Tag: education

Closing doors: Small religious colleges struggle for survival

Closing doors: Small religious colleges struggle for survival

By Bobby Ross Jr. | For Religion News Service

SHAWNEE, Okla. — Duncan Tiemeyer chose St. Gregory’s University because he wanted a faith-based education that would teach him more than how to succeed in a career.

The 550-student Catholic liberal arts college in Oklahoma traces its roots to French monks who moved to Indian Territory in 1875, intent on developing the bodies, minds and souls of Native American and settler children.

“Here, we are taught not only to focus on our five-year plan but also our 100-year plan and our 500-year plan,” said Tiemeyer, 22, a senior business and theology major from Houston. “What are we preparing for? Are we living our lives in a way that is getting us to the next life? Are we going to be able to go to heaven?”

However, the brand of education offered by St. Gregory’s — where Benedictine monks still pray multiple times daily in a chapel beside a cemetery filled with the remains of their predecessors — will come to an abrupt halt at the fall semester’s end.

“It’s just a tragic and sad loss, and I’m grieving for our students and faculty and staff who are working through this loss,” said St. Gregory’s President Michael A. Scaperlanda.

The financially strapped Roman Catholic institution, 40 miles east of Oklahoma City, is just the latest small religious college to close in an increasingly competitive higher education marketplace.

Read the full story.

Religion News Service is a national wire service with more than 100 secular and religious media subscribers, including USA Today, the Washington Post and NPR.

Amid scandal, Baylor’s first woman president brings fresh start to Baptist university

Amid scandal, Baylor’s first woman president brings fresh start to Baptist university

Linda Livingstone has a history of bucking tradition.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | For Religion News Service

WACO, Texas (RNS) Two decades before she took office as the first woman president in Baylor University’s 172-year history, Linda Livingstone helped break down a different barrier in this Central Texas city.

Then and now, Livingstone — who first nurtured her Christian faith in a little white church building in small-town Perkins, Okla. — insists she wasn’t trying to make history but simply to follow God’s direction.

In 1998, as a business professor during her first stint at Baylor, Livingstone served as co-chair of Calvary Baptist Church’s pastor selection committee.

“I remember very distinctly that we were given the resume of Julie Pennington-Russell and her sermon tape,” Livingstone, 57, said in a recent interview on Baylor’s tree-shaded, 1,000-acre campus on the banks of the Brazos River. “I can remember I went home, and I listened very closely to her sermon tape, and I thought, ‘Gosh, that’s really good. She’s a really good preacher.’”

But Livingstone, whose Methodist upbringing familiarized her with female pastors, worried that Pennington-Russell’s status as the only woman candidate might be biasing her perception. So Livingstone, who first joined a Baptist church while playing basketball at Oklahoma State University from 1978 to 1982, listened to the tape again. She liked it even more the second time.

A majority of the congregation agreed, voting 190-73 to hire Pennington-Russell as the first female senior pastor in the Baptist General Convention of Texas. The decision, as Livingstone recalls, caused “wonderful families” to leave the church and drew protesters on the first Sunday that Pennington-Russell preached.

“It was controversial in the church,” said Livingstone, who left Baylor in 2002 to oversee the business school at Church of Christ-affiliated Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif. “But I have to say it is one of the things that I’m most pleased to have been involved in, because she was absolutely the best person we had in the pool for that church at that particular time. She did amazing things in the church.”

Read the full story.

Religion News Service is a national wire service with more than 100 secular and religious media subscribers, including USA Today, the Washington Post and NPR.

‘Join in with us to save Southwestern,’ prays new president of historically black Christian college

‘Join in with us to save Southwestern,’ prays new president of historically black Christian college

Terrell, Texas, institution works to overcome declining enrollment and beleaguered finances.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

After nearly half a century with Jack Evans at the helm, Southwestern Christian College — the only historically black higher education institution associated with Churches of Christ — has a new president.

Ervin D. Seamster Jr., senior minister for the 450-member Light of the World Church of Christ in Dallas, assumed the top post at the Terrell, Texas, college in January.

Seamster told The Christian Chronicle this week he’s praying that “all of our brethren across racial and cultural lines would join in with us to save Southwestern.”

In recent years, beleaguered finances and declining enrollment — which the new president said had fallen to just 43 students before he arrived — have threatened the college’s future. Less than a decade ago, enrollment stood at 227.

Seamster is a Southwestern alumnus who for nearly two decades has used an event called the Fab Five Revival to raise funds to support students.
From 1999 to 2002, he served as a special assistant at Abilene Christian University in Texas to the former president, Royce Money.

Besides his Bachelor of Science degree from Southwestern, Seamster holds a Master of Divinity degree from the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and a Doctor of Ministry degree from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio.

