EDITOR’S NOTE: BP Ledger carries items for reader information each week from various Southern Baptist-related entities, and news releases of interest from other sources. The items are published as received.
Today’s BP Ledger contains items from:
GuideStone Financial Resources
Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
WORLD News Service
Southern Baptist Business Officers Conference returns to GuideStone
By Shelly Moon
DALLAS (GuideStone Financial Resources) — Business officers from Southern Baptist churches and ministries are invited to attend the annual Southern Baptist Business Officers Conference, March 17-19, in Dallas, Texas. GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention is once again the host for the meeting.
The event offers business administrators from Baptist churches and organizations the opportunity to learn about legislative and health care reform issues, as well as participate in networking opportunities.
“The SBBOC annual meeting is the one go-to event for business administrators from Baptist churches and organizations,” said Susan May, SBBOC secretary and treasurer. “There is no other conference that touches on such a wide variety of subjects that affect their everyday work.”
This year, the conference will feature sessions on social media, working with the millennial generation and leadership lessons. Attendees will also hear the latest news on human resource policies, employment law and health care reform.
This year’s conference speakers include:
Richard R. Hammar, a CPA, attorney and author who writes extensively about legal and tax issues for churches and clergy, including GuideStone’s annual Ministers’ Tax Guide.
Jess Rainer, executive pastor of Redemption City Church in Franklin, Tennessee, and the author of The Millienials: Reaching America’s Largest Generation
Thom S. Rainer, president and CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources
Dan Busby, president of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability
Gayla Crain, a seasoned trial attorney with more than 30 years of experience in labor and employment law and litigation.
Donna Lively, director of insurance marketing at GuideStone will update attendees on health care reform and its continuing impact on churches and ministries.
Luis Barreto, director of administration and human resources at a church in New York, said the conference provides his team with practical advice that applies directly to their mission.
“As we began attending the various workshops, our excitement level was so ramped up because the information we were receiving was already providing new ideas to help us to better strategize once we returned to New York City,” Barreto said. “The seminars on health care, employment law, finance and security were timely and will help us to be better stewards of the gifts that God has given us and to be a better resource to our employees and our congregation.”
This year’s SBBOC conference runs from 1 to 5 p.m. Monday, March 17, with early bird sessions beginning at 10 a.m. The conference continues Tuesday, March 18 with sessions from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The final session will be from 8 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. Wednesday, March 19.
The conference fee of $145 includes all materials, a thumb drive containing all presentations and three meals. Visit www.SBBOC.com to register.
New this year is an optional dinner and tour of the recently expanded First Baptist Church, Dallas on Monday evening. There is an additional $25 charge for the meal.
Conference details are at www.SBBOC.com or you may contact Susan May by email at [email protected]
SBBOC’s website includes specially negotiated rates at nearby hotels and a full schedule of conference sessions. GuideStone headquarters, near the heart of downtown Dallas, is convenient to both Dallas Love Field and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airports.
Shelly Moon is a marketing writer at GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Iorg to Lead Golden Gate Seminary’s Alaska Cruise
By Phyllis Evans, Director of Communications
MILL VALLEY, Calif. (Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary) — Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary announces its inaugural Alaska cruise, August 1 through 8, 2014. “Seasons of a Leader’s Life” is the theme of this seven-day trip, sailing the pristine and majestic Alaska coastline.
“Our time together promises to be filled with great fellowship, thought-provoking Bible study, and jaw-dropping views as we behold God’s magnificent creation,” said Golden Gate President Jeff Iorg.
There will be several on-board sessions led by Dr. Jeff Iorg, including daily devotions, Bible studies in the area of leadership, and an introduction of the Seminary’s vision for Business as Mission. Other speakers are Dr. Ben Skaug, Golden Gate’s Vice President for Institutional Advancement, and Dr. Phil Kell, President of the California Baptist Foundation, who will lead seminars on the topic of planned giving.
Ports of call include Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway, Alaska, as well as Victoria, British Columbia. Guests will see the amazing ice formations and wildlife of the Tracy Arm Fjord and the Inside Passage.
There is an early bird discount for those registering before March 7, 2014.
