Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Comments on Jeff Greenway's Announcement

This seems an appropriate juncture to make a few comments in relation to Asbury, both in hope that Asbury will move forward and since I will be moving forward. For one, my future does not lie with Asbury (I was not offered the position, saving me the hard decision). Second, this Greenway announcement is surely his final or at least penultimate statement to the Asbury community. Finally, the Asbury board meets next week for the first time since the crisis.

I had been encouraged to apply for the Asbury position and had done so prior to the time that this crisis erupted. This was a recipe for my complete absorption in the event. The fate of the crisis was potentially my fate as well. When I said things like "I for one would never teach on faculty with this EXCO," I said so knowing that I had an application in process. That was of course a comment made in the heat of the occasion, but you can see in retrospect that some of my comments were me wrestling with my own application.

At the same time, I felt that I might also give voice to what I saw as a disempowered faculty and President Greenway with little serious consequence. It was a win-win. To go to Asbury would likely be a win; to stay at IWU would be a win as well. I was deeply conflicted anyway and became rather fatalistic about my involvement. If my provocations killed my application, so be it. By the way, I am told that the relevant committees put my involvement in the crisis aside in their decision making process.

But that's all peripheral--things to say to bring closure. Let me now offer the following thoughts on Jeff's letter and some suggestions for Asbury's healthy advance.

There were a few places in his letter where Jeff hinted at his perspective on the crisis:

"...the rightest stand I have ever taken. I stood my ground during these weeks as an act of obedience. I have loved and continue to love Asbury Seminary, and hope that the Board will take the issues I have raised to them seriously."

From what I understand, Jeff did indeed take a confrontative approach before the board on October 17th. This was not well received. Whether the outcome of the vote might have been different if he had taken a more submissive approach, I cannot say. You might remember that I recommended at the time that he let the faculty and others do the confrontation, that he needed to submit to the board's authority to survive.

I will not, however, pass judgment on his motives. Perhaps he saw himself peforming an act of self-sacrifice for the betterment of the community. Perhaps he chose to present his case against certain individuals in the best interests of Asbury's future, knowing it would mean his own demise? I don't know.

But apparently 3/4 of the board voted in favor of Greenway's resignation, and that is difficult to ignore. I have little doubt but that Jeff was wronged in this process and likely before. But I have to consider this sort of vote definitive as well. To think anything otherwise is to conclude that Asbury is lost. If the power that governs Asbury were this perverse, then Asbury would be a total loss, and I just don't believe this.

Sadly, Jeff also writes this:
"as of the time of this writing, I have not and probably will not receive a severance package that is fair, equitable or just. I was presented a package, but for a variety of reasons could not sign such a non-negotiable, punitive, one-sided document."

Likely part of this disagreement is the usual "gag" order that goes with these sorts of agreements. I'm guessing that Jeff does not want to be gagged.

My suggestions for the board to move Asbury forward:
As the Asbury Trustees come to campus for their regular meeting next week, I have the following suggestions for their self-examination.

1. Simply to "avoid the very appearance of evil," there should be a "good form" re-election of the executive committee, chair, and vice chair. Even if exactly the same individuals are re-elected, the board needs to do this as an act of good faith. They don't have to do it--they are the chief authority of the institution. But they should.

Wouldn't it be great? First one person resigns and then is re-elected. Then another, then another... Again, it doesn't matter if exactly the same people are re-elected to every position. But it would "avoid the very appearance of evil."

2. The charges that President Greenway brought to the board should be thoroughly investigated by this new consultant or a new consultant with recommendations made.

3. Some obvious new policies should be enacted by the board:

a) It should become a by-law that, except under unusual circumstances, there should be a perfunctory change of Board Chair when there is a change of President.

b) In a crisis such as we have just experienced, there should be a mandatory calling of the entire board within a week, unless a distance vote of the whole board empowers a smaller portion of the board to take certain emergency actions.

4. A number of more general matters should be investigated and acted on, although I do not know enough to make specific suggestions:

a) scrupulous measures should be taken to ensure that the board stick to its own policies with regard to a portion of the board not being allowed oversight of the President. This policy seems to have been flagrantly ignored throughout the crisis, if I understand it correctly.

b) the nature of the faculty's "shared governance" needs to be explored deeply. The board should submit to the advice of the key accrediting agencies on what shared governance means.

