The Baylor University Board of Regents reportedly fired school president and chancellor Ken Starr today. The university is refusing to comment on these reports, though a variety of sources have confirmed the president’s dismissal.
Baylor has been accused during Starr’s tenure of failing to respond to rapes or sexual assaults reported by at least six female students. At least eight former Baylor football players have been accused of violence against women. Two of the players were convicted of raping Baylor co-eds. Critics allege that President Starr’s response to the victims has been muted and legalistic.
Baylor is the world’s largest Baptist university and the oldest continuously operating university in Texas. The school has committed $5 million to efforts to change how it responds to reports of sexual assault. Baylor also hired the Pepper Hamilton law firm to investigate the scandal; regents received the firm’s report on May 13.
Sources indicate that head coach Art Briles and athletic director Ian McCaw will continue at the university barring evidence that they were engaged in a cover-up. Apparently the regents concluded that the president should be held responsible for the scandal.
Let me be clear: I don’t know any more about this news than you do. I am not a member of the board of regents and have no personal information regarding their decision. I am not writing today to criticize or defend President Starr or others involved in this story. Clearly we will learn much more about this decision in days to come.
But here’s what we can learn from today’s report: Leaders are ultimately responsible to and for those they lead.
The sign on President Truman’s desk famously noted, “The buck stops here.” We find this pattern all through Scripture. For instance, in Numbers 7, Moses was credited with “setting up the tabernacle,” though a large number of workers actually built the structure. Seven chapters later, after spies sent into Canaan found giants in the land, “all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron” and decided to find a new leader (Numbers 14:2, 4).
Leaders typically receive too much credit for success and too much blame for failure. That’s why it’s so important for Christian leaders to serve their Lord and their people with integrity. Then, whatever happens, they can know that they were faithful to their Father and his calling.
The Lord warned the prophet Isaiah “not to walk in the way of this people” (Isaiah 8:11). That’s because only the Spirit can give us God’s capacity for “all speech and all knowledge” (1 Corinthians 1:5). As John Owen noted: “A minister may fill his pews, his communion roll, the mouths of the public, but what that minister is on his knees in secret before God Almighty, that he is and no more.”
I am praying for Ken Starr, the regents and university, and those victimized by the sexual abuse tragedy. And I am asking God to help me serve him and you faithfully. John Stott was right: “The authority by which a Christian leader leads is not power but love, not force but example, not coercion but reasoned persuasion. Leaders have power, but power is safe only in the hands of those who humble themselves to serve.”
Are you humble enough to serve today?