Note the bold sentences and then my comment at the end :-) I've changed McKenna's original references to Ken Kinghorn to "Kinghorn" (it was just to wierd to the leave all the references to "Ken" :-)
Believe it or not, we have been retired from Asbury longer than we served at Asbury. In 12 years everything changes. The normal cycle of student turnover is three years—Juniors, Middlers, and Seniors. When I returned to campus during the first year of our retirement and walked across the campus, two thirds of the students looked at me and said, “Hello.” In the second year, only one third of students seemed to recognize me and by the third year, I was a total stranger. Asbury, along with Spring Arbor and Seattle Pacific, asked the question, “David, who?”
The faculty is different. For the first three or four years, I knew most of them. Today, however, when I look over the faculty roster, less than 25 percent served with us 12 years ago. That is why it is such a joy to have Ken Kinghorn join us this evening. Kinghorn was my choice for Provost way back in 1982 when we started at Asbury. He is the Seminary personified in spirit, scholarship, and service.
Kinghorn, you have a special challenge tonight. Do you remember the last time that we shared the platform on behalf of the Seminary? I did the keynote, but you were the main speaker. We were in Columbus, Georgia where Paul Amos, Chairman of the Board of the American Family Assurance Corporation, better known as AFLAC, hosted a conference for the leadership of the Columbus area. AFLAC was still on the rise at that time and we were cultivating Paul and his wife, Jeanne, along with Danny, their son, who was President of AFLAC, as partners in the ministry of Asbury. I shall never forget Paul welcoming the guests and then telling them that he wanted to sing them his song. In a non-tutored voice, he sang, “I am satisfied with Jesus. Is He satisfied with me?”
Paul became a member of the Board of Trustees and major contributor to the student scholarship fund. Now, years later, it is sheer delight to learn that he and Danny have given one million dollars to a scholarship fund with the best news yet to come. Paul and Jeanne are giving 10 million dollars over the next five years to fund a Ph.D in Biblical Studies. As the consternated duck heard Yogi Berra say on the AFLAC commercial, “Cash is as good as money.”
So, Kinghorn, this is your challenge tonight. Someplace in the room there may be a 10 million dollar donor. It is up to you to close the deal. We can hardly wait to hear your next 10 million dollar speech.
Allow me a comment about the current status of the Seminary. If you have read my book, The Leader’s Legacy, you will know how firmly I hold the principle, “Stand out of the light of your successor.” This principle has been applied in my relationship to Asbury. An honorific title, a long distance move, and, by design, no official communication means that you know as much about current events as I do. But I have the advantage of history. At the very beginning of the Seminary 83 years ago, financial crisis threatened the existence of the fledging institution as well as its sister institution across the street. Faithful friends, dedicated faculty, and loyal alumni led by our founder, Henry Clay Morrision, saved the school from bankruptcy because they believed that it was a vine of God’s own planting.
Twenty five years later, when I was a student at the Seminary with some of you, another crisis threatened its existence. Accreditation was lost when a theology professor was fired over the issue of neo-orthodoxy. Enrollment dropped precipitously as United Methodist students had to transfer to accredited institutions. Yet, through it all, faculty, alumni and friends, under the leadership of J.C. McPheeters and later Frank Bateman Stanger, came together to save the day. When we arrived in 1982, we inherited a base of academic credibility and financial stability that permitted us to dream of “World Wesleyan Leadership” and for Maxie Dunnam to implement the vision.
Asbury is now working its way out of a leadership crisis. I know nothing more than you do about the painful events that led to the resignation of Jeff Greenway. It is good to learn, however, that he will preach his first sermon at his new church in Reynoldsburg, Ohio this Sunday. I do know this, our Seminary is in good hands under the interim leadership of Ellsworth Kalas. When I heard the news of his appointment, I dropped him a note that read, “The worst decision I ever made at Asbury was not to appoint Ellsworth Kalas when I had a chance; the best decision I ever made at Asbury was to appoint Ellsworth Kalas when I had a second chance.” I love the man immensely as a spiritual father and I have no doubt he, filled with God’s Spirit, will be the healer for this hour.
My confidence, however, goes beyond its President, its Board, its faculty, its alumni, or its donors. In times of financial and theological crises, Asbury has dug for its roots, renewed its vitality, and multiplied its impact. Why?
John Wesley said it for us. When asked about the importance of a Christian school for the work of the Kingdom, he answered, “If it didn’t exist, it would have to be invented.” I believe that Asbury Theological Seminary is anointed of God to be the flagship for the Wesleyan world with its message of biblical holiness. If it didn’t exist, it would have to be invented.
So, in that confidence, I ask that each of us renew our commitment to its mission, pray with fervor for its presidential search, and stand tall as alumni who model the meaning of its ministry. God bless you.