Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Asbury Debacle

I don't think I've written about the Asbury Seminary presidency and the unfortunate events that have taken place at my alma mater (though that's one of the top searches that has brought readers to this blog). The short story is that because of leadership style and politics, Jeff Greenway forcibly resigned his position (and will be pastoring a huge church in Reynoldsburg, Ohio).

If you want a fuller story, you can start here for the story and continue here and continue to read the latest here and here.

In the midst of it all, I received the annual fund raising letter from Asbury. I generally give, not much, but something, but because of the turmoil at the school, I felt like I could not give in good conscience, so I wrote a letter stating as much. Today I received a phone call from the head of the alumni and we talked about the whole thing.

I don't know Jeff Greenway. I graduated before he became president. But I do know what it's like to be railroaded out with the use of a trumped up evalutation, and it stinks. He said that the board is (possibly) admitting that it had some fault in the proceedings. However, the letter from the board did not make that kind of statement. It offered a non-apology (kind of like a "If my actions happened to offend you, I'm sorry that you were offended") as they stated: We recognize that some perceive the Board of Trustees as acting arbitrarily and unfairly in the formal evaluation process of Dr. Greenway; while others feel the board acted with integrity and due diligence.

I still say it stinks.


Anonymous said...

Lots of disillusioned people down here. Trustees are on the campus this week, and in many ways its starting to get ugly. A prof at the Florida campus is reconsidering submitting his paperwork for tenure. A long reconstruction of the resignation and the events there-after is now making the rounds on the alumni message page. Ugly, ugly, ugly.

I came down here expecting to learn a lot about leadership, and this is a lesson I could have never predicted.

And, to be honest, I'm learning a lot and meeting some pretty incredible church leaders, but I'd give it all up in a heartbeat if the Bishop asked me to go back to Shawnee tomorrow. Talk about being blessed..... God is good.

Anonymous said...

No matter what the real troubles were, no one deserves to be treated that way. We're s'posed to speak the truth in love.

Your sidebar asks if we want to be linked here. I'd like to be here--do I qualify? http://connectionsgodandtheworld.blogspot.com

Chris from Reynoldsburg United Methodist said...

hey, i know this happened a long time ago, but I just rejoined that huge church the Dr. Greenway is the pastor of. He is an extremely humble man. I was at a recovery event at dinner when this man asked if he could sit with me. He said his name was Jeff then introduced me to his wife. It wasn't until I started to tell him about why I left the church before, that he told me he was the new senior pastor. He had sat with me for a half an hour as just Jeff, a staff member at the program. I was blown away by just how humbling that was. Just thought you would appreciate an inside look.

The Thief said...

Thanks, Chris - I do appreciate that, and I'm glad that Jeff has found a "home" there where he can flourish and where he can have a great impact on people like you. Thanks for sharing!

Raised in RUMC said...

I also attend Reynoldsburg United Methodist Church (I was raised there and am 19).
First of all, I want to welcome you, Chris, to our family. I hope you feel welcomed and accepted and know that you always have a place with us.
That being said, I would like to give my own inside look into the situation. Please understand that I do not see Jeff as a bad or malicious person. I believe him to be a good man with the best intentions, but no idea what he's doing trying to put them into action. The problem is that he is naturally more of a businessman than a pastor, and it shows. I mean no insult to Jeff or his supporters, which include the entire family of one of my best friends. It is hope, not malice, that motivates me to speak, for it pains and saddens me deeply to see what is happening to the church that raised me.
When Jeff first arrived, he unnecessarily forced out people who had held positions in the church for years. Many of these positions had been volunteer and became paid when Jeff placed his friends in them. He also refused the parsonage, opting for a housing allowance instead, so we now pay for both his housing allowance and the parsonage mortage. What's more, when someone tried to show Jeff how to work the pool at the house, he requested a pool boy be hired instead.
Under Jeff's leadership, a row of classrooms, one that included our church prayer room and a kitchenette, were knocked out and replaced with a cafe. Just a few years ago a cafe was attempted out of that very kitchenette and failed; now the same idea has been tried again on a far greater and more expensive scale, using money donated years ago specifically for the purpose of building a family and recreation center. I do not know how Jeff got around the legalities of that, but the cafe is by no means the extent of the plans. The youth have been kicked out of the youth room (adjacent to the chapel--formerly the sanctuary until it was outgrown and split into the two rooms) and sent out to the Richards Building (which was our scout building until the scouts were kicked out to make room for the students) located behind the parking lot. All this is to make room for the traditional service goers, who are being kicked out of the current sanctuary that, in all honesty, they raised the money to build, and put in the chapel/youth room, which is being turned back into a sanctuary. Jeff's reasoning for this is that the reason we aren't getting many young and/or new people coming in is because we do not have a contemporary service at 11a.m. (We have traditional services at 8 and 11 and a contemporary service at 9:15.) He has ignored and even belittled church members' opinions and concerns about the plan if they do not support it.
Jeff can be quite charming when he wants to be. There was an instance one day where Jeff wanted to speak to my dad. He approached him confidently, best foot forward, as is his custom...and he very nearly bowled my mom over to get there. That is his approach: he makes a great effort to reach out to the people he perceives as useful or interesting, but he makes little effort to connect with the majority of the congregation.

Raised in RUMC said...

I remember when I was younger, I was always excited to ride the shuttle on Easter. The church would be so packed for special services that it ran a shuttle from nearby businesses' lots and encouraged regular attenders to park in those lots to save room in the church lot for guests. The worship center would have standing room only, and we had to have the fire marshal present. The idea of knocking out a row of classrooms to build a cafe would have been appalling then, but there is not the same shortage anymore. There is no shuttle now. We do not fill the worship center. We are not growing steadily, if we are growing at all. Many who once attended RUMC have left since Jeff began changing everything: our services, programs, leadership, and now our building. He even changed the insignia. RUMC no longer uses the official UMC insignia, but instead replaces the flames with vines.

I do not believe that Pastor Jeff is a bad man. What I do believe is that he does not understand what he is doing or how it affects the members of the church body. I believe he is so focused on a goal of greater good that he does not see the destruction in his wake as he steamrolls forward. His intentions are good; his methods have proven harmful to the church. We, as the church, have tried to speak up, but Jeff does not listen and has friends in high-up positions, and we have gotten nowhere. An entire case was put together by church members and sent to the (now previous) bishop years ago, but it was ignored.
I have been a part of RUMC my entire life, and it has always been a part of me. It just breaks my heart to see this happening, and I cannot stand by and watch any longer.

Brian Vinson said...

Dear "Raised" - first of all, I hear you loud and clear. This isn't the first time I've heard this - or a very similar story. Others have experienced the same thing, and it saddens me.

It saddens me what has happened at RUMC - not that Jeff has tried new things and failed, not that he has a housing allowance and a pool boy (those are beside the point) - but that he has steamrolled and alienated faithful Christians on the way.

I say "faithful Christians" because, while I don't know your identity, I do know some, pretty well even.

There are some times when unpopular decisions have to be made - often by a pastor. And there are times when people end up hurt, not necessarily by anyone's choice (and sometimes there are mean people in the church who need church discipline). But it doesn't sound like this is what is happening. And it makes me profoundly sad.