For more information about the destinations, discussion topics, speakers, and to register: www.ggbtscruise.com or 877-768-2784 ext. 108 or [email protected]
ChinaAid 2013 report indicates upswing in persecution
MIDLAND, Texas (Christian Newswire) — China Aid Association released its 2013 Persecution report today, which states that government persecution against Christians in China had risen 38.82 percent since 2012 based on six categories.
Of the six categories, which include the total number of persecution cases, the number of people persecuted, the number of people detained, the number of people sentenced, the number of abuse cases and the number of people abused, all but one increased between 2 and 50.9 percent. The only category which saw a decrease in percentage was the number of abuse case, which fell 42.9 percent since 2012.
In 2013, ChinaAid documented 143 cases of persecution; 7,424 people were persecuted, representing a 50.9 percent increase since 2012.
ChinaAid revealed in the report that, via access to a government document entitled “Focus of Work of State Administration for Religious Affairs in 2014,” the Chinese government aims to “summarize the practice and experience of regulating the privately set-up Christian meeting places in some regions and explore effective methods of regulating. Also, to attach importance to the job of uniting and liaising with minority religious groups and resolve conflicts and disputes.”
ChinaAid, however, remained hopeful. “House churches in China had a difficult year in 2013, but we won’t lose heart. Oppositely, only in such circumstances can churches be constantly purified, free of blemishes, mature and strong, and prepared for even greater mission. When political regimes and figures, one by one, sink into the long river of history, Jesus Christ’s Church stands tall and firm, and like it was 2,000 years ago; even the power of Hell cannot triumph over it,” Bob Fu, founder and president of ChinaAid, said.
To view and download the full report, including diagrams, visit:
In Alumni Academy, Timothy Paul Jones addresses family ministry
By Matt Damico
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) — The call to disciple the next generation belongs to parents, said The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary professor Timothy Paul Jones during the most recent Alumni Academy course, Jan. 9-10.
Jones, who in addition to his role as professor of leadership and church ministry is editor of the Journal of Discipleship and Family Ministry, is the author of Family Ministry Field Guide: How the Church Can Equip Patents to Make Disciples, which provided much of the content and structure for the two-day course.
Recognizing the gap that exists between what Scripture demands of parents and what is actually happening in the homes of Christian families, Jones encouraged those in attendance — which consisted primarily of pastors and youth ministers — to teach the parents in their churches, especially the fathers, how to disciple their children according to the expectations that Scripture places on parents. The way to do this is to create a ministry driven by grace, rather than a ministry driven by prescription.
The importance of grace in family ministry is why, Jones said, the instructions given to parents in Deuteronomy 6 did not work.
“Deuteronomy 6 is not wrong, but it’s not enough, because it’s not the whole story,” Jones said. “Jesus delivered all that God’s law and justice demanded,” Jones said. Pastors, preachers and youth ministers should not, then, “proclaim Deuteronomy 6, saying ‘Do this, do this, do this,’ without also turning towards Christ, in whom all is done already.”
On the other hand, Jones urged those in attendance to avoid telling church members that “whatever you’re doing [in family worship] is okay,” but rather that God has provided means — through the church, the Spirit and the Scriptures — to pursue faithfulness in raising children.
“We want to proclaim to our people the fullness of the story that is centered in one God, a story of grace and a story that’s passed from generation to generation,” Jones said. “That’s the big picture of what we want to happen in family ministry.”
During the first night of the two-day course, Southern Seminary professors James M. Hamilton Jr. and Thomas J. Nettles joined Jones for a panel discussion about family worship, with the Hamilton and Jones families modeling how they each do family worship, respectively.
“I learned from Don Whitney [another professor at Southern Seminary] that we ought to read the Bible, pray the Bible and sing the Bible,” Hamilton said, as he led his family in reading a Psalm, a New Testament passage, singing the doxology, reciting the Apostles’ Creed and praying the Lord’s Prayer.
Jones led his family through a reading in Hamilton’s recent children’s book, The Big Story of the Bible, a reading and subsequent discussion from the Gospel of Matthew and then a time of family prayer.
