Apr 13, 2013 | Comments 114
Erskine College & Seminary President David Norman has been asked to resign by the Executive Committee of the board. Rumors of this began to circulate late Tuesday, April 9. The rumors were confirmed on April 11 by an e-mail to the board from Chairman David Conner.
On April 1, the Executive Committee completed its analysis of President Norman’s annual performance survey. On April 9, a sub-committee met with President Norman to inform him of the Executive Committee’s findings and intentions. On Thursday morning, April 11, Chairman Conner sent out an e-mail informing board members of a “called” telephone-conference meeting of the board to hear the Executive Committee’s report on their review of President Norman and to take actions pertaining to their report. Chairman Conner also stated President Norman was given 10 days to resign and accept a “gracious in terms” severance package. In other words, according to Chairman Conner’s letter, he and the Executive Committee of the board have given President Norman until April 19 to resign or face a vote of “no confidence” at the board meeting on April 22.
Obviously, the stakes are high for President Norman. If he challenges the actions of the Executive Committee at the board meeting and loses, the “gracious in terms” severance package will probably be taken off the table.
The actions of the Executive Committee seem severe. Why are they rushing to judgment now? The school year ends in a month, and an action such as this will create conflict and confusion on the campus. Besides, the May meeting of the board is only six weeks away.
Why is Chairman Conner rushing to judgment with a razor-sharp sword? What is his agenda? HIS AGENDA IS THE REAL STORY!
Chairman Conner has made the following clear:
- He is not a friend of the theological direction of the ARP Church;
- He holds loyalty to Erskine College & Seminary over loyalty to the General Synod which appointed him to his stewardship;
- He is opposed to the General Synod being written back into the Erskine bylaws; and
- He promotes the separation of Erskine College & Seminary from the ARP Church (see URL: http://www.arptalk.org/covenant/).
As I see it, the following is Chairman Conner’s agenda: SEPARATE ERSKINE COLLEGE & SEMINARY FROM THE ARP CHURCH.
The following are obstacles for him:
- He has lost the “nominations battle,” and seven nominees who are loyal to the evangelical Christian mission of Erskine will be approved by General Synod and seated on the board on July 1, thus creating a new majority;
- Very few of the trustees take his “Covenant” of separation seriously, leaving it DOA; and
- He is facing increasing opposition to his leadership on the board.
If I were Chairman Conner, here is what I would do:
- Call for President Norman’s immediate resignation or, if necessary, call for a vote of “no confidence.”
- If President Norman is willing to resign, offer him a “generous” severance package with a non-disclosure clause to keep him silent about the goings-on behind the scenes of the board.
- Once President Norman is removed, appoint an Interim President who aligns with “Olde Erskine.”
- Name a Search Committee from the current board which is decidedly more liberal than the board will be on July 1, 2013.
- If the Interim President is an “Olde Erskine” type, the EC Foundation and the secular alums will increase their financial support significantly making the Interim President look like a rainmaker. Then move to truncate the search process and appoint the Interim President the new President, ala the process that produced Dr. Randy Ruble in 2006.
- Even if it is illegal and winds up in court, find a way to stop the seating of the new trustees on July 1, 2013.
- If all else fails, find a way to create a lawsuit. Legal actions are anathema to the General Synod.
Whom should we expect Chairman Conner to put forward as the Interim President? I am told Chairman Conner and the secular alums are high on Dr. D. Scott Davis (see URL: https://about.mercer.edu/deans/davis/). Dr. Davis is an Erskine College alum. “Old Erskine” is his reputation. Currently he is Provost at Mercer University (a school that severed its 173 year-old connection to the Georgia Baptist Convention in 2006).
Chairman Conner’s actions are obviously highhanded and precipitous. His repeated efforts to put distance between Erskine and the ARP Church have greatly increased the division and distrust on the board. Now, will his frantic efforts create confusion and uncertainty on campus at a critical time in the recruitment cycle, lead to further conflict within the Erskine community as the battle for succession begins, and greatly cripple the reputation of Erskine on all fronts?
In the near future, will there also be a vote of “no confidence” in the Chairman of the board? Is not Chairman Conner also responsible for the policies of the President he has supported and now abandons?
Attempts were made to contact both President Norman and Chairman Conner by phone. These calls were not returned.
These are my thoughts,
Charles W. Wilson
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