If I might be so bold as to state what I believe to be the truth, Dr. Greenway did not really seem to understand his subordination to the board. He seemed to interact with the board at times as if it was like a PPR committee or church board. In this sense the board really is more like a corporate board where the CEO is subordinate to the Chair of the Board.

On the other hand, the board didn't seem to understand that shared governance works somewhat differently from anything you might have in a corporation. The appropriate accrediting agencies should be invited to spell out the differences in detail and any appropriate policy changes should be made.

c. In my opinion, the manner of communication--both within the board itself and between the board and the community--should be seriously addressed. My perception is that the power core of the board hoarded its control of the situation and kept the broader board at bay throughout the crisis.

Also, there were some very simple ways in which communication might have taken place to the community without breeching confidentiality. For example, even "the Board would like to let the faculty know that their voice is being heard and is deeply respected, although for reasons we will make known later we cannot inform you further." The confidentiality argument simply doesn't seem to ring true as the whole story.

d) These things suggest cumulatively that the management set up and style of the board has some serious problems to it. I hear Dr. Goodwin from the past suggesting a more systems approach be put in place.

Blessings to Asbury and Greenway, Ken

14 comments:

James Petticrew said...

Ken, I am sorry they have not offered you the position but no surprised the current regime at Asbury does not seem to want people who encourage independent thinking or who are willing to 'rock the boat." I think it is their loss and IWU's gain, now what about that Wesleyan Seminary???

Ken Schenck said...

IWU is in a "gathering data" mode with regard to a seminary, but I'm guessing (and this is really a guess--it may be very wide of the mark) we will likely have the first cohorts of an MDiv starting the year after next. It will not be a traditionally theoretical-oriented MDiv but will likely target the person who would not otherwise have gone to seminary. It will be consummately practical, very nuts and bolts. IWU's "Greek and Hebrew" oriented students will still go elsewhere.

But I predict it will be irritatingly successful (probably even to me), just as our adult programs have been. Just as traditional colleges have irritatedly watched us spread out over three states and surpass Notre Dame in total enrollment, more traditional seminaries will likely watch us soak up the less traditional end of the marketing totem pole over the next ten years and probably cut into their online and distance market.

That's my prediction as of now. We'll see what actually happens. Whether what we produce will be called a seminary or not is up for grabs.

ViaMediaHaze said...

Ken, What you state here really troubles me if your accurate in your assesment that IWU will have a non academically oriented MDiv. What happened to the old saying that "if your not going to do it right then don't do it at all"? What else troubles me is that it will be successful and severly hurt those smaller seminarys like the one I attend (Wesley Biblical, Jackson, Ms) and take aways some potential enrollment from us. In the last year WBS has had to make some painful cut-backs in staff and professors because the funding was not there. They have had to raise tuition in the last three years because of the same funding. As an alumni of IWU I get all the newsletters from the school to show all the millions of dollars IWU gets from different grants. Why couldn't they just send part of that money down here to smaller school, consider it a missions task, and encourage their students to go there?? One thing is for sure, once I get into minsistry and am able to start supporting my Alma Maters all my money will go to WBS and not IWU.

Matt Hayes

Ken Schenck said...

Matt, there is no certainty of anything--I'm taking a stab at what I think will happen. But at the same time I don't want you to get the wrong impression about what IWU would do:

1. It would not be in the name of money. Definitely not. The new president here at IWU doesn't work that way. It would be prayerfully considered and launched to add value to the church and the Church. There are a whole lot of ministers who neither go to WBS or anywhere else. That would be the target.

2. By non-academic I mean it would be practical to a fault in the manner of IWU's personality. It would not emphasize things like Greek, what James Dunn or Wolfhart Pannenberg says (not that such things would be banned). It would just emphasize things like conflict resolution and preaching from the Bible and practical theology. It would not function primarily on the basis of lecture but it would draw more on problem based learning and on site training.

3. The goal would not be to take over the market. It just would inadvertantly take the lower 80% over because it would meet the felt needs of pastors who want to supplement their resources. The goal is not conquest. All the emails I've seen focus on ministry not take over.

We'll see what happens.

ViaMediaHaze said...

