure of Logsdon Seminary and the termination of the employment of some professors.

Among Baptists in Texas — Hardin-Simmons is affiliated with the BGCT — beliefs about gender and sexuality have come under scrutiny as more conservative pastors in the state push to deny the reality of the transgender identity and same-sex attraction, echoing the political campaigns of the state’s Republican governor who recently declared medical care for transgender children and teens to be ‘child abuse’ .

Eric Bruntmyer

In a May 31 message to university faculty and staff, President Eric Bruntmyer announced that trustees had adopted the statement of faith nearly two weeks early, apparently without faculty input or outreach.

“Our board of directors within the framework of their regular May Board meeting approved a Statement of Faith to commemorate HSU’s sincere and historic religious beliefs,” Bruntmyer wrote. “The board has spent more than a year in prayer and collaborative meetings to develop the statement of faith, and we are grateful for their commitment to stewardship of the Hardin-Simmons vision and mission.”

He encouraged employees to access the document on the university’s website and “take the time to read it and think about it.”

He encouraged employees to access the document on the university’s website and “take the time to read it and think about it.”

The university’s staff handbook and student handbook will be updated to include the statement of faith, he said, but did not specify how the statement will be enforced. He said there will be “opportunities for discussion in the fall.”

The new statement of faith includes 10 articles – compared to 17 articles in SBC’s Baptist Faith and Message 2000. It deals with Jesus Christ, God, the Holy Spirit, the scriptures, humanity, salvation, the Church, sexuality, marriage, kindness and respect. It says nothing about the family, end times, grace, evangelism, sanctity of life, church ordinances, religious freedom, stewardship, or social justice.

“We believe in Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, fully God and fully man, who died for us and was raised from the dead and ascended into heaven. The return of Christ will complete God’s redemptive mission. Jesus Christ is the only mediator between God and mankind,” states the first article.

An article on “God” affirms the Trinity: “We believe in the only true and living God, Creator of heaven and earth, revealed in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God is all-powerful, all-present and all-knowing. God will reign forever. God is love.”

About Scripture – a hotly debated topic among Baptists – the university’s statement avoids words such as “inerrant” or “infallible” or “sufficient”. The statement states, “We believe the Bible to be the divinely inspired authority for life and faith. The Bible is the word of God and fulfills its purpose, does not come back empty and will stand forever.

The statement also does not address specific atonement theories, claiming that mankind “disobeyed God and fell from a sinless state when tempted by Satan”, is “sinful”, and “separated from God” and in need of “rescue and redemption”. Additionally, God provided a means of salvation through “the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

A separate article explains that “salvation is a gift that comes by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.”

Among the 10 articles of the declaration of faith, two are devoted to strict declarations on gender and sexuality.

Among the declarations of faith 10 articles, two of which are devoted to strict statements on gender and sexuality. The first says: “We believe that God created the human race with two genetic sexes defined by karyotype, male and female.” The second says, “We believe that marriage was established by God to be a lifelong covenant relationship between a genetic male and a genetic female. We also believe that sexual activity is intended by God to be expressed only within the context of a loving marriage between a genetic male and a genetic female.

The word “karyotype” refers to the complete composition of a person’s DNA.

The statement ends with an article on “kindness and respect” which says that “every person was terribly and wonderfully created by God and should be blessed with love, kindness, compassion and dignity”.

Meanwhile, the statement of faith currently proposed for adoption by the BGCT is itself a stripped down document in relation to the Baptist Faith and Message. Among its 13 articles, there is one which declares that “gender is a gift from God who creates each person of every race, male and female, in the divine image and likeness” and one which affirms that “the Biblical marriage is a man and a woman in a covenant relationship with the Lord and with each other.

Denominational universities often refer to their doctrinal statements as justification for seeking exemptions from federal laws that prohibit discrimination against students or employees based on race, gender, or sexuality. Baylor University, also a Baptist school in Texas, is among two dozen universities named in an ongoing class action lawsuit against the US Department of Education. This lawsuit claims that it is not legal for schools that discriminate against gay, lesbian or transgender students to receive federal grants.

This concern also carries over to college athletics, due to conservative fears about transgender student-athletes.

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