Leadership matters in Reformed colleges and pastors colleges...
As expected, Brian Chapell will be leaving Covenant Seminary. This coming Lord's Day he plans to be voted on as the new pastor at Grace Presbyterian Church in Peoria. Grace is one of the few tall-steeple PCA churches north of the Mason-Dixon line and Brian's roots are deep in Illinois, so this seems a good fit.
Much like Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, historically Grace has been a mainline Evangelical church with roots deep in the sort of Reformed dispensationalism popularized by Wheaton, Moody, and Campus Crusade. For forty years Grace was served by Wheaton grad Bruce Dunn who spoke regularly at Winona Lake, Bibletown (Boca Raton), Cannon Beach (Oregon), Moody Founders Week, Moody Keswick, and prophecy conferences.
Which brings us to the subject of dead and dying institutions...
Close to ten years ago, I was speaking with a brother much respected across the PCA to express my concerns over Covenant Seminary's toxic influence. What I saw of Covenant grads, I said, had convinced me Covenant would preside over the death of the PCA, and the only way to turn it around... was to get a president who was a prophetic leader with the gift of faith whose Biblical doctrinal commitments were the center of his leadership. I acknowledged that the choice of an administrator and fundraiser was natural for trustees looking for institutional stability, but the capital necessary for colleges and seminaries isn't administrative and financial. It's moral and doctrinal, which is to say spiritual and Biblical. (We also discussed the Presidency of Covenant College since Frank Brock had just resigned.)
More recently I spoke with this same brother, and building on the prior conversation, I told him the one thing necessary for Phil Ryken at Wheaton and the next president at Covenant College was that, soon after taking over the reins, they fire several profs. At Christian colleges and seminaries, the only way to guard the good deposit handed down to us in Scripture is discipline. Yet we live in a day when discipline is dead because authority is hated. Thus grades are inflated and profs are never fired.
I recounted how, back when President Reagan was about to be inaugurated into his first term of office, Admiral Rickover did a piece for the New York Times Sunday magazine giving the new president ten recommendations on leadership. I only remember one. The Admiral said, when a new leader picks up the reins, he always fires someone. Upon taking office, President Reagan electrified the nation by firing the air traffic controllers and his presidency was off and running.
This is what President Ryken must do at Wheaton and it's what the new presidents of Covenant & Covenant must do if these schools are to return to the faithful Biblical commitments that characterized them in decades past.
"At Wheaton," I said to my friend, "Phil may need to fire four or five profs, whereas at Covenant College, two or three would suffice. It almost doesn't matter who's fired as long as the new prez does fire profs. This would put the entire campus on notice that profs will be accountable for their doctrine and practice, and that the lethal combination of tenure and academic freedom will not protect them from that accountability."
Nothing I've seen since these conversations has changed my mind, but I have little hope for Covenant & Covenant and no hope for Wheaton. Long ago these institutions made the fateful decision to pursue endowments, brick and mortar, and academic respectability (which today requires sexual anarchy). Thus the trustees are chosen for their names and riches, and there you have it!
Back in the early eighties, I did an oped piece on a conflict in Atlanta over the governance of a Christian school, there. My conclusion was that Christians must found new educational institutions. Since that time Mary Lee and I have been involved in starting a Christian School here in Bloomington, and Clearnote Church has founded Clearnote Pastors College, Bloomington Christian Schoolhouse, and now is about to matriculate the first students of Athanasius College.
Yesterday we had the ordination of three recent graduates of Clearnote Pastors College and I said to our congregation that, as the Geneva Academy and other educational institutions were foundational to the Reformation, we must commit ourselves to the reform of the church today by giving ourselves—our money and our children—to new schools where God's Word is honored.
We must stop approaching education as a means of assuring our children make good money and are secure. We must not choose colleges and seminaries pragmatically. Our choices must be faith-full.
This is the reason our American Colonial fathers founded Harvard, then reformed Harvard by founding Yale, then reformed Yale by founding the Log College and Princeton, and so on down to this very day.
Let the dead bury the dead. Concerning the education of our children and the church's future shepherds, we must honor Jesus Christ.