Erskine trustees move forward under new leadership

Posted on June 3, 2014

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The Erskine College & Theological Seminary Board of Trustees transitioned to new leadership at its recent meetings May 29-30, with Vice Chairman and Chair-Elect Bill Cain of Louisville, Georgia, assuming his role as chairman a month earlier than the anticipated date of July 1.

Between the Thursday and Friday meetings, Chairman David Conner of Greenville, who was completing his second year in that role, informed the board of his resignation from the board effective immediately. According to the bylaws, Cain assumes the chairmanship until his elected term begins in July.

Conner stated in a letter sent to Cain and the other trustees Thursday evening that his personal and professional commitments would no longer allow him the time necessary to serve well. Conner also said he believed that “the Board and the Institution will benefit tremendously from [Cain’s] leadership as Chair beginning immediately rather than in July.”

Cain and several other trustees expressed their appreciation to Conner for his service to Erskine.

With a continued focus on long-term financial sustainability and the need to optimize revenue, the board met once again with representatives from the audit firm of CapinCrouse in a closed-door session on Thursday.

Regarding the ongoing search for a president, Cain said the board “expressed its desire to hire an interim president to assist the school in stabilizing its financial foundation” and that he hoped to provide more specific information on next steps within the coming week.

The Board approved a motion from the Seminary Committee to have the Seminary faculty and administration review the Seminary’s admission policies regarding students’ personal faith commitments in light of the Seminary’s mission and bring recommendations to the August meeting of the Board.

An ad hoc committee established last year to study the issue of separating the college and seminary into two distinct institutional and legal entities also submitted its report to the board. The committee was established last year in response to the ARP Synod’s 2013 request. Previously, at the February board meeting, the ad hoc committee requested and the board authorized the creation of a chief operating officer position for the seminary.

The the ad hoc committee reported that due to financial constraints at Erskine and within the ARP denomination, wise stewardship led them to conclude that separation of the seminary from the college was not advised at this point. The report did carry several recommendations to address some of the issues raised by Synod concerning the seminary. These recommendations include:

  • Changes in hiring guidelines for new full-time permanent seminary faculty and senior seminary administrators that would require membership in the ARP or a denomination with which the ARP has a fraternal relationship; and establishing an ad hoc committee for the theological examination of such candidates;
  • The inclusion of the theological examination committee in the seminary tenure process;
  • An annual examination and reporting of institutional shared services to ensure the seminary receives adequate resources and support;
  • A request that the Erskine administration prepare and present by the October 2014 meeting of the trustees a three-year plan for restructuring the seminary leading to a balanced budget.

 The Erskine trustees will meet again August 14-15, 2014.

In addition to the items above, the board conducted the following business:

Thursday, May 29, 2014

  • The devotional time consisted of a time of scripture reading and prayer by members of the Board.
  • Trustees voted to confirm the following 2014-15 chair appointments for the standing committees:
    • Peter Waid, Seminary Committee
    • Andy Putnam, Advancement Committee
    • Tom Hellams, Student Services and Athletics Committee
    • Dixon Cunningham, Finance/Facilities Committee
    • Chad Reynolds, Academic Committee
    • Steve Suits, Committee on Trustees (elected by that committee’s members on Friday)
  • Dan Campbell and Nick Wallace, representatives of CapinCrouse, made a presentation on financial matters and discussed these matters with the Board.
  • Acting President Christie and members of the cabinet presented their reports.
  • The Board heard the report of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Seminary.

Friday, May 30, 2014

  • The Rev. Mark McDowell presented the opening devotional.
  • The resignation of Board Chair David Conner was announced by now Chairman Bill Cain.
  • The Board elected Bobby McDonald to serve as vice chair of the board; McDonald was vice chair-elect, slated to begin his term in July.
  • Acting President Dr. Brad Christie presented the president’s report.
  • Treasurer Greg Halselden presented the treasurer’s report.
  • On recommendation of the Finance Committee the Board approved:
    • Covering a projected $500,000 2013-14 operating budget deficit by using a line of credit;
    • Postponing a bond payment as allowed by agreement with the lender in the 2014-15 budget;
    • A request that the General Synod ask individual members of the ARP Church to financially support Erskine’s unrestricted annual fund.
  • On recommendation from the Seminary Committee, trustees approved a revision in the Seminary Commitments from “Erskine Theological Seminary is Ecumenical” to “Erskine Theological Seminary serves the whole church.”
  • On recommendation of the Advancement Committee, the board accepted a gift from Dr. Randy Ruble to fund the Ruble Servant Leadership Award, which was established several years ago by the Student Government Association to recognize student service leadership on the campus of Erskine College.
  • On recommendation of the Academic Committee urged the administration and faculty to investigate the integration of online learning as a component of academic life at Erskine.
  • Heard a report from Student Services/Athletics Committee on:
    • The success of Erskine athletic teams this year, including three conference championships with 11 of 15 teams posting winning records;
    • A successful year for RUF at Erskine;
    • A $9,000 renovation of “The Hangar”;
    • A proposed Statement on Human Sexuality which was held for review anticipating the ARP General Synod’s consideration of a statement on this issue.
  • Expressed gratitude to retiring Trustees Judy Boyd, Joey Donahue, Bev Hicks, David Johnston, Richard Taylor, and Dan Whitesides.
  • Heard a report from the Committee on Trustees and engaged in extended discussion of matters related to issues of communication, confidentiality, and personal relationships in order to ensure better, more effective board function in the future.