Rejection of Trustees May Lead to Split Between Congregation and College

Nov 18, 2002 03:00 AM EST

ATLANTA -- The Georgia Baptist Convention elected eight new trustees for Shorter College during a Nov. 11-12 annual meeting in northwest Atlanta. However, since none was from the list of 16 candidates submitted by the current board of trustees, all will be rejected according to the law adopted in May that requires all future members be approved by the college prior to election.

Shorter President Ed Schrader notes this rejection to be the likely signal of the end of a 44-year relationship between the college and convention. The two parties disagree over many aspects, including the trustee election process.

Schrader says the college responded to an accreditation concern over the independence of the trustee board and said he has provided supporting documents to GBC leaders. GBC Executive Director Bob White, however, tied the action to an unfounded fear of a fundamentalist takeover of the school.

"There is no intent on the convention's part to take over the college," White told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

This summer, White wrote an open letter regarding Shorter quoting a GBC leader as having concern "regarding the faithfulness of Shorter College's leadership and faculty to Baptist heritage, faith and practice."

The convention recently released some funds to Shorter designated as scholarships for Baptist students. The remaining funds are being held in escrow and will likely be redistributed to another GBC entity.

The Georgia Baptist Foundation is holding an additional $8 million in capital improvement funds for the college. There may be legal action taken to determine where this money goes.

Schrader said the trustee board's executive committee met Nov. 13 to draft a response to the GBC election. The full board of trustees will meet soon to formally consider the plans, he said.

Schrader said the school has been a Baptist college since 1873 and plans to remain one. "Whether someone at the GBC endorses it has no bearing on whether we will be a Baptist college," said Schrader. "We will be a Baptist college."

In other business during the GBC annual meeting, messengers re-elected Wayne Robertson of Valdosta as president, honored Bob White for 10 years of service as executive director and approved formation of a 10-member committee to study the relationship of the convention with its institutions.

By Pauline J.