Mr. Hunt, I Presume

June 12, 2008

The new president of the Southern Baptist Convention has been padding his resume with degrees from diploma mills and uses the title "Dr." even though he has not earned the degree. Both issues are serious ethical problems and set a poor example for other pastors. He should not claim a degree that he bought from an unaccredited school. These diploma mills offer a shortcut for those who want to list a degree on their resume without actually doing the work. He also should not use the title "Dr." based on an honorary doctorate. To use the title is an insult to anyone who has actually earned the degree. It is fine to list honorary doctorates on one's resume, but it should be treated as an honor and not an educational degree and thus it does not provide the title. As the new leader of the SBC, it is time for Mr. Hunt to set a better example. As Robert Parham argues in his Ethics Daily piece that deals with Hunt's false claims:

By identifying himself with the "Dr." title, Hunt legitimizes these diploma mills and encourages by example other ministers to take educational shortcuts--shortcuts which deceive churches about the real quality of the academic training of their clergy.
Amen! Sadly, Hunt is not the only preacher who has this problem. It is time for preachers to quit exaggerating their academic accomplishments. After all, isn't there something in the Bible about telling the truth?



UPDATE [6-17-08]: Robert Parham has another good piece at Ethics Daily following up on this story. In it he notes others who use the title "Dr." without having earned the degree. He also quotes the U.S. Department of Education Web site that explains:
Diploma mills can require little or no work but the result is the same, a degree
that has no value and is meaningless.
Meaningless degrees do not give one the title.

3 comments

  1. Alvin Reid6:42 PM

    Hello sir,
    I stumbled across your blog and agree that sometimes we should learn to keep our mouths shut. I have to say this, however. I have spent a lot of time around Johnny Hunt over the years. I have never seen him make any kind of deal about the title Dr. He has always been content to be referred to as Pastor Johnny. In fact, the only time I have ever heard of him referring to his being a doctor, relating to his D.D. given as an honorary degree, he said it meant "didn't do it."
    I earned a PhD. I appreciate those who paid the price to do it right. I have met many who got cheesy degrees from shady schools. I have never seen Johhny Hunt act like that. So, while i will grant you the right to chide him, I expect he might just agree with you.
    At any rate, I earned my PhD so I don't worry too much about folks who are called Dr. Besides, it is actually appropriate in culture at large to refer only to medical doctors as "Dr." in conversation. So, I am happy to be called Brother Alvin or just Doc as those who know me well refer to me.
    Anyway, I am droning on. I would say finally that if you would criticize president Hunt (I think he did earn that title), it may be more appropriate to do so on issues of more weight. But this is your blog after all!

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  2. Thanks for the comment!

    Kevin: You are a little too early! I turn my dissertation in next month.

    Alvin: I have no doubt that Hunt is a good pastor and qualified to serve as the leader of the SBC. However, he has used the title "Dr." without having earned the degree. That is a serious issue because pastors need to set a higher ethical example for those in their congregation.

    ReplyDelete