Steve and Candice Watters, authors of Start Your Family and founders Boundless a webzine for teenagers, led the first session on Friday morning about helping young adults move toward marriage. The next session featured a discussion between Randy Stinson, senior vice president for academic administration and provost of Southern Seminary, and David E. Prince, assistant professor of Christian preaching, about using sports as a means of discipleship for kids.
Alumni Academy offers ministry enhancement and ongoing theological learning to the institution’s alumni free of charge. For a nominal fee, attendees may bring members of their church staff with them.
The next scheduled Alumni Academy course will feature Boyce College dean Dan DeWitt teaching through his forthcoming book, Jesus OR Nothing, May 22-23, 2014. More information about Alumni Academy is available at www.events.sbts.edu.
A Conversation with Frank Page about BI-Vocational Ministry
Recorded Jan. 17, 2014
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) —
JASON K. ALLEN, MIDWESTERN PRESIDENT: Dr. Page it is a joy to host you in the Spurgeon Room on the campus of Midwestern Seminary. I am grateful for your friendship and your gospel partnership and to have a conversation with you today that is germane to so many of our churches and many of those in ministry and aspiring to ministry.
Today, I want to talk about bi-vocational ministry. I know you well enough to know your heart, and you’re like me in that you have a great heart for those serving in bi-vocational ministry and all the challenges and complexities that go with that. Also, I think we both perceive that the wave of the future, in many ways, will be bi-vocational ministry. Today, we want to unpack some of these realities. Let me begin by asking you a question: When you think of bi-vocational ministry, what comes to mind as far as the different challenges associated with it?
FRANK PAGE, EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Dr. Allen. It is an honor to be with you today. I will tell you that I have spent a lot of time working with bi-vocational pastors, and I speak every year to various groups of bi-vocational pastors. What comes to mind is that hard-working pastor who maybe a school teacher during the day, maybe a lawyer or doctor, or maybe a blue collar worker, but works in the evening and on the weekends in such a hard fashion.
Statistically, probably a majority of Southern Baptist churches are pastored by a bi-vocational pastor. In the state of Missouri, it is more than 50 percent. In most states, it is more than 50 percent. Out west and up north, high percentages of our pastors are bi-vocational. I will tell you, they are my heroes.
ALLEN: Thank you. The North American Mission Board refers to bi-vocational pastors as ironmen, and that’s true. You must have a profound sense of calling and be one that is willing and able to burn the candle at both ends, so to speak, and to give of oneself in a generous way. Of course, we can go all the way back to the New Testament and see Paul, who was a tentmaker, but also a preacher, balancing these things.
I think the profile of the typical bi-vocational minister is probably changing. Studies indicate this. By that I mean it is not just the person who, for whatever reason, has yet to find a full-time ministry. That is often the profile we tend to associate with bi-vocational ministers. These days there is more intentionality. I’m seeing where people are consciously choosing to be a bi-vocational minister and to fulfill that ministry from a business platform or from a particular vocational platform so they are not a financial burden on the church. Maybe their business platform gives them certain entrees or avenues into ministry context. Are you seeing that same shift take place?
PAGE: I am, and I’m seeing it emphasized and promoted—I think in a healthy way—not only by our North American Mission Board, but by some of our colleges. We have some of our Christian schools that are intentionally encouraging their graduates, whether in pharmacy, business, or wherever it might be, to consider a ministry such as that which you just outlined. I think it’s a healthy emphasis and an encouraging emphasis.
May I say just a couple other things about why one of the reasons your earlier statement was so apropos? It is not only a current reality, it is going to be more of a reality. That is for one main reason, one major fact that we often do not look at. The pool from which we get pastoral candidates is aging. Earlier we spoke about it in another subject. We have talked about the current plethora of students and ministers who want to be church planters. Well, there are a lower number of people who want to be pastor of traditional Baptist churches.
