Laid-Off Professor Is Reinstated at Northwest Nazarene U., but With Limits

Thomas Jay Oord, a theology professor who was laid off this spring in a controversial move by Northwest Nazarene University’s president, will be reinstated, but only to a part-time position that lasts for no more than three years, according to a statement issued on Friday by the Christian institution’s Board of Trustees.

The Idaho Press-Tribune reported that the board endorsed the actions taken by the university’s president at the time, David Alexander, to repair its finances. His announcement of layoffs and budgetary retrenchment in March drew fire because, critics said, Mr. Oord, a well-liked professor, had been singled out over theological differences with the university.

Mr. Alexander denied that was so, apologized to Mr. Oord for how the announcement had been handled, and put the planned layoffs on hold amid a faculty outcry. But Mr. Alexander was subjected to a no-confidence vote and subsequently resigned.

In Friday’s statement and an accompanying announcement, the board said it had reached an agreement with Mr. Oord under which he would teach part time in the university’s online theology program, for a maximum of three years, and would be paid in full for the 2015-16 academic year because the settlement occurred after the end of the 2014-15 year.

In a statement and video posted on his own website, Mr. Oord said he expected the board to conclude that he had been “wrongly selected for a layoff,” and was “shocked” at not winning full reinstatement. Still, he said, he accepted the agreement and hoped eventually to land a teaching ministry at another university. “My colleagues at NNU and the leadership must work now to shore up the university’s commitment to academic freedom,” he wrote.

“In these difficult months (and even years), my family and I have been sustained by the encouragement and words of affirmation,” he wrote. “I am especially grateful to literally hundreds of former students and colleagues who sent notes explaining how my life has made a positive difference. Some have even talked about how my teachings and influence have helped them regain belief in God, return to the church or overcome debilitating dilemmas.”

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