Lexington Theological Seminary has had a long relationship with tobacco. Located in the Bluegrass Region of Kentucky, many of its students have served as student ministers in rural churches whose members grow tobacco. Many of the seminary’s supporters, especially those in Kentucky, Virginia, and North Carolina, have made gifts based in part on their tobacco earnings. Nonetheless, the board of trustees of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) school voted in March to divest the seminary endowment portfolio of stocks of major tobacco manufacturing companies.
The decision followed a motion by Robert Hatten at the board’s October meeting: at that time the matter was referred to a committee created to establish a “social conscience” screening process for investments.
The first use of the social conscience screen was focused on tobacco manufacturing. After a debate described alternately as “lively” and “gut-wrenching,” the board decided by voice vote that the seminary should not support tobacco manufacturing companies. It based its decision on the conclusions that the product has no redeeming value; that research indicates that tobacco contributes to the untimely deaths of some 400,000 Americans a year, along with millions worldwide; and that the companies themselves appear to have been involved in troubling practices related to putting additives in tobacco products and targeting young people with their advertising.
“We want to make sure that tobacco farmers, who are so very dependent on the crop, don’t feel condemned,” said Hatten. “We’re directing our policy at the manufacturing industry.”
Richard L. Harrison, Jr., the school’s president, concurs. “Lexington Theological Seminary is deeply concerned about what is happening, and what is likely to happen, to tobacco farmers and their families over the next few years. Tobacco farmers are struggling over this issue. But they are trapped. For many years, indeed, for centuries, tobacco has been one of the most profitable of all crops. Tobacco growing has been an essential factor in the survival of small farms across the Upper South. No other widely produced crop provides such a high per acre profit,” he said. “It seems to me that those who profit from the work of tobacco farmers should help them out of their economic and moral dilemma. Governments have received billions of dollars in taxes from the labor of these farmers, and the manufacturing companies have made hundreds of billions in profits. The proposals now being put forth in Washington to develop a settlement that will provide for some form of compensation for farmers need to go forward, and they must be strengthened so as to give these farmers a realistic opportunity to maintain their standard of living. Tobacco farmers who are Christians want the opportunity to continue to work the land, work which according to their biblical faith has a spiritual dimension. We will work to support justice for farmers while also supporting efforts to limit the spread of tobacco use among the young.”
As for other areas of ethical investment, it is the purpose of the social conscience screen to identify the areas of concern. In most cases, the result would be to exercise proxies and vote on issues brought before companies in which the seminary has invested. “In the case of tobacco, however, it is the product itself, as well as the practices of the companies, that makes compelling the decision to divest,” Harrison explained.
Accusation & Result
The Athenaeum of Ohio has settled a breach of contract suit filed by former professor Aaron Milavec for $72,000. Milavec was fired in July 1996 amid accusations of teaching heresy, accusations which he denies, but to which he did not respond before his firing.
In September 1995, a layman who was a Cincinnati lawyer enrolled in Milavec’s class “The Church.” His disagreement with Milavec was consistent and disruptive, according to Milavec and Dean Callan. After several weeks of attempting to deal with the student on his own, Milavec informed dean Terrance D. Callan of the situation, and Ruwe was removed from the class. Ruwe then wrote to Robert Mooney, then rector/president of the Athenaeum, and to Cincinnati Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk, accusing Milavec of false teaching and threatening to sue the school for representing itself as faithful to the church.
“This all wouldn’t have happened if somebody hadn’t complained,” said Callan, “but accusations of heresy aren’t that unusual—indeed, it happened to me earlier this year. We have no particular desire to satisfy these people, but what one does do is respond quickly. Accusations, even if made by people with no competence, should be taken seriously. So we began an investigation—and to our surprise, we found that there were some problems with Milavec’s book Exploring Scriptural Sources.”
