Call for Letters in Support of Christopher Rollston

Dr. Chris Rollston
Dr. Christopher Rollston, the Toyozo W. Nakarai Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Studies at Emmanuel Christian Seminary

I’d like to announce an open call for letters in support of Dr. Christopher Rollston, who Emmanuel Christian Seminary is presently attempting to terminate, despite the fact that he is a tenured professor holding an endowed chair.

Emmanuel’s egregious and (I believe the courts will show) unlawful actions have triggered an unprecedented and nearly unanimous shower of support and praise for Dr. Rollston, including letters from a wide range of scholars and alums who would otherwise disagree on any number of theological issues. Emmanuel’s actions are not only harmful to its own, now tarnished reputation, but also harmful to the generally accepted concepts of tenure and academic freedom, which serve as the foundation for accredited academic institutions of higher learning.

As this scandal has dragged on, Emmanuel has yet to offer even a single public acknowledgment or explanation of its actions. Emmanuel must realize that simply ignoring the problem, dragging out the process, and hoping that scholars will forget what Emmanuel has done is not an effective solution to the problem they’ve created. I am certain that if this ugly episode is not resolved by the AAR/SBL annual meetings in Chicago, word of Emmanuel’s actions will only further spread to faculty members of other schools and to potential graduate students, creating even deeper recruiting problems for Emmanuel as they attempt to deal with a crushing financial crisis that may very well result in Emmanuel being taken over by another sister institution.

Of course, this financial crisis is one of the reasons Emmanuel President Michael Sweeney actually listed in his letter to Dr. Rollston detailing why they were initiating the termination process. (A potential significant donation from a donor who didn’t like Rollston is also mentioned.) And if the fact that Emmanuel began termination proceedings against Dr. Rollston wasn’t wrong enough, the fact that his Emmanuel supervisor, Dr. Paul Blowers, divulged the supposedly confidential personnel matter to the public via Facebook (see here, at the bottom) is all the more legally problematic for Emmanuel.

(For more background on the scandal, read the Inside Higher Ed article that was published last month, or read my previous blog entries here and here and here.)

As word of what Emmanuel has done spreads and begins to dominate conversations among professors in our well-networked field at AAR/SBL, it will only further expose Emmanuel’s shameful actions, and likely further bolster Dr. Rollston’s legal case.

Therefore, I’d like to make a public call for letters in support of Dr. Christopher Rollston.

If you would like to submit a letter in support of Dr. Rollston, please email it to me at I shall add your letter to the list below, and announce it with a blog post when it arrives.

I’d like to ask all bloggers to repost this call for letters, as it will help make clear to the administration of Emmanuel Christian Seminary that this issue is not going away, and their actions will not soon be forgotten.

List of individuals in
support of Dr. Christopher Rollston

List of individuals in
support of the actions taken by Emmanuel Christian Seminary:

