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Joe Rigney Resigns as President of Bethlehem Seminary Over Disagreements About Christian Nationalism, Believer’s Baptism

Joe Rigney
Screengrab via YouTube @Canon Press

Joe Rigney has resigned as president of Bethlehem College and Seminary, the school announced on April 3. The reason for Rigney’s resignation was “vision divergence.”

In an announcement that was signed by trustee board chairman Tom Lutz and John Piper, the school’s chancellor and long-time pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church from which the school was birthed, the school expressed “profound thankfulness to God” for Rigney’s 16 years of service at Bethlehem, noting his contributions to the expansion of the school during his tenure as president, which began in 2020.

Nevertheless, the school explained that Rigney had “substantial differences” of opinion with some of the school’s trustees and governing churches, as well as with Piper himself—differences that became a “significant obstacle” to his leadership. 

Those differences were “theological” and “philosophical” in nature and included Rigney’s evolving beliefs about the practice of baptism, as well as the relationship the Christian church ought to have with the state. 

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With regard to baptism, Rigney’s position has evolved such that “infant baptism is an open question” for him, something that puts him out of step with the school’s baptist theology and statement of faith.

Further, Rigney’s “position on the relationship between Christianity and civil government is not at home with the historic Baptist emphasis on the separation of church and state.”

More specifically, Rigney’s vision for the “Christianization of all of society, including the civil government, has put him significantly out of step with other leaders of the school who would warn against the use of civil authority to establish Christianity as an official religion,” the announcement explained.

Further characterizing Rigney’s view of government as “Christendom-building,” the letter said that this “involves a foregrounding of culture-transformation to a degree that other leaders have felt does not reflect the emphases of the New Testament, and is out of proportion to other values the school represents.”

Rigney will remain at the school until the end of May and will preside over the spring commencement ceremony. Brian J. Tabb, who has served as academic dean and professor of biblical studies, will assume the position of interim president effective immediately.

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With regard to the transition, Rigney is quoted in the announcement as saying, “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.”