Asbury Seminary shaken by resignations, leadership problems

WILMORE, Ky. -- It has grown over the decades from a small-town seminary serving small denominations into one of the nation's largest and most influential theological schools, reports the Louisville Courier-Journal in its Sunday edition.

But Asbury Theological Seminary, just outside Lexington, is wrestling with a leadership crisis that surfaced with the resignation last fall of its president, Jeff Greenway, and continued most recently with the departure of two trustees, reports the newspaper.

And Asbury faces a loss of accreditation if it doesn't fix problems in the way it governs itself -- problems for which an accrediting agency and an outside consultant largely fault the Board of Trustees.

Among the problems: A consultant hired by Asbury to analyze its governance after Greenway's departure last year described a "dysfunctional culture" on campus, and a "serious lack of trust."

"During the last two years the institution experienced a relational meltdown," said William Crothers, of Presidential Leadership Associates. He faulted faculty leadership as well, but mainly called for reforms by trustees, reports the newspaper.

This summer the Commission on Accrediting of the Association of Theological Schools gave Asbury until April 2009 to fix its governing structure, criticizing trustees for overstepping their authority, meddling in administrators' tasks and failing to clarify the faculty's role in important decisions.

The seminary has had operating deficits in recent years, although officials say they're erasing a projected deficit for the current year and continue to receive both large and small donations.

One of the two trustees who resigned earlier this month -- U.S. surgeon general-nominee James Holsinger -- said trustees were taking steps to remove him, partly because he told investigators from an accrediting agency about problems within the board.

Holsinger told the C-J he was "deeply troubled" that it appeared his colleagues were more interested in maintaining a united front than in fixing problems. The board accepted his resignation "with regret" but didn't discuss the circumstances.

Seminary officials say they're fixing the problems at Asbury, which has an enrollment of 1,654. Based in a red-brick campus in this small town, it also has a campus in Orlando, Fla., and an extensive online program.

Outgoing trustee chairmain Jim Smith said in a statement reported by the Courier-Journal, "We are always open to make changes and improvements that help us do a better job."

copyright: The Louisville Courier-Journal

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