From the Worldwide Faith News archives


Date 05 May 1996 12:59:00


                        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 
capital reserve. 
     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 
in Cincinnati." 
     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 
get it." 
     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
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