Suspect Reasons Behind Professor’s Firing

Thomas Jay Oord is tenured full professor of theology and philosophy at Northwest Nazarene University (as well as an ordained minister in the Church of the Nazarene), and he is being fired from his position for official reasons that apparently no one seems to believe. The official reasons have included: the university’s financial problems and low enrollment in the graduate theology program. But that would seem to ignore that Oord was threatened with a “heresy trial” in the summer of 2014, and that:

In 2013, [NNU President David] Alexander and Intermountain District Superintendent Dr. Stephen Borger asked Dr. Tom Oord to respond to 70 questions about his theology–-in order to stay in good standing with the church and the university… He wrote an 80 page paper in response to these questions, and after being interviewed by Nazarene theologians…  Dr. Oord’s thoughts were found to be within the limits of Wesleyan theology.

Why the investigation into Oord’s religious views? Several articles (e.g., Inside Higher EdChristianity Todaysuggest it was because of Oord’s pro-evolution views. In an article in The Daily Beast, Karl Giberson writes:

Oord was the university’s leading scholar, with 20 books on his CV; by most measures he was also the denomination’s leading scholar and one of a tiny number of Nazarene theologians whose reputations reached beyond evangelicalism. Oord had won multiple teaching awards and was wildly popular with students and respected by his colleagues. He had brought over a million dollars of grant money to the university—a remarkable accomplishment for a professor at a small, unsung liberal arts college.

Oord, however, was controversial.

He strongly supported evolution and had long been a target of creationists in the denomination. He embraced “open theism,” the view that God does not know the future but responds in love—rather than coercive control—to events as they occur, rather than foreordaining everything. Fundamentalist critics called him a heretic and had been vying for his termination for years. But Oord was also gentle and pastoral, especially with students.

In the meanwhile, the NNU faculty has passed a vote of no confidence in President Alexander, and a Facebook group in support of Oord has been growing, with over 2200 members.

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