Callan and professor Richard Marzhauser reviewed the book: Mooney sent their critiques to Milavec with a letter asking for a response. Milavec sent the reviewers a “preliminary response,” but did not share it with Mooney. He did not respond to Mooney until he was informed on July 2 by registered letter that his contract would not be renewed. Mooney claims that Milavec had plenty of time to respond; Milavec says he was never prodded or given a deadline. He attempted to start the grievance procedure outlined in the faculty handbook, but did not begin it within the seventy-two hours allotted. Then he tried to initiate a grievance objecting to the time limit and was told that since he was no longer a faculty member, he could not do so. Other attempts at mediation were similarly unsuccessful: Milavec contacted a mediator suggested by the archdiocese, but learned that since there were “comparable processes” available at the school, he was ineligible. He appealed unsuccessfully to Archbishop Pilarczyk, but decided to bypass his right to a Vatican appeal (“At that point, it looked like another dead end,” he said) and instead filed suit. The school attempted to have the suit dismissed on grounds that it was a churchly matter. When that was unsuccessful, archdiocesan lawyers agreed to the settlement. According to Dennis Egan, the school’s business manager “Legal fees were mounting, and it was time to get it out of the way.”
In a more recent case, Sister Barbara Fiand, S.N.D., resigned her position as professor at the Athenaeum after being informed in March by the Reverend Gerald Haemmerle, who succeeded Mooney as president/rector last year, that she was being removed from teaching duties at the seminary (she was told that she could continue to teach at the school’s college division). Fiand said the notification came as a complete surprise. She has been teaching at the school for seventeen years, and has twice received the excellence in teaching award. She has taught required courses to seminarians in philosophy, Christian anthropology, and spirituality. Last fall, she was recommended highly for a three-year renewal of her contract. She said that Haemmerle accused her of teaching that women should not encourage their sons to become priests in today’s church: “I never said that,” she said.
In an echo of the Milavec case, two students in Fiand’s Autumn 1996 classes took strong exception to her teaching. One was removed from class, another sent two of her books to the Vatican with a demand for action. Last spring, articles denouncing Fiand appeared in the ultraconservative Catholic press (one in the Wanderer was titled, “A Syllabus of Errors at Cincinnati’s Seminary”). Archbishop Pilarczyk asked Fiand to respond to these attacks. Callan called her response “entirely satisfactory.”
School authorities refuse to discuss Fiand’s case since she is a current employee—her resignation takes effect on July 1. But Callan says that people writing to Rome don’t get seminary staff fired. “We didn’t know students were sending books to Cardinal Ratzinger until we read about it in the Hamilton Journal News,” he said.
Jean Shealy, secretary to Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary president H. Frederick Reisz, was opening the mail one morning in January when she said, “My goodness! Did you know about this?” “This” was an anonymous gift of $7,622,737.45, and Reisz hadn’t known it was coming. They (along with Reisz’s wife) kept the secret for three months, cluing in the board in March and the faculty the night before the general announcement in April. “Part of the gift came in stocks,” said Reisz, “and I didn’t want to count our chickens before they hatched.”
The unrestricted gift to the Columbia, South Carolina, school is twice as large as the previous record gift to a seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. “It’s a sign that donors are thinking about seminaries differently than they used to, that there’s an increasing realization that theological education is not entirely subsidized by the church,” said Reisz. The school’s annual budget is about $3.2 million. “Our challenge now is to see to it that this gift is used for the long-term good of the school,” added Reisz, who hopes to use most of it to beef up the endowment fund.
“It wasn’t a gift we planned toward,” said Southern’s director of church relations Marguerite Rourke. “It’s sheer grace. And it does abound.”
Wake Forest Faculty
Wake Forest University, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, has hired the first three faculty members of its new divinity school. They are Hebrew scholar Phyllis Trible, who will be associate dean and professor of biblical studies; Baptist theologian Frank Tupper, as professor of theology; and church historian and spirituality expert the Reverend Samuel Weber, O.S.B., a Roman Catholic priest and Benedictine monk, as associate professor of early Christianity and spiritual formation. In addition to teaching, Trible will design the school’s curriculum based on a model created by Walter Harrelson, former dean of the University of Chicago and Vanderbilt University divinity schools.
Howard University School of Divinity, in Washington, D.C., dedicated a new distance education initiative for its International Faith and Community Information and Services Clearinghouse and Training Center on April 14. Still in the pilot stage, the new technology will provide churches with access to multilevel, interactive distance learning via video conferencing using phone lines and satellite. The innovative aspects of the program lie in the way existing technologies have been combined to produce an affordable communication system and in its being made available to churches, nationally and internationally, in “grass-roots areas,” for whom it might otherwise be out of reach. Howard has established Distance Learning Charter Centers at churches nationwide to serve as host sites for the new technology package. Currently five churches are testing the technology; each can accommodate two-way interaction with up to nineteen other sites.
