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New Baylor University President Kenneth Starr

NY Times profiles Baylor-bound Kenneth Starr


New Baylor University President Kenneth Starr, right, receives congratulations from regent Chairman Dary Stone. (photo provided by Baylor University)

We reported earlier this spring on Kenneth Starr’s decision to leave Pepperdine University and become president of Baylor University, where he plans to join a Baptist church.
The New York Times this week profiled Starr — and highlighted the challenges he will face in his new job:

MALIBU, Calif. — Leaving the oceanside cliffs of Malibu for the dusty plains of Waco is rather like leaving the Garden of Eden to go wander in the desert. It’s a choice few would make willingly. On hearing of his impending move to Texas, one is tempted to ask Kenneth Starr, the former Whitewater prosecutor, if he accidentally bit the wrong apple.
On June 1, Mr. Starr vacates the deanship of Pepperdine University School of Law to become president of Baylor University.
Topographically, it is a drastic move, but it is also a promotion to a more visible pulpit. Pepperdine is affiliated with the evangelical Church of Christ; Baylor is the world’s largest Baptist university. With this new job, the former solicitor general, the man who helped bring Paula Jones to prime time, completes a rebirth as one of America’s most prominent Christian educators.

The piece includes a few interesting references to Churches of Christ, including this passage:

Mr. Starr’s father was a barber by trade, but by calling he was a preacher in the Church of Christ, a primitivist tradition that did not use musical instruments in worship because they did not believe Jesus did. (Some Churches of Christ now use instruments.) Mr. Starr, a pious youth who sold Bibles door-to-door during college vacations, “quickly moved into a broader, nondenominational Christianity” while in graduate school at Brown, he said.
Mr. Starr and his wife, Alice, who was born Jewish but is now a Christian, once belonged to a Congregational church, and when he worked in Washington, they attended McLean Bible Church, a megachurch with regular attendance of over 10,000, which Mr. Starr still considers his spiritual home.
In Waco, they will join a Baptist church. Mr. Starr said it would be a painless move: the Baptists, like his natal Church of Christ, most megachurches and most independent “Bible churches,” believe in congregational autonomy — a core principle for Mr. Starr, and one that happens to be frequently invoked by Baptist moderates in resisting litmus tests posed by fundamentalists.

Starr was among the speakers this week at the Pepperdine Bible Lectures.

  • Feedback
    This event puts in bold relief a good deal of the turmoil that exists in Churches of Christ, doesn’t it?
    As a minister of the gospel I have been asked to accept instrumental music, and to allow women to act as speakers in the public assembly, and to accept the teachings about salvation of evangelicals, broadly speaking. For instance, teaching that a person is saved by faith without being baptized. I cannot teach these things, because I don’t see the scriptures accepting them.
    It seems that many in our fellowship are reading the Bible differently than I do, — a basically different hermeneutic — and it is difficult to come to agreement.
    We must hold to the straight forward teachings of the scriptures in love. If some of us tend to be law oriented, the solution is not to dilute the commands of God, but to preach and teach more deeply on the grace of God, and the faith to which he calls us — I mean, teaching to understand the nature and depth of grace and faith.
    Danny Jaekel
    May, 10 2010

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