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US bible college president resigns over ‘divergence of vision’ on Christian nationalism and infant baptism

by Heather Preston
Joe Rgney 1.png - Banner image
Bethlehem College and Seminary

Joe Rigney’s support of Christian nationalism and infant baptism led him to resign as president of Bethlehem College and Seminary, Minneapolis on Monday.

Speaking to the school’s board of trustees, Rigney said “substantial differences” between them had become “a significant obstacle” in carrying out his role as president.

“I do not believe I have the full confidence of the Trustees, the elders of the governing churches, or the Chancellor,” Rigney said.

In a statement from school chancellor John Piper and chairman Tom Lutz they said a “vision divergence” had developed between Rigney and the remaining leadership that left him “out of step” with the institutions biblical views.

“His position on baptism […] has developed to the point where infant baptism is an open question, such that he cannot with full confidence sign the Bethlehem College and Seminary Affirmation of Faith.”

Baptists believe that baptism is an ordinance rather than a sacrament that comes after a person has made a conscious profession of faith in Christ and repented of their sin.

Joe Rigney, who became president of the independent Baptist school in 2020 has come under scrutiny in recent years for his comments on empathy being a “sin” and his ties to Idaho pastor Doug Wilson who advocates the case for Christian nationalism. 

Baptists also believe in the separation between church and state, something which Bethlehem College and Seminary says Rigney differs on.

“The point is that Dr. Rigney’s more recent emphasis on a hoped-for eventual Christianization of all society, including the civil government, has put him at odds with other leaders of the school who would warn against the use of civil authority to establish Christianity as an official religion,” the board statement said.

Dr Brian J Tabb, academic dean and professor of biblical studies has been named interim president “while the process unfolds for discerning God’s leading toward a new president.”

Rigney will hold his title of president until 31st May 2023.

The school thanked Rigney for his 16 years of service as a faculty member and president offering affection, admiration and prayers for him and his family.

The statement included a quote from Rigney regarding his future: “My family and I are currently praying and considering a number of options for our future, all of which would enable us to continue to spread a passion for God’s supremacy in all things.”

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