Emmanuel President Sweeney Announces Pursuit of $3,000,000 Donation, Merger with Milligan College

Dr. Michael Sweeney, President of Emmanuel Christian Seminary

Dr. Michael Sweeney, President of Emmanuel Christian Seminary

Confirming two items that I’ve mentioned on this blog over the past month (here and here), Emmanuel Christian Seminary President, Dr. Michael Sweeney, confirmed via two separate emails sent to all Emmanuel students the following two items:

  1. Emmanuel is close to signing a $3,000,000 donation from a donor, who has offered the money to be used in debt reduction.
  2. Milligan College has voted to pursue acquiring Emmanuel Christian Seminary, including its assets and debts.

The October 29, 2012 email reads as follows:

From: Michael Sweeney <msweeney@ecs.edu>
Date: Mon, Oct 29, 2012 at 2:46 PM
Subject: Emmanuel and Milligan
To: Emmanuel Students Distribution List <emmanuel.students@ecs.edu>

Dear Emmanuel Students,
The Board meetings are finished and we are all trying to catch our breath. Last Friday, Milligan’s Board voted unanimously to move to the next step in integrating Emmanuel into Milligan – which is a very positive thing in light of our situation! Below, please see the press release from Milligan. A great deal of things need to come together before this will be able to happen, but we will proceed one step at a time.
Dr. Sweeney
_____________________
The Milligan College Board of Trustees today approved that Milligan President Dr. Bill Greer continue the process of due diligence toward the possible integration of Emmanuel Christian Seminary into Milligan College.

The two institutions have always operated independently but have a strong shared history, since Emmanuel was founded in 1965 using shared space on the Milligan campus and under the leadership of then-president Dr. Dean E. Walker. Both institutions are part of the Stone-Campbell Movement and have a similar mission of preparing men and women for ministry and servant-leadership.

Financial and economic conditions have been difficult for Emmanuel in recent years, which led Emmanuel’s board and president in Summer 2012 to begin discussions with Milligan about some sort of operating relationship. Since then, both institutions have been in a period of due diligence to explore the options and determine if such a relationship would be in the best interest of both parties.

No definitive decisions or agreements have been reached. Today’s decision to prepare a non-binding Letter of Intent formalizes the period of due diligence in order to fully investigate the financial, academic, administrative, and logistical details of such an arrangement. There are many details and decisions still to be explored prior to a final agreement being reached.

It is in the interest of both institutions to perpetuate quality academic degrees in Bible and ministry. It is the hope that the result of this process will be to integrate Emmanuel into Milligan College in a way that strengthens and continues that mission.

Michael Sweeney email footer
.

The November 7, 2012 email reads as follows:

From: Michael Sweeney <msweeney@ecs.edu>
Date: Wed, Nov 7, 2012 at 11:40 AM
Subject: Answer to Prayer
To: Emmanuel Group <Emmanuel@ecs.edu>, Emmanuel Students Distribution List <emmanuel.students@ecs.edu>

Dear Emmanuel students, staff, and faculty,
As many of you know, last week Dan Lawson, Linda and I took a trip out West to visit a new prospective donor. This contact came about through the connecting efforts of one of our alums, who contacted me about a month ago. He said that there was a woman of significant means in his congregation who was looking for a Christian cause to support and asked for his advice.  He told her about Emmanuel. She wanted to see us and only had a window of a couple of weeks before she was heading south for the winter.
We had a wonderful visit, and in the end she informed us that she would be giving Emmanuel a gift of $3,000,000 to be used exclusively for debt reduction. I believe this will be the largest gift ever given to the school. Of course, the timing could not be better. The greatest barrier to our moving ahead in our talks with Milligan was Emmanuel’s debt. A reduction of $3,000,000 will go a long way in overcoming that problem.
We are praising God for bringing this about as a very direct answer to prayer.
Dr. Sweeney
Michael Sweeney email footer
.

Let us set aside for a moment that fact that the President of Emmanuel Christian Seminary sent these emails to the entire student body.

These emails from the Emmanuel President all but confirm what many have been saying throughout Emmanuel’s scandalous attempt to dismiss a tenured professor: that Emmanuel’s “very direct answer to prayer” appears to have involved an attempt to terminate Dr. Chris Rollston in exchange for a large donation. There is certainly evidence to support such a claim.

Likewise, the letter reveals that Emmanuel Christian Seminary’s financial woes are far greater than many thought; Emmanuel’s present administration appears to have led Emmanuel into such a deep financial hole that discussions of the acquisition of Emmanuel’s debt and remaining assets have been ongoing with Milligan College for some time now. Likewise, President Sweeney explicitly hopes that “the result of this process will be to integrate Emmanuel into Milligan College”. That is, according to an email Emmanuel’s President sent to its students, Emmanuel wants Milligan to assume control. Thus, we’re past the point of if it’s going to happen, but we are now talking about when.