Ken, I did not mean to speak against the intentions of the school if they do continue to pursue the masters program. I understand that it would not be done for money and did not want to make that as the priority. But it cannot be denied that IWU is a very wealthy school and I had more of an emotional reaction because though IWU would not be in it for the money there is the potential that some students that might consider WBS will not come because they can stay with IWU and get their masters. If there are less students attending here then that means there is less money coming in. I know the staff there in the ministries building very well and your hearts would be pure in teaching the masters course. So please forgive me if it seemed like I was making assumptions that were not valid.

Matt

Ken Schenck said...

No offence taken. I know that WBS is not stagnant either--moving into some online teaching, considering various partnerships, etc...

I think WBS has its own niche that would be different than IWU's too. For example, both WBS and Asbury seem to have a strong southern constituency in terms of culture. My impression is that WBS itself seems to lean toward traditional conservatism. Whatever IWU does will look different from traditional seminaries, yet there will always be those who long for a traditional seminary.

Keith Drury said...

Ken,

OK I’ll see your prophecy and raise you one. I generally agree with your tail-pinning on the IWU seminary donkey. I too suspect it will be broad based more than elite—instead of competing (at first) with other seminaries for the 20%, it will gather in the "other 80%" and add value to their ministry and churches —in the best tradition of serving the church. In that sense it will be more missional than institutional. Rather than asking “What would bring our seminary prestige and fame, it will ask, “How can we upgrade the competence of the professional ministry--all of it?” Thus I suspect it will be eminently practical as you rpedict and students will be able to apply what they learned each week in their churches this very Sunday (which is central to the adult education model).

And I agree--it will be big. Rather than seeking a few “quality students” to mentor into becoming college professors like us committed to our disciplines it will seek to raise the quality of the ministry at large in the church at largee —and we’ll equip thousands of ministers who can’t or don't go the traditional route. There are reasons why 80% of the pastors do not have a seminary degree—and it is not because they do not feel the need of better equipping. Just like our adult program exploded onto the national scence by committing to “Remove the barriers for working adults to get a degree” so an IWU seminary will remove the barriers to thousands of pastors getting a seminary degree.

In ten years it will have "swept the deck" and introduced a whole new approach to seminary. Conventional and traditional seminaries will continue of course—especially for denominations who require seminary. But we will have added educational value to thousands of ministers who simply can’t or won't move for a couple years to a peaceful quiet campus to study apart from local church work. I personally still think the traditional route is the preferred route (just like I think going to college right out of high school is the preferred route for getting a college degree). But our missional posture as an institution will drive us to do more than found a seminary to equip the same 20% everyone else is teaching. That would only spread the 20% more thinly. We’ll be more concerned with serving the church, with upgrading the quality of preaching every Sunday, with producing better church leaders, higher quality worship, more thoughtful theological contemplation, deeper spirituality, and better Bible teaching… and to do that someone needs to improve the other 80%, not just refine the 20% alone.

Ironically (and here I'm being a prophet) when we are doing that well it will begin to attract the “quality students” we might otherwise urge to accept their admittance to Duke and Princeton. Just watch! The “high quality” scholarly students might still apply and be accepted to Princeton, Duke, Yale, Univ of Chicago and several other “high quality” grad schools as they are now...BUT (more than we expect) they will prayerfully consider it then decide to turn down their free rides at these schools and attend IWU’s seminary program. I'm serious. Then we’ll have to add a “John Wesley Honors graduate school" in the seminary, and you and Brian will be tickled! This will happen because by then plenty of the top 20% will also want to attend this kind of missional seminary.

Will it happen? You bet you boots it wil. Or can. Once a decision is taken by the Pres & board it will explode across the midwest and in a few years across North America, and within 7 years around the world. In five years I expect it will have a thousand students—face it we already know that Russ already has several hundred in the “stealth seminary” program in our grad school division right now...and nobody even knows about it yet.

We did this with adult ed. Before IU, Purdue and Notre Dame even saw us coming we had 10,000 students… by the time they started asking, "Who is IWU?" we were graduating thousands of adults every few months in three states and are considered the national leader in adult educatin. Before other seminaries even know we exist we’ll have a thousand students and they’ll look up from their grass-covered campuses and say, “Where the dickens did you come from.!”