Adrienne Armes (Emmanuel School of Religion alum) here
Travis Armes (Emmanuel School of Religion alum) here
Dr. Hector Avalos (Iowa State University) here
Jeremiah Bailey (Duke University) here
Dr. Katya Barbash (Brooklyn Museum) here
Joseph Beal (Emmanuel School of Religion alum) here
Adam Bean (Emmanuel Christian Seminary alum) here
Dr. Ted Booth (Lincoln Memorial University here
James Bos (University of Mississippi) here
Dr. Athalya Brenner (Tel Aviv University/Universiteit van Amsterdam, The Netherlands) here
Dr. Robert Cargill (University of Iowa) here, here, here
Steve Caruso (Rutgers University and The Aramaic Blog) here
Dr. Jerrold S. Cooper (The Johns Hopkins University) here
Josh Covey (Emmanuel Christian Seminary alum) here
Dr. Jim Davila (University of St Andrews) here
Heather Dana Davis Parker (The Johns Hopkins University) here
Jason Eisele (Emmanuel Christian Seminary alum) here
Bradley England (Emmanuel Christian Seminary alum) here
Christopher Frisina (American University) here
Dr. Mark Goodacre (Duke University) here
Dr. Stephen Goranson (Duke University) here
Nathaniel Green (University of Wisconsin-Madison) here, here
Dr. Edward L. Greenstein (Bar-Ilan University) here
Rick Hauser (International Institute for Mesopotamian Area Studies) here
Nathan Hawkins (Emmanuel School of Religion) here
Dr. Chris Heard (Pepperdine University) here
Dr. Ronald Hendel (UC Berkeley) here
Dr. Larry Herr (Canadian University College) here
W.G. Hulbert (Baylor University) here
Katya Ivanova (London School of Economics) here
Rev. Wes Jamison (Colesville Presbyterian Church) here
Dr. Chris Keith (St. Mary’s University College, Twickenham, London) here
Dr. Robert M. Kerr (Wilfrid Laurier University) here
Rachel Knowles (Emmanuel School of Religion) here
Kristina Linden (Emmanuel School of Religion) here
Dr. Jim Linville (University of Lethbridge) here
Dr. P. Kyle McCarter (The Johns Hopkins University) here, here
Dr. James McGrath (Butler University) here
Brian McGrath Davis (Emmanuel Christian Seminary) here
Anat Mendel (Hebrew University, Jerusalem) here
Jeff Morgan (Emmanuel Christian Seminary) here
Stephen Paul (Emmanuel School of Religion) here
R.J. Powell (East Tennessee State University) here
Jared Poznich (Emmanuel Christian Seminary) here
Carrie Mayes San Angelo (Milligan College alum) here
Duane Smith (Independent Scholar) here
Thomas Stark (Emmanuel School of Religion) here, here
Dr. Matthew J. Suriano (University of Maryland) here
Dr. Marvin A. Sweeney (Claremont School of Theology) here
Dr. James Tabor (UNC, Charlotte) here
Dr. Juan Manuel Tebes (Pontificia Universidad Católica Argentina)
Thomas Verenna (Rutgers University) here, here, here
Dr. Richard Voelz (Vanderbilt University) here
Joel Watts (United Theological Seminary) here, here
Dr. Bruce Wells (Saint Joseph’s University) here, here
Dr. Jim West (Quartz Hill) here
Matthew Worsfold (Emmanuel Christian Seminary) here
Joe Zias (Israel Antiquities Authority, retired) here
Dr. Paul Blowers (Emmanuel Christian Seminary) here
Dr. Michael Pakaluk (Ave Maria University)
Roger Pearse (unaffiliated)
“Dr.” David Tee (unaffiliated)

23 Responses

  1. […] via Call for Letters in Support of Christopher Rollston « XKV8R: The Official Blog of Dr. Robert R. Car…. […]

  2. […] I’d like to announce an open call for letters in support of Dr. Christopher Rollston, who Emmanuel Christian Seminary is presently attempting to terminate, despite the fact that he is a tenured professor holding an endowed chair…. (here) […]

  3. […] Robert Cargill is collecting letters in support of Christopher Rollston, a tenured professor of an endowed chair at Emmanuel Christian Seminary who is facing possible termination. Personally, I don’t know Rollston, but this particular situation mocks the whole idea tenure and academic freedom. We’ve seen too many institutions bullying scholars into conformity and I think our response must be to pressure their administrations into doing what is right and just. If you’d like to contribute a letter of support for Cargill to post you can do so by going here. […]

  4. Just a word one the logic here of formatting, however many people stand for or against the truth of some position, or the morality of, has no bearing on the truth of that position, or the morality of it.

    I’m not condoning what Emmanuel is doing, but it is false logic to show all of these people opposing it with the implicit notion that has any bearing on the substance of the matter itself. It reveals nothing more than the ‘mob mind’.

  5. Andrew, I actually agree with you. The number of people who believe something ultimately has no bearing upon whether it is or is not factual or (if we can use the term) “true”.

    But the facts are not at issue here. It is pretty clear what is going on, and no one has denied any of the facts in this matter. Thus, this is not a list of those who accept facts vs. those who do not accept facts, but rather a survey/catalog of those who have written in support – PUBLICLY – for Dr. Rollston, and those who have attempted to defend Emmanuel’s actions.

    No one is disputing the facts. Rather, it is intended to show on which side of the issue scholars and students are willing to speak publicly. This is a catalog. Treat it as such.