It is a fact, and the fact that less numbers want to go in traditional churches is combined with another huge factor that receives scant attention, and that is the pastoral pool is aging. In Missouri, for example, when I was president of the SBC, I did a little study. I don’t remember why I did it. Then, there were 2,000 churches; now, there are slightly less. They have done a little bit of pulling back, not much. I asked of the 2,000 churches, how many in this state were pastored by persons under 40 years of age? At that time, it was less than 240. How many are pastored by people less than 30 years of age? Six. Almost 1,750 of the 2,000 churches were pastored by people 40 and up, and the majority were pastored by people 50 or 60 and up. We are seeing this to be true across the convention, that the pastoral pool from which we get pastors are my age. I am currently 61, so we are seeing a “graying” of the pastors.
Well, what is going to happen 10 years from now, 20 years from now? The group from which one gets pastors is shrinking. Add to that, in many of our theological schools, there is a lack of emphasis on pastoring a traditional church. So, we may well see not only more bi-vocational pastors of necessity. We are going to see some places, Dr. Allen, where you go back to the old what we call “half-time” or “quarter-time” churches, where in Missouri or Kansas/Nebraska there are two churches per pastor, or three or four. Pastor preaches one Sunday in one church, a different Sunday in another. We may even see the circuit-riding type preacher, who would almost have to be bi-vocational in some instances, come back into mainstream.
ALLEN: It is an incredible phenomenon when you think about it, and it’s not merely limited to domestic pastors. We look to the international context, and it is similar for different reasons. We are seeking to address that here at Midwestern Seminary. At our undergraduate level, in the past couple of years, we have introduced a dual major track understanding we are going to be training a lot of men who will one day be in a bi-vocational context. They can get a Bible degree with a business degree, or a Bible degree with a liberal arts degree, and graduate with those degrees so they’re positioned for bi-vocational ministry if the Lord has that down the road.
In the international context, you think about two primary realities why bi-vocational ministry is becoming more prevalent. One is, of course, the offering plate dollar, or lack of the offering plate dollar. Being able to support oneself as one ministers on the mission field, but also in many contexts a lot of countries are hostile to those serving there as missionaries. So, they have to go there on a business platform to work. Though they may be working during the day as an engineer, as a physician, as a teacher, or some other skill they are rendering to that group, they are really there and using the margin of their time to spread the gospel.
PAGE: That is exactly right, and I want to tell you, our current administration in our International Mission Board is well aware of that growing need, and they are actually also purposely reaching out to those who are already in business and finance and other kinds of industries who often go into foreign fields, international countries, to do their work trying to engage them also. It is an ongoing and a purposeful moving into a new direction of using bi-vocational persons. You are right, in international as well as North American missions.
ALLEN: I have served at different times in my ministry functionally as a bi-vocational pastor. In the first church I ever pastored I was there nearly four years. The Lord really blessed the church and the ministry. They were just incredible years for me, my wife, and our very young family then. The church kindly paid me a full-time wage, so I wasn’t financially a bi-vocational minister, but I was a full-time seminary student, and the church blessed me to be a full-time seminary student. As a relation to the allocation of my time, I had to function bi-vocationally. Later in life, and in a different context, I served at another church similarly where I had divided time. I had to manage my time accordingly.
So, when you think about bi-vocational ministry, that is probably the greatest challenge. Hopefully, if you are bi-vocational, the financial challenges are met by that business or job you are holding. If you are giving a part of your time to a job that is not ministerial, then obviously you have this dramatic reduction in the time you can give. To help pastors and ministers who are serving bi-vocationally, what type of commentary or encouragement would you give them, as far as redeeming their time and optimizing their time for the sake of the gospel?
PAGE: Thank you, Dr. Allen. That is the most crucial aspect in the life of bi-vocational pastor. My first two pastorates were similar to yours, in which I was the pastor of those churches, but my time certainly had to be spent in educational enterprise because I was either doing the master’s or Ph.D. program during those times. I understand a little bit, like you do, of what bi-vocational pastors go through.
It is all about a daily prioritization. That is why they are my heroes. They struggle so much with trying to do what they do to make a living, at the same time trying to build the kingdom of God in a local setting. So, prioritization daily is extremely important. I try to tell them there are days that you are going to give so much time to your business, so much time to the church, be careful not to neglect their families in those days.
I have found that if we will just concentrate on Matthew 6:33 to “seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these other things will be added unto you.” That ought to be our daily prayer: “God help me to prioritize my life today to be a kingdom man, and how do you want me to prioritize that?” He will give us the perfect balance, even in a bi-vocational ministry setting.
