Evangelical University Embroiled in Controversy After Naming Adam and Eve as 'Historical Persons'

Students and faculty are reportedly clashing with the administration at an evangelical college in Tennessee after it recently changed its statement of faith regarding the creation of man, and Adam and Eve.

The Board of Trustees and President Stephen Livesay of Bryan College in Dayton, Tenn., have been receiving some criticism from students and faculty who argue the school's modified statement of faith is too narrow. The college has strong evangelical roots, as it is named after William Jennings Bryan, the politician who opposed the teaching of evolution in the famous 1925 Scopes Trial.

Back in February, the school's Board of Trustees agreed with Livesay to amend the school's statement of faith. The original statement read, in part: […] "that the origin of man was by fiat of God in the act of creation as related in the Book of Genesis; that he was created in the image of God; that he sinned and thereby incurred physical and spiritual death[.]"

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The statement was then changed in February to read: "We believe that all humanity is descended from Adam and Eve. They are historical persons created by God in a special formative act, and not from previously existing life forms."

Since the statement of faith was amended, students have circulated petitions calling out the school president and the Board of Trustees, and earlier this year the majority of faculty voted "no confidence" in President Livesay's leadership.

According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, students are primarily upset because the school will be losing 9 of its 44 staff members next year. Although they are leaving for multiple reasons, the local paper reports that many of the departures are related the changed statement of faith and Livesay's handling of the growing unrest.

The statement of faith is renewed every year and teachers are required to sign the statement to continue working at the school. Recently, two long-term professors at Bryan refused the sign the statement, and therefore their contracts were not renewed.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press also reports that students are dissatisfied with Livesay's handling of the situation. Although students have signed multiple petitions and sent multiple letters to the Board of Trustees regarding the statement of faith and the waning faculty, Livesay told the newspaper at a fundraising event in April that the issue had been blown out of proportion by the media, and that most faculty and students were pleased with the school.

"The reality is we are solid," Livesay reportedly said. Student Body Vice President Allison Baker then told the newspaper that "there seems to be an emotional disconnect with what we're seeing and how Dr. Livesay perceives things."

Kevin Clauson, vice chair of the Bryan faculty, told Inside Higher Ed that he found it "sad" some faculty members were leaving the college, adding "but the other side of the coin is that if Bryan is going to maintain itself as an evangelical Christian college, it has to make sure that it's doctrine is firm – that there's no slippage of doctrine."

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