Over the past two weeks Facebook and the blogosphere have been blowing up with scathing critiques of Northwest Nazarene University’s recent decision to layoff 2 faculty and 4 staff - including a beloved but controversial theology professor. Because of the questionable circumstances surrounding the decision, I also added my voice to this public outcry. I’m happy to report that NNU has responded positively to the crisis.
The response felt slow and stumbling at times, but in the context of the typical sluggish pace of change for massive institutions like conservative Christian universities, NNU has listened and responded with relative lightening speed.
Today, I’d like to issue my thanks to those involved.
First, thanks to Tom Oord.
You are a gift to the Church of the Nazarene and to the church at large. Your willingness to push envelopes and take on sacred cows is why many of us around the globe are still Nazarenes. You voice the concerns and hopes of thousands upon thousands of us. Beyond your steady calls for forward progress and creative philosophical work (which if we’re honest few of us even understand!), your gracious spirit and humble love have won the hearts of everyone who has spent time with you. The massive outpouring of support over the past few weeks is the result of your heart as much as your head. Thank you for living with love.
Second, thanks to the NNU students and faculty.
You refused to accept injustice and unfairness. You stood to support one of your own. You wore red. You wrote letters. You made phone calls. The faculty courageously stood in defiance of the president to call for a healthier form of governance, and when worse came to worse, you accepted the reality of the situation and voted “No Confidence” with a super-majority vote. Your voices carried more weight than any others because you know NNU most closely and also because you had most to lose. Thank you for living with love.
Third, thanks to the wider community of NNU alumni and Nazarenes around the world.
Your vocal and persistent response has been a surprising and potent force within this whole situation. Because of your overwhelming support, the faculty and students felt empowered to do the work only they could do. Because of your overwhelming and consistent voices through phone calls, emails, letters, and the Facebook group “Support Tom Oord and NNU”, the leaders and Board of Trustees realized that their response to this crisis carries weight all around the Nazarene community. You refused their initial attempts to placate the masses and demanded a real and substantive response equal in measure to the gravity of your grievances. Thank you for living with love.
Next, thanks to the NNU Board of Trustees.
In reality, the weight of this crisis weighed squarely on your shoulders. You live busy lives, and we flooded you with our complaints and concerns. Some of us were quite vigorous in voicing our offense, and some did so offensively. Although many of us were disappointed with either the pace of your response or with the limited response you finally gave, in the end you granted our biggest “ask” - a mostly independent review of the crisis at hand, and you further called for deeper collaborative governance at NNU. As one trustee told me, many of you have done little else over the past two weeks than address this crisis. You have stepped forward valiantly to help restore the trust of NNU. Thank you for living with love.
Finally, thanks to President Alexander.
As you admitted in your most recent letter, you got us into this mess, and you’ve been slow to accept the gravity, the depth, and the complexity of the situation. But I admit that I’ve been called to account by a church board twice for my own aggressive leadership style. Hard charging leaders have a passion to get things done, and we can often bulldoze those around us. However, it seems that the heavy pressure, the faculty response, and perhaps the Holy Spirit have softened your heart and helped you see more clearly some of your own weaknesses. As you know, many among us are still skeptical, waiting to see if the proof will be in the pudding. Public confessions are hard, and fundamental change is even harder. But from one hard charging leader to another, I am hopeful that you are now moving in the right direction. My prayer for you is that you will keep this spirit of humility, listen well, and round out your driving passion with a deep and gentle compassion. Thank you for living with love.
This was a dark chapter in the life of NNU and in the Church of the Nazarene. But we have lived with love, and God has begun the process of redemption and reconciliation among us. Much of the future remains uncertain, and we wait on the fulfillment of the good seeds that are now planted.
But this much is clear: LOVE WINS.