I also have to say to bi-vocational pastors, this is going to sound somewhat odd, to recognize that you can’t be perfect in everything you do. While some scholars would say that you need to spend 20 hours a week on each sermon, well, reality for every pastor and particularly for bi-vocational pastors is that is not going to happen. So, don’t eat yourself up if you can’t do what the textbook says you are supposed to do in every regard. You are not going to be able to spend 20 hours a week doing your sermon, and do pastoral care, and take care of your family, and serve a position in a school or industry or wherever it might be. That is not going to happen. Do the best you can, and God will bless that. I think that is important.
ALLEN: That is important. I have as a personal discipline, and I encourage bi-vocational ministers similarly, and frankly pastors as well, think of your time as a pie and make strategic decisions on the front end of how much time you can give to sermons, how time you can give to other ministry work, and other aspects of pastoral ministry, and then you just have to make some decisions and divide it. If you don’t get on the front end of it, you are continually behind the eight ball. You’re continually reacting and not acting, and it is a formula for disaster.
PAGE: It is, and another thing that I try to talk to bi-vocational pastors about is that in some ways bi-vocational pastors also have to be like a larger church pastor. What I mean by that is, as a bi-vocational pastor, you can’t do everything. You better learn to delegate. The larger a church gets, a pastor has to start delegating because he can’t do the ministry for that number of people. A bi-vocational pastor has to do the same thing. If you really want to succeed, you learn to delegate, to spend your time in training your lay people, as Scripture says in Ephesians, to do the work of ministry. You can’t do it all. For example, utilize people in the church to help with hospital visitation. You can’t go to the hospital every day and do your work and help your family. Get them to be a part of ministering one-to-another. Not only does it use your time wisely, it is better for them.
ALLEN: That’s good, that’s very good. The other word of encouragement—strong encouragement—that I give, and I would love for you to speak to this as well, is on the front end making crystal clear expectations. Some churches think, “We want a bi-vocational minister,” and they interpret that as, “We want to pay part-time but get full-time.”
It’s not sufficient merely to hammer out expectations for the search committee. You have to hammer out those expectations as clearly as you can with the church as a whole, as what this will look like, feel like, functionally week-to-week and month-to-month. As the church has those expectations clearly defined, and as they sense the pastor or bi-vocational minister’s heart is there full-time—even if their hands and their feet and themselves are not there full-time—they seem to be able to process that much better.
PAGE: I totally agree. Again, they need to learn how to make their presence known even when they can’t be totally present all the time. There are ways to do that. You can use the phone. You may not be able to visit all the time, but you can make 10 phone calls in the time you can make one visit. So, you can call your people. Call them on their birthday. Call them when they have been to the hospital, even when you didn’t get to go by and see them. Check with them; let them know; write notes to them. A note of encouragement will go a long way to help people. Make your presence known even when you can’t be present all the time.
Help your people know up front, here is what I can do, and here is what I can’t do. Let them know that there is going to be a priority to your family, and they need to honor that. I remember years ago, it started when my girls were just toddlers, I let everyone in my church know, even when I was in a bi-vocational type setting, that Thursday nights were date nights in the Page house. I had my wife and three daughters. The first night was Dale, the second Thursday night was Melissa, and then Laura, and then little Allison. So, for almost 30 years because of the span of the children’s ages, even when they were in college, we did date night. That is just the way it was. Everyone knew not to try and get me on Thursday night, because I wouldn’t come. There was a reason why I wouldn’t come. Maybe over those years there were emergencies some Thursday nights. My girls and my wife, they always understood.
Let your priorities be known up front, say this is the way it is, and I hope you understand; if you don’t, then you can get over it. It is extremely important to bi-vocational pastors that they set those expectations, just like you said, ahead of time and say that “I want to do everything I can to be your pastor. I’m going to love you, but I have to make some priorities.”
ALLEN: That is good. I learned, and I consciously realized and determined, that the most important hour of my week as a bi-vocational minister was the 10 minutes before and after the three services. Be there 10 minutes early, at least; stay 10 minutes late, at least; and the amount of pastoral contact that you can have before and after services on Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday can save you multiple hours during the week where you have to make a special trip or have some special follow-up. You can do that around those services, and it can go a long way.