Originally known as the Southern Bible Institute in Fort Worth, Texas, Southwestern Christian College moved to Terrell — 30 miles east of Dallas — in 1949.

Evans had served as president since 1967, after four years as academic dean. He helped Southwestern obtain its full accreditation as a two-year junior college in 1973. In 1982, the college began awarding four-year bachelor’s degrees in Bible and religious education.

In an interview with the Chronicle this week, Seamster discussed his new role at Southwestern and the opportunities and challenges facing his alma mater. The discussion has been edited for length and clarity.

Read the full interview.

This interview appears in the online edition of The Christian Chronicle.

Ph.D. optional: Why a Christian university with doctoral programs chose a preacher president

Ph.D. optional: Why a Christian university with doctoral programs chose a preacher president

With the selection of minister David Shannon, Freed-Hardeman trustees emphasize spiritual leadership, communications skills and connections with Churches of Christ.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

When trustees of Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tenn., first identified preacher David Shannon as a candidate for the Christian university’s presidency, a key alumnus voiced concern about Shannon’s lack of academic credentials and higher education experience.

That alumnus: Shannon himself.

“I didn’t want to do anything that would show disrespect to the university or to the academic community that is so strong here,” said Shannon, who has served for 18 years as minister for the Mt. Juliet Church of Christ, a growing congregation 20 miles east of Nashville.

“It wasn’t a quick process for me to overcome,” the 1989 Bible graduate told The Christian Chronicle. “After the first meeting, I told them I would have to think about it. … My wife (Tracie) and I prayed over and over about this, and never once did we pray for it.”

But eventually, the couple came to the same conclusion: God was leading them to return to their alma mater.

“We finally just reached a point where we said to each other and (to God) in our prayers, ‘If this is what you want, we’ll do it, but your will be done,’” said David Shannon, who traces his Freed-Hardeman roots to the mid-1980s, when former President E. Claude Gardner walked into a Centerville, Tenn.-area sawmill and recruited him.

Freed-Hardeman, which is associated with Churches of Christ, has 1,900 students from 33 states and 20 countries. It offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees and is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, known as SACS.

However, as Freed-Hardeman’s trustees searched for current President Joe Wiley’s successor, they weren’t worried about Shannon’s absence of a master’s degree from an accredited university — much less a doctorate — or his unfamiliarity with the inner workings of Christian higher education.

They were more interested in his spiritual leadership, his communications skills and his close ties with — and affection for — both Freed-Hardeman and its faith heritage, board Chairman John Law said.

Read the full story.

This story appears in the online edition of The Christian Chronicle.

Religious freedom in public schools

Religious freedom in public schools

Yes, it’s constitutional to teach the Bible during the school day.

First Place, Education Reporting, Oklahoma Society of Professional Journalists

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

SIMPSONVILLE, S.C. — Eight middle school students gather around a classroom table at the Holland Park Church of Christ.

Teacher Becky Mays asks if anyone has a prayer request.

“My grandma,” one student says.

“My uncle,” another says. “He might be paralyzed.”

“My dad because he lost his job a while back,” a third student adds. “He’s still going through a hard time.”

This is no extraordinary scene, except that these are not Sunday school pupils.
Instead, they are students from the public school across the street, studying the Bible during the regular school day on a Friday — and it’s totally constitutional.

Read the full story.

• Related story: Christian education program takes director back to her roots (reporting from Greenville, S.C.). 

Christian education in hard times

Christian education in hard times: Facing financial woes, more schools closing (reporting from Newark, Del.). Page 1 lead.

NEWARK, Del. – Thirty-six years ago, Newark Church of Christ leaders founded Aletheia Christian School and Child Care as a community outreach.

The dream: to educate children and nurture faith in Jesus Christ.

“It enabled us to serve the community, and through that service, it brought people to Christ,” said Richard Duzan, the school’s principal and one of five Newark church elders. “We touched the lives of thousands of kids and their families.”

But in June, the school will close — the victim of rising costs and declining enrollment.

In Charlotte, N.C., the same fate awaits the 24-year-old Providence Christian School — a ministry of the Providence Road Church of Christ — at the school year’s end.

“It hurts us deeply to have to take this action,” said Lee Thrasher, the Providence Road church’s executive minister.

Schools associated with Churches of Christ are feeling the pain of tough economic times. That’s particularly true, leaders say, for schools outside the fellowship’s traditional geographic strongholds.

‘Busy doing the Lord’s work’ (reporting from Houston). Churches That Work.

Friendly faces in the City of Brotherly Love (reporting from Philadelphia). Inside Story.

Economy hurts National Lectureship attendance (reporting from Philadelphia). Second Front.

Drug addicts make a Fresh Start (reporting from San Francisco). National.