From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
CHURCH LEADERS AND PSCE TRUSTEES
04 May 1996 20:51:52
95386 CHURCH LEADERS AND PSCE TRUSTEES
EMBROILED OVER PROPERTY DECISION
By Julian Shipp
LOUISVILLE, Ky.-- Numerous concerned Presbyterians and trustees of the
Presbyterian School of Christian Education (PSCE) are embroiled in a
conflict over whether or not to sell campus property to Baptist Theological
Seminary at Richmond (BTSR), which now uses some of PSCE's facilities.
According to Deona Houff, PSCE director of communications, BTSR is
offering $1.9 million for Watts Hall (a dormitory), the property from Watts
Hall to Brook Road, and one-half undivided interest in Lingle Hall (a
multipurpose building housing food services and a campus bookstore).
Closing would occur around July 1, 1996. According to Houff, the purchase
price includes $500,000 to be committed toward approximately $1 million
worth of renovations to Lingle Hall. Any future construction on the
school's campus would have to pass architectural and zoning restrictions.
After lengthy discussions over several months, a decision is expected
during the Nov. 8-10 PSCE board of trustees meeting in Richmond, Va. The
BTSR board approved the proposal during its Oct. 15-18 meeting.
Supporters of the proposed transaction describe the deal as a
"win-win" situation for both PSCE and BTSR.
"PSCE gets a much needed increase in our small endowment and a
long-awaited, significant decrease in our maintenance burden," said Dr.
Wayne G. Boulton, PSCE president. "This in turn will allow us to focus on
our true mission, which is the church, people and programs.
"And BTSR gets a permanent home in an ideal location," Boulton added.
"Union Theological Seminary, PSCE and BTSR can remain neighbors with The
School of Theology at Virginia Union University in the Richmond Theological
"It appears to me to be a good move, a wise move, a matter of
stewardship," said Freda A. Gardner, a General Assembly Council member,
PSCE board member and alumna from Princeton, N.J. "From the information
I've seen, [the proposal] does not close any doors for the future of the
school, and I'm in favor of it."
Signers of a statement opposing the appeal say they want the Baptist
seminary to receive support and experience growth, but without the sale of
property. They say the Presbyterian Church is at a point where broadly
interpreted educational ministry is very important and new leadership
strategies are needed to meet this challenge.
Their statement, which appears as a paid advertisement in the Oct. 16,
1995, issue of "The Presbyterian Outlook," states, "We are deeply concerned
for the future prosperity and effective service of the Presbyterian School
of Christian Education. We believe that you share this concern. We are
convinced that disposing of irreplaceable land and buildings can be
The ad appeals to people to
have faith that when Presbyterians know PSCE's end, they will
respond with adequate support
believe that PSCE's greatest days are ahead and that more, not
less, space will be required
commend and support the participation of the Baptist Theological
Seminary in the Richmond Theological Consortium.
"As I see it now, PCSE has experienced major financial crises before
-- this is not the worst it has had -- and [the school ] has come through
them," said Aubrey N. Brown, Jr., former editor of "The Presbyterian
Outlook." "And I think that if the [Presbyterian] church knew what the
consequences are [to] giving up almost half of the campus and thereby
locking in both future growth and development, I think [it] would raise the
money and provide what is needed to take care of the situation."
"[The PSCE board] has just sort of rushed into a sort of short-term
effort to survive without looking at the needs of the church [to] see if it
could not develop programs it could use to [solve its financial problems],"
said Sara Little, a former PSCE faculty member and elder at Grace Covenant
Presbyterian Church in Richmond, Va. "It is really sad to me that PSCE did
not turn to the [Presbyterian] church for monetary help as the situation
got worse and worse."
Signers opposing the sale of property include three former Assembly
moderators: the Rev. Robert W. Bohl of Fort Worth, Texas; Isabel W.
Rogers, a senior PSCE board member from Richmond, Va.: and the Rev. Albert
C. Winn of Atlanta.
Other opposing signers include longtime ecumenical leader Margaret
Flory of Brevard, N.C.; the Rev. Donald L. Griggs, a former PSCE faculty
member from Livermore, Calif.; Lynn A. Turnage, a former PSCE faculty
member from Montreat, N.C.; Emile L. Dieth Jr., a former PSCE board chair
from New Orleans; and Alice Jones Thompson, a former PCSE board trustee
from Virginia Beach, Va.
Pastors opposed to the property sale include the Rev. Joanna M. Adams
of Atlanta; the Rev. Vernon R. Hunter, of Mobile, Ala.; the Rev. Theodore
J. Wardlaw of Atlanta; the Rev. Dean K. Thompson of Charleston. W.Va.; the
Rev. G. Carswell Hughs of Knoxville, Tenn.; the Rev. William P. Wood of
Charlotte, N.C.; and the Rev. Louis H. Zbinden Jr. from San Antonio, Texas.
According to PSCE property documentation, the school has been working
for more than 10 years to establish a solid financial base following the
reunion of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Direct ecclesiastical support
for PSCE dropped from 47 percent of its operating budget in 1983 to the
present level of around 7 percent.
PSCE addressed these changes in its funding structure with a series of
cost-cutting measures that culminated in 1992 in a $1 million budget cut
and the elimination of 15 faculty and staff positions. Despite these
measures, PSCE continued to have high operating costs given the number of
students enrolled (operating costs are currently estimated at $4.1 million
and enrollment is 136). These costs were partially offset by renting
unused space to BTSR, which began operating in 1990.
BTSR's interest in establishing a permanent home led to an in-depth
assessment of its property needs with the help of Stonebridge Associates, a
firm specializing in the property needs of educational institutions. The
study concluded that not only did PSCE have considerable excess space, but
the high cost of operating and maintaining this space diverted emphasis
from the institution's programmatic objectives.
Stonebridge Associates further recommended Watts Hall was the best
candidate for sale and urged PSCE to consider joint use of other
properties, specifically Lingle Hall, as a means of further reducing its
maintenance and operating costs.
For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
phone 502-569-5504 fax 502-569-8073
E-mail PCUSA.NEWS@pcusa.org Web page: http://www.pcusa.org
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