PAGE: Every Wednesday night, we would have a supper. I would walk around to every table touching, loving, playing with kids, touching lives, ministering to the people. Same thing, up and down the aisles every Sunday morning and every Sunday night: speaking to people, encouraging people, and getting to know people. There are ways to make your presence known, even when your time is limited.
ALLEN: That’s good. This has been a very helpful conversation. My heart and my prayers are for bi-vocational ministers. I anticipate their tribe increasing in the years ahead, and we are determined to be faithful here at Midwestern Seminary to serve them, to encourage them, to equip them, so they can be most effectively used for the glory of God. Thank you for the conversation, and thank you for being with us here at Midwestern.
PAGE: Thank you, Dr. Allen.
Christian higher education faces legal battle with former president
By J.C. Derrick
WASHINGTON (WORLD News Service) — Former Council for Christian Colleges and Universities president Edward O. Blews Jr. is suing the council for $2.2 million, saying he was fired without cause, tarnishing his reputation, as he tried to address systemic problems at the organization.
The CCCU, a coalition of 174 Christian colleges and universities, announced it was dismissing Blews last October, less than 10 months after he assumed the presidency. The CCCU gave no public reasons for replacing Blews—saying only that it came after “careful investigation and prayerful consideration”—but a subsequent investigation by WORLD revealed some of the reasons in an article published last month.
The lawsuit alleges that after the council’s October press release hurt Blews’ reputation, WORLD’s coverage “further damaged” his name with “outrageous allegations.” I asked Blews’ attorney, Joyce Smithey, what specific allegations her client disputes and she declined to cite any. She said Blews will not give any interviews, but he is “profoundly disappointed” in the council’s refusal to honor its contractual obligations.
In a statement released Thursday, the CCCU said it “stands ready to defend its decision to make a presidential transition.”
Blews filed the lawsuit as the council opened a major conference Wednesday in Los Angeles—a scaled-down version of the CCCU’s quadrennial International Forum on Christian Higher Education. According to the CCCU Board of Directors and former employees, Blews’ lack of preparation for the forum was a major factor in the decision to fire him. But Blews claimed he was “attentive” to forum planning as soon as he took office in January 2013.
Blews said he was working “extraordinarily hard,” and while he had received some “advice,” he had overall positive feedback from the board as recent as two months before being fired.
According to the complaint, Blews was shocked to learn of the board’s many problems with his presidency.
Attached to the suit is a 23-page letter Blews submitted to the board in early October regarding his performance. The letter included detailed responses to specific charges: intentionally failing to represent the CCCU to vital external audiences; intentionally failing to plan the International Forum; misrepresenting facts to the board; misrepresenting the board to the staff; intentionally failing to schedule or attend meetings; and intentionally failing to execute decisions in a timely fashion.
The term “intentional failure” is key because, according to the complaint, Blews’ five-year contract only allows three causes for dismissal: grossly immoral or felonious behavior, an explicit denial of his Christian faith, or “intentional failure” to execute his duties as president and CEO. The first two causes would allow the council to relieve Blews without pay, but the third—the one the organization apparently used—requires it to pay no less than 24 months of his $303,850 annual salary and full benefits.
The suit claims Blews “has not engaged in any conduct or behavior that would trigger any of the provisions” outlined in the contract and was given “no reasonable opportunity to defend himself.” Blews wants the CCCU to pay him the full $2,204,894.72 owed over the life of the contract. The complaint accuses the organization of only offering him $200,000 and no benefits.
Blews said he was reluctant to take the position and turned it down initially, citing “concerns about the dysfunction and serious problems within the organization and unhappiness among employees with the Board after his acceptance.” The suit says the board fired Blews in part based on information from “disgruntled prior employees,” although former employees told me the board did not consult them before firing Blews. They said the unanimous decision was based solely on interviews with employees still working for the council.
