Religion Notes


Issue: "The new school year," Sept. 11, 1999

Campus crusade: No "dictators"

Campus Crusade for Christ recently adopted a statement on marriage and family that is similar to a 1998 Southern Baptist Convention resolution that generated nationwide protests by feminists. It was announced at this summer's biannual meeting of 5,000 Crusade staff in Colorado. Like the SBC statement, it repeats the biblical paraphrase that so irked the feminists: "A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ." But the statement adds a new paragraph showing how such a relationship works in actual practice: "In a marriage lived according to these truths, the love between husband and wife will show itself in listening to each other's viewpoints, valuing each other's gifts, wisdom, and desires, honoring one another in public and in private, and always seeking to bring benefit, not harm, to one another." As for the amended paragraph, Crusade founder Bill Bright said: "We felt we needed ... to explain that men are not to be dictators."

Midwestern heat wave

Trustees of Midwestern Baptist Seminary in Kansas City have called a special meeting of their board Sept. 13 and 14 to discuss a controversy about the leadership style of the school's president, Mark Coppenger, and to review how the board's executive committee has handled the matter so far. Elected unanimously by the 35-member board in 1995, Mr. Coppenger, 51, is the third president in the Southern Baptist school's 41-year history. Under his tenure, enrollment at the seminary grew from nearly 500 to more than 700 last fall (although it reportedly is down between 10 and 15 percent this year). Theologically, Mr. Coppenger is a Calvinist who has enjoyed the firm support of non-Calvinists; methodologically, he is an innovator who has, among other things, emphasized structured annual faculty retreats as tours to ministry sites and visits with grass-roots church workers. However, by all accounts and his own admission, Mr. Coppenger's effectiveness has been marred by a long-standing problem: anger. His temper outbursts-including the use of profanity-have demoralized or alienated a string of subordinates, including executives and other staff he hired at Midwestern, according to findings in a two-month investigation by the board of trustees' executive committee. Some eruptions occurred in the presence of board members. Mr. Coppenger and his supporters insist the number and severity of incidents have been vastly overstated. Following their probe of 42 complaints involving people on and off campus, seven of the executive committee's nine members met with Mr. Coppenger for four hours on July 30. During the meeting, Mr. Coppenger acknowledged the "problem" of his anger and "embraced" recommended steps by the committee to achieve "repentance and restoration," according to a short statement the committee released afterward. The steps reportedly include counseling and writing apologies. Mr. Coppenger also issued a brief statement saying he realizes his "misappropriation of anger" has been an "obstacle" to revival. He told reporters he hopes his commitment to reconciliation will contribute to a wider spiritual awakening, a theme echoed in the committee's statement. Trustee chairman Carl Weiser, a Lynchburg, Va., pastor, said the executive committee members at the meeting were unanimous in their support of the arrangement with Mr. Coppenger. He declined, however, to discuss specifics of the meeting with reporters but said a "full report" will be made at the upcoming special board meeting. Mr. Coppenger's spokeswoman told WORLD that other concerns besides anger had been discussed or "dealt with" at the executive committee meeting. Miss Ledbetter said the committee had investigated all complaints against Mr. Coppenger, and the lone one addressed in its report was anger, for which "he has repented."

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