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SBC DIGEST: Union bicentennial celebration; Dan Busby dies at 81

Union celebrates ‘mission faithfulness and Christ-centered excellence’ at bicentennial kick-off

By Tim Ellsworth/Union University

JACKSON, Tenn. — With gratitude to God for his faithfulness over two centuries, Union University marked its bicentennial with a kick-off celebration on Sept. 23 at the Carl Perkins Civic Center. 

“Rarely has a Christian institution in this country maintained its mission and its relationship to its church constituency for this length of time,” said former Union President David S. Dockery, who spoke briefly on the program about Union’s history and legacy. “We can all agree that Union University in the fall of 2022 remains one of the premier Christian institutions in the country, with outstanding academics and wide-ranging programs in the arts, humanities, sciences, Christian studies, business, education, the social sciences and social work, engineering, nursing and pharmacy, among others.”

Union University in Jackson, Tenn., is celebrating its 200th anniversary. (Union University photo)

The evening featured worship led by Union’s vocal group Proclamation, with current students and alumni who sang with the group during their time at Union, in addition to stage band alumni.  The program also included two panel discussions with trustees and current and former administrators who spoke about what Union has meant to them.

The Sept. 23 program was part of an entire weekend of activities that celebrated Union’s bicentennial, including a chapel service, Buster’s Bicentennial 5K Dash, a faculty and staff reception, a stage band alumni concert on the Great Lawn, a concert by David Crowder and a firework show.

At a Sept. 23 legacy luncheon, attendees heard a panel discussion with Union presidents Samuel W. “Dub” Oliver, Dockery and Hyran Barefoot. Union also recognized the 100 people selected for inclusion in its Bicentennial Hall of Honor. Other bicentennial celebration events are planned throughout the 2022-2023 academic year. “

For 200 years, Union University has stood as a model of excellence in Christian higher education,” current president Oliver said. “A place where learning is integrated with our faith in Christ, where it is infused with the hope of Christ and where it is transformed by the love of Christ.

“From a small-town academy to one of the nation’s premier Christian universities, the story of Union University is one of faith, Christian commitment and dedication to excellence. And it is the story of how faithful people in faithful churches help sustain God’s ongoing work of educating our young people.”

Union’s origins trace to Jackson Male Academy, which began on Feb. 3, 1823. The Tennessee General Assembly chartered Madison County in 1821, with the city of Jackson, created in 1822. 

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Dan Busby, longest-serving president of evangelical financial watchdog, dies at 81

By Adelle M. Banks/Religion News Service

(RNS) — Dan Busby, who was president of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability for more than a decade, has died after a monthslong bout with cancer.

The expert on nonprofit finance and tax issues, who served the ECFA for more than three decades in all, died Wednesday (Sept. 28) at his Winchester, Va., home, according to the organization. He was 81.

Dan Busby

“ECFA was remarkably blessed by Dan Busby’s humble and dedicated service to the ministry for over 30 years, and the continued impact of Dan’s legacy will be felt within the ECFA team and membership far beyond the next three decades,” said Michael Martin, the current president and CEO of ECFA, in a statement.

Taking office in 2008, Busby became the longest-serving president of the organization, which offers a Good Housekeeping-like seal of approval for ministries and churches, aiming to build trust for potential donors and volunteers.

In 2009, after being targeted by Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley’s investigation of six prominent religious organizations for questionable use of donations, Joyce Meyer Ministries joined the ECFA. Busby welcomed the move and the senator called it “a positive development.”

Founded in 1979 to be a watchdog on financial and ethical wrongdoing, the ECFA has grown from 150 charter members to more than 2,600 members in the U.S. Busby, who conducted hundreds of on-site compliance reviews of ECFA churches and other ministries, was credited with much of that increase.

Busby helped create a national Commission on Accountability and Policy for Religious Organizations that responded to Grassley’s request to study ways to encourage “self-reform” among religious groups after the Senate probe concluded in 2011. The next year, Busby and other members of the multiyear commission recommended “reasonable” compensation for nonprofit leaders and said such information should be available to donors who request it.

Busby’s organization also announced when some ministries were determined to be no longer in compliance with its standards. During his tenure, it also was criticized for waiting too long when it terminated the membership of Harvest Bible Chapel, a Chicago-area megachurch, in 2019.

“We are committed to applying our standards rigorously and consistently,” said Busby at the time.

He retired and was named president emeritus in 2020.

“Dan Busby was a genius at connecting, communicating, leading and innovating as he served the members of ECFA and the Kingdom of God,” said ECFA board Chair Wayne Pederson in a statement. “Dan was not only an esteemed ministry colleague but a dear friend who cared deeply about the family of God and the people he served.”

Prior to joining ECFA, Busby founded a certified public accounting practice in Kansas City, Kan., taking on mostly Christian ministries as clients and serving as the financial officer of the Wesleyan Church. His work with the ECFA began in 1989 when he volunteered to be a member of its standards committee, and he served in senior leadership positions for a decade before being named president.

The author or co-author of 14 books — most written after he’d turned 70 — Busby aided in the creation of Global Trust Partners, a worldwide collection of organizations focused, like ECFA, on peer accountability.

The son of a preacher father and a mother who was a teacher, Busby recorded three albums of gospel music in the 1970s with his wife, Claudette, including “This Love Is Mine.” 

A fan of baseball and its history, Busby was an active member for decades in the Society for American Baseball Research. “He saw a game in all the current Major League stadiums and 20 that no longer exist,” the ECFA noted in its tribute.

When ECFA announced Busby’s shift to emeritus status, Busby quoted the Gospel of Matthew, when Jesus spoke of going two miles when forced to go one.

“Indeed, we want to abide by the law,” Busby stated. “But even more, we want to be known as ‘second-mile’ people who demonstrate the love of Christ within us and how that love compels us towards excellence.”

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