According to Blews, he was working to address a variety of organizational problems, including a “substantial” 2012-13 budget deficit, one employee’s conflict of interest, nepotism in hiring practices, a violation of board policies, gender discrimination, and a disclosure of private employee information on the organization’s computer system. All former employees left of their own volition, but Blews, in his suit—while going after the reputation of several former employees—does not say why he never fired anyone over the alleged serious problems.
The suit also recounts a conversation in which the board’s vice chair, Barry Corey, president of Biola University, said he didn’t think Blews would be able to correct the office problems because “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” A footnote of the suit said Blews, 58, is filing an age discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and plans to add that charge to the complaint once he’s granted a right to sue.
Blews filed the complaint in Superior Court in Washington, D.C. He said he tried to resolve the disagreement through biblical methods of mediation and dispute resolution, but the council refused to cooperate after an initial meeting in November. The CCCU on Thursday said it was “surprised and disappointed” to learn Blews filed a lawsuit, since it agreed to his proposed mediation date of March 18.
“A Christian mediation process is required by his presidential contract before the filing of a lawsuit, and it is in keeping with our shared faith commitment to litigate only after exhausting all other options,” the council’s statement said.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The following story appeared in WORLD News Service on Jan. 31 of this year.
A key Christian college group quickly fires a president — and tries to regain its footing
By J.C. Derrick
(WORLD News Service) — The Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU), with 119 members and 55 affiliates, provides off-campus programs for Christian students and development conferences for administrators. Operating from offices near Capitol Hill, it tries to protect Christian schools from government encroachment in areas ranging from faculty hiring to Obamacare-mandated provision of abortion pills.
Threats from within and without are hitting the CCCU as it prepares to host on Feb. 12-14 in Los Angeles its quadrennial International Forum on Christian Higher Education—the largest Christian higher-education gathering in the world. Along with discussing demographic challenges and shrinking budgets, members will chart the future of the Council itself: Within the past year the CCCU lost its president and three of its four vice presidents.
Over the past three months I’ve looked into the CCCU’s firing last October of its 57-year-old president, Edward O. Blews Jr., after only ten months in office. I interviewed two former CCCU presidents, seven college presidents (including three former CCCU Board chairmen), other college administrators, and three former staffers. I found two stories: one about an organization trying to find its way in a shifting economic and political climate, and one about a man who “took a hacksaw” to an important organization.
After an 18-month search, the CCCU Board in 2012 tapped Ed Blews to replace the retiring Paul Corts, a former assistant attorney general in the Bush administration. Fellow students at Seattle Pacific University had elected Blews student body president, but SPU says he never earned a bachelor’s degree there. Blews did graduate from Thomas Cooley Law School, which accepts certain students without a bachelor’s degree, but the State Bar of Michigan has no record of his ever passing the bar.
Blews spent 28 years in a lobbying role at the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Michigan, a four-person operation without the size and scope of the CCCU, which has 72 full-time employees. “He was probably overwhelmed by the complexity and the diversity of institutions,” said Bob Andringa, the CCCU president from 1994 to 2006: “It’s an entirely different ballgame at the federal level than the state level.”
Critics say Blews lacked sufficient education and experience, but Board members such as Messiah College President Kim Phipps, then the Board’s chair, enthusiastically backed him. Blews in his CCCU inaugural address said, “I answered my phone to hear a commanding female voice that sounded suspiciously like Kim Phipps saying, ‘Ed. This is God. And she is calling you to the CCCU presidency.'”
Blews’ inaugural celebration was the first such bash in the Council’s history, complete with giveaways for attendees: pens and golden bookmarks engraved with Blews’ name. He brought in as entertainment the acclaimed but typically off-color Capitol Steps, a political satire group that charges $9,500 per hour—an amount roughly equal to a college’s annual membership dues. The CCCU website’s account of the event began, “In an inspiring and compelling ceremony marked by an extended standing ovation?…”
Three former CCCU employees—WORLD is giving them anonymity because they could lose their current jobs—describe the work environment Blews created in nightmarish terms: He would berate staff, sometimes in front of colleagues, in meetings that could last for hours. They say Blews tracked which employees complimented him, and during his first staff meeting laid out on a table dozens of congratulatory letters to himself. The Spring 2013 issue of the CCCU’s Advance Magazine had 18 photos of Blews. Staffers say he had to approve everything. “You felt like you needed permission to go to the bathroom,” one former employee said. “It became this paranoid, Soviet culture.”
