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D.C. listeners fight to save Christian station

WASHINGTON (BP)–Hundreds of listeners have attested to a Washington, D.C., Christian radio station’s role in changing their lives, but the college that owns the station is in such dire financial straits that it’s on the verge of selling the station to a secular talk-radio company.

WGTS (91.9 FM), which has aired a “family-friendly” program of inspirational Christian music since 1997, is owned by Columbia Union College, an institution of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

The school is $7 million in debt and is experiencing a decline in enrollment, so its board is attempting to save the school by taking an offer from the highest bidder for the popular radio station. Sources told The Washington Post that bids have reached $20 million.

“The board is passionate about having an Adventist liberal arts college in the nation’s capital,” Dave Weigley, chair of the college’s trustees, said, according to the school’s website. “Our mission hasn’t changed; our primary role is to provide quality Christian higher education for students in the Columbia Union and beyond.”

But emotions are high on both sides as people differ as to what presents the best outreach opportunities.

“WGTS is God’s radio station and always has been,” John Konrad, the station’s general manager, wrote in an appeal to listeners. “We’ve all done our share worrying about the future of WGTS in recent days, but you know what, God is completely in control.”

Message boards have filled up with support at savewgts.net, and some say the only hope for saving the Christian station is to appeal to the Adventists’ sense of religious duty.

“If the overall mission of the college and the station is winning souls, then you don’t sell off the station,” Doug Walker, a member of the WGTS board, told The Post. “The college’s board has to decide whether to save the college or the station.”

One of the posts on the website is from a 15-year-old girl whose name was withheld. She said she, along with her friends, used to listen to secular radio because of its popularity.

“I was lost as a Christian because of the worldly music I was listening to,” she wrote. “The radio stations I use [sic] to listen to before I found WGTS did not talk about God and praising Him; instead it talked about drinking, drugs, sex, suicide, and just awful things.

“Even [sic] since I have found WGTS I cannot stop listening to it. If you take it away then I would be lost along with many other Christians,” the girl added. “There would be no radio station that I could listen to and learn from and praise God. I believe if you take WGTS 91.9 away from the Washington D.C. area then many Christians would change in a bad way.”

The station receives about $2.5 million each year in donations from about 15,000 listeners, The Post reported, and according to the Arbitron ratings service, it’s the second-most-listened-to noncommercial religious station in the nation.

Sharon Kuykendall, another member of the WGTS board, urged supporters to make their voices known all the more as the deadline for the sale approaches.

“Despite comments that may give the impression the deal is already finalized, it still has to be presented to the College Board meeting in September and voted on. The battle is not over!” Kuykendall wrote in a letter forwarded to Baptist Press. “… Please spread the word about the upcoming vote, and send messages again, letting them know that WGTS and its ministry are worth more than just the cash they can be sold for.”
Compiled by Erin Roach.

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