  7. Shalom & Erev tov…Mr Rollston is a brilliant scholar of Torah philological histories, displaying a consistent familiarity with Judaisms and its permutations. His ‘sin’ (to use the favoured incantation of crucifictionism) is that he abhors, and has so written, the repressive sexism of masculinists who, like most Shoah evaders, want to silence. I believe Emmanuel ‘Christian’ Seminary is reflective of the pathetic post-Auschwitz state of belief systems. The discussion of texts and truths stops prudently with these quacks before their parallelism becomes close enough to yield logical and probable conclusions.
    STEPHAN BOROWSKI PICKERING / Chofetz Chayim benAvraham
    Torah G-ddess Jew Apikoros Ishi / Philosophia Kabbalistica Researcher

  8. Perhaps you could explain to me why a private university founded for the purpose of teaching one particular position should be required to fund someone who opposes that position? I notice that all those ranting about this, often in tediously second-hand language, never get around to explaining WHY this is reasonable.

    Emmanuel are requiring integrity. It is shameful that this reasonable and sensible position is apparently unacceptable to those who — funnily enough — don’t share its religious position.

    The word “intolerance” comes rather readily to mind.

    Dr Rollston is certainly entitled to whatever views he likes. What he is not entitled to, is to expect those who disagree with him to fund him to propagate them. And if the boot was on the other foot, you would feel the same.

    Live and let live.

  9. Again, Mr. Pearse, you’re the only one I know who is claiming that Dr. Rollston is “attacking” (your words) Emmanuel or is “opposed to” them. There is no evidence of this, and no one but you is making this claim. I can understand how it would be a convenient straw man for you to justify Emmanuel’s actions, but this is simply not the case. Dr. Rollston has in now way “attacked” Emmanuel, nor is he “opposed” to any official position they hold. (I wasn’t aware the Emmanuel Christian Seminary had an official position on the patriarchy inherent in the NT.)

    You also said:

    “Dr Rollston is certainly entitled to whatever views he likes. What he is not entitled to, is to expect those who disagree with him to fund him to propagate them.”

    However, this is not the case. For one, universities do not dismiss people simply because they disagree with a professor’s take on patriarchy in the NT. And second – and this is the larger point – he’s TENURED. The point of tenure is to protect academic speech in the course of doing one’s scholarship. He offered an interpretation about scripture. I can understand how a confessional school might not offer tenure to an untenured faculty who said something with which someone higher up disagreed (which would still ridiculous as far as credible scholarship goes, but they’d at least be within their legal right to do so), but once you’ve offered tenure to someone, you cannot fire someone for academic speech made by said tenured professor. This is why Emmanuel has a HUGE legal problem on its hands (wrongful termination) and precisely why Emmanuel is attempting to make some general claim that Dr. Rollston is not “sympathetic to the mission of the university” or something vague like that, which is not only untrue (Chris LOVES Emmanuel despite the present situation), but will only cause further problems for Emmanuel as Dr. Rollston can then claim that Emmanuel’s attempt to fire him also involved institutional defamation of his character as a Christian scholar.

    Emmanuel has absolutely blown it on this IMHO. They tried to railroad and pressure a good (and TENURED) scholar out, and when he said no, and stood on solid legal grounds, they suddenly had a problem. And now it’s not just the bank who has some financial claims against the school, but Dr. Rollston, as he will absolutely win any wrongful termination suit against Emmanuel.

    The best thing that Emmanuel can do right now is offer him his next 3-4 years of salary, hope that he accepts in exchange for leaving, settle this out of court, and part ways amicably. Otherwise, if this drags out, it will only cost Emmanuel MORE money and cause the FURTHER damage to their already tattered credibility.

    I’m not even sure if there will even BE an Emmanuel Christian Seminary at this point in the game. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re not already in the process of being absorbed by some other institution. (Again, Milligan would be a natural receiver institution.)

    PS: You said, “And if the boot was on the other foot, you would feel the same.” I couldn’t disagree more. Anyone who knows me knows that I celebrate a diversity of opinion. It’s why I post dissenting opinions on my blog and on my FB, it’s why I chose to teach in a place where all sorts of different religious, political, and economic opinions are not only present, but celebrated. As a scholar, I celebrate and encourage different opinions, as constant challenges makes me sharper as a scholar. This is how most credible schools operate: hire competent scholars of differing fields and different points of view and expose students to a professional discussion of all of the views. BTW, this is also how most credible seminaries work as well. Attempting to streamline all points of view on all things religious, and then punishing those who dare to think an independent thought is the activity of a cult or a sectarian, fundamentalist bible school, not an accredited seminary.