From Parish to School
The Reverend Dr. James Bruce Lemler has been elected dean and president of Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, and will assume the position in the late summer of 1998. Lemler is currently rector of Trinity Episcopal Church and president of St. Richard’s School of Indianapolis, an ecumenical day school associated with the parish. Under Lemler’s leadership, Trinity was designated as a Jubilee Center by the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church. “I look forward to learning, teaching, praying, and serving with the many people who care about Seabury and its mission,” Lemler said.
Lemler is the second recently chosen Episcopal seminary head to be called to his post from the parish ministry rather than academia. The Very Reverend Ward B. Ewing, new dean and president of General Theological Seminary in New York, assumed his position this spring. Ewing was previously rector of Trinity Church in Buffalo, New York. During his tenure there, attendance and pledge income doubled, a transitional housing facility for the homeless and single-parent families was built, a bookstore opened, and the parish endowment tripled. “Our mission is to integrate personal and social life with theological education. Formation in a residential setting is a key element in that mix.”
Changes at the Top
The Reverend Joseph P. Daoust, S.J., has been appointed president of the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, in Berkeley, California. Daoust is currently professor of law and religion at the University of Detroit Mercy and holds the Philip J. McElroy Endowed Chair in the School of Law. He has held faculty positions at Makerere University in Uganda, St. Joseph’s College in Philadelphia, and Woodstock Pontifical College. He has also served as staff attorney for Michigan Legal Services and on the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Ways and Means.
The Reverend John Baldovin, S.J., who has been serving as acting president, is returning to his post as professor of historical and liturgical theology. The previous appointment to the presidency of the Reverend William J. Rewak, who began serving as acting president in September 1997, was rejected by the Vatican, as had the presidency of Baldovin, prior to that. Because JSTB is authorized to grant pontifical degrees, Vatican approval of its appointments is required.
Dr. R. Scott Rodin became the eleventh president of Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, in May. He has been serving as acting president since July 1997. Rodin, a Presbyterian, becomes the first non-Baptist president in the seminary’s seventy-three year history. “I have seen how the success of a president will depend upon his or her ability to work with the whole Christian family in all of its rich diversity,” Rodin said, “while never losing sight of our distinctive Baptist heritage and commitments.”
The Reverend Robert J. Spitzer, S.J., has been appointed the twenty-fifth president of Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, effective in July. Spitzer, a Gonzaga alumnus, is founder and director of the Institute of Professional Ethics at Seattle University, where he is an associate professor of philosophy, a member of the board of trustees, and directs the Institute of Character Development and the medieval studies and graduate fellowship programs. Last month he completed the inaugural term as the Frank Shrontz Endowed Chair in Professional Ethics.
In May 1997 Spitzer’s predecessor, the Reverend Edward Glynn, S.J., was fired by the board after nine months in office.
Dr. Roger W. Fjeld, president of Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa, has announced his intention to retire as president and professor of church history at the end of 1998. He has served as president since December 1983. He noted that this was a good time for Wartburg Seminary: the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has affirmed its theological needs for the future and Wartburg has a significant role to play; a cluster arrangement is now in place that offers Wartburg a stable partnership with the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago and Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, Ohio; and churchwide and synodical financial support is increasing. Further, with $8,160,000 in gifts and pledges in the first twenty months, Wartburg is nearly halfway to its goal of $16,650,000 in its five-year capital formation program, “Foundations for the Future.”
The Reverend Dr. Phyllis Anderson became director of Seattle University’s Institute for Ecumenical Theological Studies in April. The institute is part of the School of Theology and Ministry. Anderson had directed theological education in the Division for Ministry for ELCA since 1988 and directed pastoral studies at LSTC prior to that. She has been a member of the Association of Theological Schools Commission on Accrediting since 1994.
The new Ecumenical Institute is the nation’s first Protestant seminary within a Catholic university. Ten denominations and two religious-affiliated agencies collaborated to form it.