From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
PROPOSED PROPERTY SALE AT PSCE HOTLY DEBATED
05 May 1996 12:59:00
95140 PROPOSED PROPERTY SALE AT PSCE HOTLY DEBATED
by Robert Bullock
"The Presbyterian Outlook"
RICHMOND, Va.--The proposed sale of Watts Dormitory, and possibly other
property belonging to the Presbyterian School of Christian Education
(PSCE), to the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond (BTSR), was the
focus of conversations at a scheduled "town meeting" held April 22 on
campus during the school's annual alumni/ae gathering
Approximately 80 administrators, faculty, students, alumni/ae and
other interested persons gathered to discuss the decision reached by the
PSCE board of trustees March 23 and announced by the school March 22. The
meeting was moderated by alumna Margaret Shaw of Kalamazoo, Mich.
A number of issues were addressed, ranging from the impact of the
decision on relations with Union Theological Seminary in Virginia, whose
campus is located across the street from PSCE, to facts about the school's
maintenance costs, to the extent to which the larger church had been
consulted prior to the board's March decision.
Regarding relationships with Union Seminary, board chair the Rev. R.
Jackson Sadler of Richmond's First Presbyterian Church said, "Union
Theological Seminary is our number one partner." Sadler also summarized
recent ongoing discussions between the two institutions.
When a question was raised about whether the Baptist seminary, whose
current enrollment is equal to that of PSCE at 150 each, will grow, Sadler
admitted that BTSR "probably will get larger," but that there is more
excess space which would be available for the Baptists and some space could
be shared, such as the school's chapel.
There would be no Baptist expansion on the campus, however, "without
our involvement," Sadler added. He also said that any agreement with the
Baptists would include PSCE's "right of first refusal" if the Baptists
should someday decide to leave, and that some use by PSCE of Watts
Dormitory would be permitted "for x number of years."
Harlan McMurray, PSCE's director of engineering, told the gathering
that at Presbyterian reunion in 1983, unlike the PC(USA)'s other 10
theological institutions, PSCE, which had been supported completely by the
Presbyterian Church in the United States' General Assembly, did not have a
The result, he said, was an enormous backlog of maintenance needs,
approximately $700,000 total for the seven years he had been on the staff.
He also expressed concerns about the deteriorating condition of Lingle
Hall, which contains a bookstore and a dining hall. He suggested that the
building might have to be closed if shared ownership or responsibility
could not be negotiated with the Baptists.
A number of critics of the proposed sale spoke. Trustee Peggy Ross,
admitting hers was a judgment call and not the opinion of "99 and 44/100 of
the board," said, "They [the Baptists] are going to outgrow us." She
predicted that the Baptists "will own it all" in three years.
Alumna Kathlynn Stone raised a question about the purpose of the town
meeting: "In these forums, former students have been able to ask questions,
but not to say what our vision of the church is and the need for PSCE. ...
It seems ... that this town meeting has been for the purpose of allowing
people who are in powerful positions to tell us what they want to tell us
about the decisions they have made, and I wonder why our [alumni/ae] vision
for the church and for this institution is of little or no value to the
people who make the decisions. ..."
Danny Dieth, a graduating senior, said he felt he had been misled
because of the school's announcement last fall concerning a budget surplus,
even as "negotiations [with the Baptists] were in the works. Tom Baker,
PSCE's director of advancement, replied that the statements had been true
for the "short term," though not for the "long term."
Malcolm McIver, former faculty member and dean, questioned whether the
"connectional nature" of the school had been honored. Noting that the Rev.
James E. Andrews, PC(USA) stated clerk, when contacted was unaware of the
school's plight, he said, "I plead with the board to consider at its May
meeting the possibility of taking this need to the General Assembly meeting
Sadler said that he had talked with General Assembly moderator the
Rev. Robert W. Bohl, who had told him that all the schools needed more
money but that none was available from the Assembly.
Faculty member and former General Assembly moderator Isabel Rogers
responded that "Robert Bohl called me just before the board meeting March
13 to express his shock and horror that he had not been told about this,
that the church had not been consulted." Bohl, according to Rogers, told
her, "God made only one PSCE and we can't lose it" and that "there is no
money in Louisville. ... The money is in the congregations, and you all go
Others spoke in favor of the proposal. Matt Kirkland, a student who
has been a member of the steering committee which developed the proposal
said his two concerns, "community" and "programs," were "protected" by the
Graduating senior Steve Lindsay said he was "shocked" and "offended"
at the feelings behind some of the comments made by critics during the
President Wayne Boulton encouraged students to learn from this
"difficult" and "complex" decision the need for "openness" in decision
making and the meaning of "stewardship." When new things are born, he
said, there is pain. "Let's urge it and encourage it in the right
direction that God would want."
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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