Inconsistency marked Blews’ tenure even in lobbying, his area of strength. He officially protested Obamacare’s abortion pill mandate to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), but his communications strategy wasn’t robust. In July, days after HHS released its final rule, Inside Higher Ed ran a story quoting leaders of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, but noted that the CCCU declined to comment. Some CCCU member presidents saw Blews as unresponsive to their concerns.
Eleven of the 24 administrative staff members in Washington left the Council in 2013, taking with them seven decades of institutional knowledge. Andringa said the departed employees played critical roles, and cited Kyle Royer as “a terrific CFO” who had been with the Council 24 years. Blews’ solution: bring in a temporary accountant two days a week. Office disarray led to confusion about plans for February’s Forum: When the Board unanimously ousted Blews in October, registration was still not online and the program was still unset.
Philanthropist Roberta Ahmanson, the opening-night keynote speaker at next month’s Forum, says the CCCU Board should have more carefully reviewed Blews’ educational background: “If they did know, then they really need to do some soul searching about why they went ahead and hired him.” I contacted Kim Phipps and the current CCCU Board chair, Chip Pollard, president of John Brown University, but they both declined to comment. I left voicemails for Blews and visited his home in Washington, but he did not return my messages.
BLEWS’ TENURE CAME as the council already faced significant challenges. According to the most recent data available on GuideStar, which collects nonprofit financial reports, member dues accounted for only $1.4 million of the CCCU’s $12.6 million budget in 2011. Three-fourths of it, $9.5 million, came from off-campus student programs, including a journalism program in Washington, a film-studies program in Los Angeles, and study-abroad programs in countries around the world.
Former employees confirmed enrollment in those programs is down dramatically in recent years, as more institutions create their own study-abroad programs and seek to keep student dollars on campus. Some schools are saying scholarship money cannot be used for off-campus courses. Former president Andringa, now a nonprofit ministry consultant, said many campuses suffer from dwindling denominational support, have already deferred campus maintenance, and have mandated hiring and salary freezes.
The CCCU Washington administrative staff is barely half the size it was a year ago. Blews’ contract may leave the CCCU in a financial bind: When he first met the staff in July 2012, he boasted that his “ironclad five-year contract” could not be voided even if he was fired with cause. No former employee would reveal to me the details of the contract, but according to GuideStar, Blews’ predecessor had an annual salary of almost $320,000. If Blews was making that amount and the contract is as ironclad as he thinks it is, the Council could pay as much as $1.6 million over five years—a lot of money for an organization that cleared only $33,299 in fiscal 2011.
Blews may sue the CCCU over his dismissal, and this would create more uncertainty for an organization that, according to Andringa, has “lost a lot of credibility, unfortunately, in the last year.” Although acting CCCU president Bill Robinson made Forum planning his top priority, and registration went online days after the firing of Blews, as of mid-January the Council was still scrambling to secure enough registrants to cover the Los Angeles hotel contract.
Former CCCU president Corts told me the CCCU is a crucial defender of Christian institutions’ right to hire only believers: Without that right, Christian institutions cease to be Christian and “all the rest is for naught.” The Obama administration has argued the religious exemption to laws against hiring discrimination should not exist, but the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012 ruled unanimously in favor of keeping it. “It’s such a fragile thing,” Corts said. “In virtually every Congress there is legislation introduced to take that right away.”
Colorado Christian University vice president Christopher Leland said it’s becoming increasingly difficult to convince accrediting bodies that educational excellence can go together with a uniquely Christian vision: “We have a lot of Christian colleges and universities who are doing a lot of good work and need help.” Some CCCU members want an organization that will engage not only Congress and the Department of Education, but scholars and writers who critique higher education.
Andringa said Christians should rally around the CCCU: “The Council is critical to the body of Christ in the next several decades.” Without accountability, says Ahmanson, scandals are inevitable: “It’s time for evangelical institutions, especially in higher education, to assess their boards.?…?They need to also understand that being supportive means asking hard questions.”