This is what I love about IWU! It insists on accomplishing the mission of serving the church rather than serving itself. It does not ask, “Who is elite enough to come to our seminary” or "How can we make ourselves loomgood?" but asks, “Who is a minister and how can we help him or her be a better one?” I think this is why God has been honoring these efforts. Hang on---it is going to be a fun ride!

--Keith

Kris Nordstrom said...

Hmmmmm,

Sure would be great if this hypothetical seminary were UM approved. Certainly would make my life a great deal easier!

It is interesting to me, how just two or three years ago, I really did not care for IWU. I must admit that my opinion has changed drastically since I have seen what is being done to mold the lives of young people and strengthen their character.

The idea that a seminary would be within walking distance of my home would be great! Guess I'll have to wait and see.

Funny how this post has dramatically changed topic!

Ken Schenck said...

Perhaps one day it could try for UM accreditation. It would start with the more basic goal of Association of Theological Schools accreditation.

Dan Kennedy said...

Ken, I too am saddened you will not be assuming a position at Asbury. As a former student in your ExL classes, and an Asbury alum, I would hope individuals such as yourself would be the foundation for future faculty positions. I have not agreed with all of your comments during the recent upheaval at Asbury, but I have respected your fairness in presenting your impressions and opinions. Thank you for stimulating the process of dialog as much as was allowed. Best wishes in your future work and ministry.

Ken Schenck said...

Thanks Dan, I appreciate that! No worries, though... they've hired someone who is consummately professional and is, if he is as I remember him, a classic Asburian.

Blessings to you in your ministry!

Rags said...

Ken,

Thanks for all your interest in the Asbury Debacle. I've enjoyed your banter with Dr. Stone on the internal boards.

Is your program going to be similar to the one created by Northwest Nazarene University (www.nnu.edu)? THey have a 70+ hour MDiv with no original languages. I am an Asbury EXL student, so switching isn't really an option at this point. But those programs to intrigue me.

Ken Schenck said...

For good or ill, Rags. I've decided not to post the debate here any more unless something major happens.

I should emphasize that there is no official decision even to have an exploratory committee here, let alone a proposal committee. I should look at Northwest Nazarene's program and forward the info to the graduate director here, Russ Gunsalus. For good or ill as well, I have a lot of extra "seminary" energy to devote to building a good one here :-)

But let me dream about the seminary I would create. It would be a cohort model (a sequence of single courses mostly with a group in which you are in constant spiritual formation, rather than parallel courses at the same time and little group cohesion), with elective breaks built in.

It would be consummately practical, maybe even may require that you be in a ministry to serve as a constant generator of case study material. I would want a center in town as well so that a person could live in residence to go through the program as well.

I would want some integration of disciplines, which could work really well if we generated a library of "learning objects," video segments about 30 minutes long on relevant topics (to supplement reading). In that way you can have experts from multiple disciplines taking part in a course without worrying about loading and scheduling. Students would just download the segments to their iPods.

I would focus on a problem based learning that moves from practice to theory rather than the current building block model--study Bible, then study theology, then study preaching.

Finally, I think we are almost ready for moving beyond purely threaded discussions to using video cams to have at least an hour a week of visual online processing together as a class, with threaded discussion following.

If I were to design a seminary, that's some of what it would look like. Whether IWU will have one and whether if they do it looks like this, I don't know.

Ken Schenck said...

This from Christianity Today, 6/14/07:

The Association of Theological Schools has given Asbury Theological Seminary until 2009 to resolve governance problems or risk losing accreditation. After visiting the school, the association concluded that Asbury "does not adequately define or implement the roles, responsibilities, and structure of administrators and faculty in governance and administration." A student filed a complaint after Asbury's board forced Jeffrey Greenway to resign as president in October 2006. An Asbury spokesperson said the association has helped the seminary "to focus and clarify a specific area of governance that the seminary will now be able to strengthen." Asbury said the process "is similar to the kind of periodic review and action all seminaries undergo comprehensively at least once every 10 years."

Yeah, "periodic review"... happens all the time...

Yesterday (8-21-07) I received a book co-edited by Jeff Greenway and Joel Green. Deeply ironic. A year later neither are at Asbury anymore.

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