At first glance, the big news around conservative Christian and fundamentalist websites, blogs and forums over the last week was the surprise announcement that Dr. Dave Jaspers had resigned from his role as President of Maranatha Baptist Bible College in Watertown, WI. Dr. Jaspers has, by all accounts been a very effective leader for a college with a rich heritage and a reputation for being reasonable and balanced. I’ve never been on the campus and my main acquaintance with the college has been through serving on boards with it’s former President, Dr. Arno “Bud” Weniger and having had alumni as members of my church and staff over the years. You can read more information on Dr. Jaspers departure HERE and HERE and HERE.
But quickly over-shadowing the surprise resignation of Dr. Jaspers, was the announcement of the resignation of Pastor Jim Schettler of the Campus Church of Pensacola Christian College. Pastor Schettler was a beloved leader for the students at PCC and generally seemed to be one of the few leaders there who maintained a reputation for humanity and personal concern in an institution legendary for its cold, rigid methods of dealing with students, staff and any who would cross their founders or institutional policy.
Pastor Schettler followed Pastor Bob Taylor who resigned in the 1980′s to take a church in Indianapolis. The genteel and gracious Taylor left big shoes to fill, but the popular Schettler stepped in ably, first as interim and then as Pastor. He had previously served with the college and as the youth pastor for the Campus Church. He was watched by thousands each week on the college-sponsored television broadcast.
Professionally, he was always viewed as being under the shadow and control of PCC Founders Arlin and Beka Horton. Much criticism has been heaped on Schettler, the Horton’s, PCC and the Campus Church for the unusual role and governance of a church that was exclusively owned and operated by a college which in turn was exclusively controlled and operated by the Horton’s. Indeed, the Horton’s select the pastor of the Campus Church, make the decisions related to it and the pastor is an employee of the over-all PCC/BekaBook/PCA ministry. I’m not interested in hashing and rehashing the Biblicity of such an arrangement. I have heard Arlin himself explain the rationale for having a campus or ministry church. It is consistent with his personal philosophy of controlling the influences and philosophy of those who work for him and contribute to the ministry he founded. I, could never serve as a pastor of such a church, but then that certainly isn’t a basis for whether or not it was proper, acceptable or Biblical.
Schettler is, a genuine fundamentalist conservative. I don’t believe he would have remained for as long as he did, had he not believed in the core values and doctrines that guide the PCC ministry. In a ministry that has a reputation for eating people up and spitting their used up and spent caracasses unceremoniously to the side when they have served their usefulness or stepped outside the often arbitrary whims of the leadership, Jim’s long-term leadership there is really quite amazing. Apart from Joel Mullenix and a bevy of forever-single female administrators, there are really very few in the college who have survived that long. (Yes, I realize there are “some” — but I speak of the high profile folks.)
I was aware that Jim was leaving at the end of this year for several months and did not feel it was appropriate to divulge the information until he had made the announcement himself. You can actually hear what appears to be a privately recorded audio file of the resignation by clicking HERE.
As someone who has been personally blessed by Jim’s ministry as a graduate student, during my times speaking there, during casual fellowship and through limited other interaction, I wish him well. I believe he is getting ready to enter a most interesting phase of his spiritual journey as he, for the first time, ministers in a world that is not artificial in its context, nor nearly as intense in terms of its controlling forces. Having some idea as to part of the journey that brought him to this point of transition, I believe he will face some initial disorientation followed by a lot of joy and freedom in ministry that will be a blessing to him. I look forward to having our paths cross.
But at this juncture, I would also point out that Jim’s departure is just one more major leadership shift in an institution that has an incredible rate of turnover in its senior leadership. Not only did Jim Schettler resign, but of lesser attention was the departure of Dr. Matt Beemer, Vice-President of PCC and the man who had, by most accounts, received the promise of holding the keys to the PCC Empire upon the death or retirement of the Hortons. Beemer followed the unceremonious departure/dumping of Dr. Greg Mutsch who had previously held the future keys of leadership. Dell Johnson, the one who made a name for himself teaching Beka Horton’s KJV position, also left in short order.
More now than in many years, the future of PCC rests solidly on the Lord permitting the Horton’s an extended lifespan. There is virtually no successors on the horizon and those that are should be as nervous as the wife of Henry the VIII.
Some will, and have, accuse(d) me of having a vendetta against PCC. Indeed, I have not been afraid to voice my concerns and opinions about PCC and other Christian colleges in this blog. If you missed them, you can catch up by clicking HERE, HERE and http://www.danburrell.com/blog/2006/02/challenges-and-opportunities-for_24.html.
Such an accusation is simply not true. I have been on the campus many times. I have spoken there. I’m not ashamed to be an alumni from their graduate school.
I do, however, have issues with the hyper-control, unBiblical rigidity and lack of accountability that has damaged many good people over the years. I object to a philosophy that not only discourages debate and discussion, but punishes one for attempting to engage in it for any reason — noble or otherwise — with them. If you aren’t willing to swallow their positions in total, then you are an outsider, enemy and will be cut off. It’s just not right.
There was a day when I regularly encouraged students to go to PCC. I had plans for my children going there. Their facilities are the best, without argument, of any other Christian college in the world. The academics are sound. They have many good people and sincere servants associated with them. I know many fine graduates and am happy to employ several of them. The text books are good. There is much to appreciate about the ministry in Pensacola.
But make no mistake, there is something toxic in the atmosphere that exists there. We can only pray that eventually leadership will assume the reins of this great work who will lead it to a more healthy spiritual state that holds fast to sound doctrine, but also allows a measure of Biblical liberty in the exercise of one’s own faith without having to leave the institution they love to attend or serve.