Beyond violating the rule of never announcing a major donation until the deal has been inked, Emmanuel appears to have handed Dr. Rollston more evidence than he needs to argue, quite compellingly, that financial factors played at least some role in his attempted termination – evidence that can only add to Emmanuel’s (and apparently now Milligan’s) financial woes, as a wrongful termination case appears to be all but inevitable.

So not only has President Michael Sweeney led Emmanuel into a financial position that can only be solved by the wholesale assumption of the seminary by another school, but he has publicly announced a forthcoming donation, adding support to earlier claims that at least part of Dr. Rollston’s attempted dismissal was, in fact, based on financial reasons that, according to Dr. Sweeney’s letter, originated “about a month ago”.

What is no longer in question is that Emmanuel Christian Seminary, for all intents and purposes, will cease to be what it has been: an independent Christian seminary.

And as Milligan College picks up the remaining pieces of Emmanuel Christian Seminary in this forthcoming fire sale, Emmanuel has done its students no favor by casting itself the symbol of academic and intellectual suppression, and of selling out good professors for quick cash. I shudder to think how Emmanuel students have watched as its administration has damaged the school’s academic credibility, and therefore the reputation of an Emmanuel degree – which their students are paying good money to receive! What good is a degree from a seminary that has so quickly come to be associated by many scholars as the poster child for ultra conservative, religious fundamentalism, and a place where the religious thought police prohibit professors from saying anything out of line with a predetermined statement of beliefs required as a condition of employment?

It is not beyond the realm of possibility that the students – both present and future – who are associated with Emmanuel School of Religion (and apparently soon to be Milligan College) might begin to transfer to other schools so as not to sully their chances of getting into PhD programs. Given the overwhelming number of faculty members who have written in support of Dr. Rollston from a wide array of schools, both confessional and secular, what are the chances that these institutions are going to accept Emmanuel students into their PhD programs?

Beyond putting Emmanuel in a precarious legal and financial situation, President Michael Sweeney may very well have destroyed Emmanuel’s one true asset: its reputation as a school that produces quality, critically thinking biblical scholars.

What is more, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that Emmanuel students will begin to demand refunds for they education that they’ve paid for, but which has now arguably lost value because the “Emmanuel brand” has become associated with the suppression of scholarly inquiry.

It is time for President Sweeney and Emmanuel Christian Seminary to admit what many scholars already know: they made a HUGE mistake. They tried to pressure a good scholar out of a tenured position, in part at least, to secure a donation from a donor that did not like Dr. Rollston. The emails from President Sweeney to the Emmanel students certainly support this claim, as does the disciplinary action letter from Dr. Sweeney to Dr. Rollston.

It is time for Emmanuel to apologize and settle this case quickly, before any further damage harms the Emmanuel brand, and before the lack of academic credibility begins to stain Milligan College.

Letter from Anat Mendel in Support of Chris Rollston

I received the following letter from Anat Mendel of The Institute of Archaeology at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, which I am posting below. I have added the letter to Dr. Rollston’s list of public supporters here.


Anat Mendel

Anat Mendel

I am writing this letter following the ordeal that Dr. Chris Rollston is facing lately. I could not help writing it to express my highest appreciation of Dr. Rollston and to humbly defend him through this latest upheaval.

I am a PhD candidate at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in the field of Northwest Semitic epigraphy and archaeology. It is a general consensus that Chris is one of the world’s leading West Semitic epigraphers and palaeographers working today; his methodological essays are groundbreaking. As a young scholar sharing Chris’s field, his work has been a source of admiration and inspiration to me. It is filled with awe that I arrived at our first meeting this last January in Jerusalem. The moment we met (Chris was accompanied by his youngest daughter, Rebekah) I discovered that this great scholar I was so looking up to was an extremely gentle, modest man. During my latest presentation, at the ASOR annual meeting in Chicago, we were scheduled to be presenting at different places at the same time. I cannot describe how deeply moved I was as Chris attended my entire lecture. I would forever be grateful to Chris for his generosity and his kindness.

The most important thing I learned throughout my years of higher education, including Chris’s books and articles, is to always question old notions and to challenge preconceived “truths”. In the popular article that started this upheaval Chris only pointed out some undeniable verses in the Old and New Testament that outline the status of women in the Bible, remarking about its irrelevance to life in the 21st century. How troubling that expressing his scholarly views would cause a modern scholar to fear for his position.

I consider Chris as a mentor, a role-model as a scholar and as a human being, and a friend. Emmanuel is truly blessed to have him in its ranks. To let him go would be a great loss to that institution and to its students.

Sincerely,

Anat Mendel
PhD Candidate
The Institute of Archaeology
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Letter from Dr. Ronald Hendel in Support of Chris Rollston

I received the following letter from Dr. Ronald Hendel at the University of California, Berkeley, which I am posting below. I have added Dr. Hendel’s letter to Dr. Rollston’s list of public supporters here.


Dr. Ronald Hendel

Dr. Ronald Hendel

Dear President Sweeney and Dean Holland,

I join my colleagues in attesting to the superb scholarship of Prof. Chris Rollston.  He brings credit to your seminary.  His views expressed in a column in the Huffington Post ought not to be a concern to an accredited institution of higher learning.  Infringement of this principle would be a very serious matter to accrediting institutions, the AAUP, and the membership of the SBL.