    This is why I say Emmanuel has tarnished its reputation: whether Dr. Rollston stays or goes, the fact that the Emmanuel administration has caused itself to look like a fundamentalist, indoctrinating sect governed by a faculty thought police hurts both its current faculty and future student recruitment. It’s a self-inflicted wound fired by an incompetent administration with a complete misunderstanding of academic freedom and credibility. They did it to themselves.

  10. I agree with your views on this, but why would Emmanuel care what random people (or worse, liberals) think?

    They have an institutional view that is not likely to change because people they consider to be non-Christians disagree.

    Pressure works when those doing the pressure have leverage. You and I have no leverage on Emmanuel. It’s not like they are worried that you or I will stop buying its product.

    And I say this wishing Prof. Rollston well, and certainly hope he can negotiate a decent settlement, although that might be hard if the institution is about to be taken over as a result of a financial crisis. An acquiring entity might not have to honor existing contracts (obviously it depends on the structure of the deal and the laws of the state, neither of which I can speak to in this case).

  11. […] Bob Cargill has posted a call on his blog for letters in support of Christopher Rollston, whose position at Emmanuel Christian Seminary has been placed in jeopardy by a small number of people who objected to an article he wrote. […]


    I’m just glad so many wonderful atheists have graduated from schools like these. Oh, and some of the best and brightest non-theistic biblical scholars and exegetes.

    So faculty and archaic fundamentalist belief system notwithstanding, there has been SOME good to emerge from these places.

  13. […] I shall post them here on my blog and add your name and letter to this fast-growing list of supporters who have written publicly in support of Dr. […]

  14. […] I received the following letter from Dr. Ronald Hendel at the University of California, Berkeley, which I am posting below. I have added Dr. Hendel’s letter to Dr. Rollston’s list of public supporters here. […]

  15. […] I received the following letter from Anat Mendel of The Institute of Archaeology at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, which I am posting below. I have added the letter to Dr. Rollston’s list of public supporters here. […]

  16. […] so as not to sully their chances of getting into PhD programs. Given the overwhelming number of faculty members who have written in support of Dr. Rollston from a wide array of schools, both confessional and secular, what are the chances that these […]

  17. I agree with you for the most part. Their direct revenue does not come from the likes of you and me. HOWEVER, their credibility does, and it is that credibility that is necessary for an institution of higher learning to attract better students.

    Credibility always comes from the outside, not the inside of an organization. It this was, it is also like institutional power. A person or an institution can tell itself and the world how great it is, but until it is verified, corroborated, attested to, or accredited by an outside organization, it doesn’t carry weight. They just think they’re cool.

    Thus, what other “outside” credible scholars think matters to the reputation and credibility of the institution. And if a whole bunch of the best scholars think they’ve done something terrible, and only a few insiders think they’ve done something great, then their reputation suffers, and in education, it matters what people think of where you went to school.

  18. […] I received the following letter from Dr. Matthew J. Suriano of The University of Maryland, which I am posting below. I have added the letter to Dr. Rollston’s list of public supporters here. […]

  19. […] want to thank my colleagues who sent letters to this blog and/or posted them elsewhere in support of Dr. Rollston. It was wonderful to see so many members of […]

  20. […] The Lack of Academic Integrity at Emmanuel Seminary […]

  21. […] Libby Nelson’s article broke the story onto the national scene. It was also nice to see the multitude of scholars line up to lend their voice and support to Dr. Rollston. It demonstrates that scholars must stick […]

  22. […] also seen the dismissals of Anthony LeDonne (Lincoln Christian University), Christopher Rollston (Emmanuel Christian Seminary), and Michael Pahl (Cedarville University). Well, it seems that Cedarville Univerity is not yet […]

  23. […] seen the dismissals of Anthony
    LeDonne (Lincoln Christian University), Christopher
    Rollston (Emmanuel Christian Seminary), and Michael
    Pahl (Cedarville University). Well, it seems that Cedarville
    Univerity is not yet […]

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