Sincerely,

Ronald Hendel

Norma and Sam Dabby Professor of Hebrew Bible and Jewish Studies

University of California, Berkeley

Profs. Oded Lipschits and David Vanderhooft win 2012 G. Ernest Wright ASOR Book Award

Dr. Oded Lipschits, Tel Aviv University

Dr. Oded Lipschits, Tel Aviv University

Dr. David Vanderhooft, Boston College

Dr. David Vanderhooft, Boston College

Congratulations are in order to Profs. Oded Lipschits and David Vanderhooft on being awarded the 2012 G. Ernest Wright ASOR Book Award.

From Eisenbrauns:

We at Eisenbrauns congratulate Oded Lipschits and David Vanderhooft, who were awarded the 2012 G. Ernest Wright Award by the American Schools of Oriental Research for their recent Eisenbrauns book The Yehud Stamp Impressions: A Corpus of Inscribed Impressions from the Persian and Hellenistic Periods in Judah.

This award is given to the author(s) of the most substantial volume dealing with archaeological material, excavation reports and material culture from the ancient Near East and eastern Mediterranean. This work must be the result of original research published within the past two years. Read more on the ASOR web site.

We’re celebrating by offering all the books they edited or wrote for us at a 30% discount.

Congratulations to my colleagues, and let us celebrate with a toast at Azekah next summer. You’re buying. ;-)

The Difference between Persecution and Being Corrected

Help Help I'm Being Repressed

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said:

“Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.” – Porte, Joel (ed.), Emerson in His Journals (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1982), 206 (entry for Nov. 8, 1838).

I’ve said in the past (here and here and here) that “there is a difference between persecution and the loss of privileged status”.

Emerson’s quote echoes the same sentiment, and it applies to everything from conservative Evangelicals bemoaning the enforcement of the separation of church and state, to Muslim fundamentalists bemoaning new secular democracies, to pseudoarchaeologists whining when it is pointed out to them that their claims are completely bogus and factually unfounded.

Put simply:

There is a difference between persecution and the loss of privileged status.
There is a difference between persecution and being corrected of an error.
There is a difference between persecution and being wrong.

Christian "oppression"

U.S. religious breakdown

Demonstrating that a claim is false and suggesting an ulterior motive for the debunked claim is not a “personal attack”. It is the scientific method.

Just because you didn’t get what you want doesn’t mean that you are “persecuted”. It means you can’t have everything.

Just because facts and evidence demonstrated your claim to be untrue doesn’t mean that you are “persecuted”. It just means you were wrong.

Just because you got outvoted by a majority in a democratic election does not mean you are “persecuted”. It means you got outvoted.

Just because you can no longer rely on a previously enjoyed advantage does not mean that you are “persecuted”. It simply means that existing laws are now being enforced and you can no longer pretend they don’t apply to you because you are part of a previously privileged group.

The above situations are not examples of “persecution”. They are simply examples of people who used to get their way, who no longer get their way. Claiming “persecution” in these situations is merely an attempt to invoke victim status against those who previously were victimized.

While persecution (especially religious and ethnic persecution) is very real (like this and this and this and this), most in the American majority have never experienced real persecution. Childhood playground teasing aside, at most they’ve likely only experienced the loss of a previously held advantage.

But that doesn’t mean that the formerly privileged won’t pretend to be victims when they stop getting their way.

"Religious Freedom"

Thank you to all those who make Thanksgiving possible

Thank you, Jesus, for our food. De nada.

As one raised in California’s Central San Joaquin Valley, and as one now residing in America’s heartland of Iowa, I am thankful to all of those hard working farmers, farm laborers, and ag services providers who make the bounty we call Thanksgiving possible.

THANK YOU FARMERS AND FARM WORKERS – conservative or progressive, resident or immigrant, for all your hard work. ¡Gracias!

Letter from Dr. Katya Barbash in Support of Chris Rollston

I received the following letter from Dr. Katya Barbash, which I am posting below.


Dr. Yekaterina Barbash

Dr. Yekaterina Barbash

To whom it may concern:

I write this letter to state my sincere support and respect for Dr. Christopher Rollston. I am deeply disappointed with the Emmanuel Christian Seminary’s decision to terminate his position.

As a scholar of ancient history, I would like to express my regard for Dr. Rollston’s research and for his academic achievements. His interaction with both scholars and students evince a genuine reverence for history. His continuous effort to share his passion for the study of history and to inspire this passion in others deserves nothing but admiration.

Dr. Rollston’s dedication and integrity are praiseworthy, to say the least. In my opinion, any infringement of his intellectual freedom is disgraceful.

Sincerely,

Yekaterina Barbash, PhD

Assistant Curator
Arts of Ancient Egypt
Brooklyn Museum
200 Eastern Parkway
Brooklyn, NY 11238
T (718) 501-6285

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