When, in 1958, Dr. Randall Minor and the Shorter Board of Trustees agreed with the Baptist Convention of Georgia to change Shorter’s charter, they did so in good faith.

Since 1914, Shorter had maintained control of its Board of Trustee selection process. As early as 1919, Shorter had continued its affiliation with the GBC, receiving funds and making annual reports to the Convention, however it had maintained its independence.  In 1938, the Board of Trustees agreed to submit names of new shorter trustees to the GBC “for its approval or disapproval before final action by the Board”, however the college still had the power of formal and final approval of the new trustee. A 1953 GBC adoption of a new selection process for its affiliated college’s trustees allowed for each college to nominate 3 persons for each trustee position. The Convention chose one from the three.

Finding the college in dire need of funding, Minor negotiated the new charter and the College agreed to the changes that all future trustees would be elected by the GBC and that each trustee be a member of a Baptist Church which is affiliated with the Baptist Convention of the State of Georgia. Until then the charters had continued to renew the stipulation of the original charter, which said “members of regular Baptist churches of good standing.”

According to a speech by Dr. Rob Nash, entitled “On Being Baptist: The Soul Purpose of Shorter College” in his Founder’s Day Address, October 7, 1997, “From 1873 – 1902 and from 1914 until 1959, Shorter’s trustees were either self-perpetuating or had final power over the trustee selection process.” At the time of the ’59 charter change, Dr. Minor knew he was dealing with gentlemen and that they would honor the 1953 GBC selection process. As a result, he failed to include in the new charter the process by which new trustees would be elected. He never envisioned, nor would he have been able to conceive of the Georgia Baptist Convention of 2001.

When, during the selection process for the new trustees in 2001, Shorter did as it had done since 1953 and submitted a slate of candidates – three for each open position – to the Georgia Baptist Convention, they expected the GBC to continue to honor the ’53 process. What they didn’t reckon on was that the GBC was finally under the total control of Baptist Fundamentalists. When the GBC failed to accept any of the candidates and proposed and elected a slate of its own candidates, The Shorter Board of Trustees refused to seat them.  In retaliation, the GBC withheld its annual contribution to Shorter.

For months, Dr. Ed Schrader tried to negotiate with the GBC in order to reach an amicable settlement of the matter. For months, Robert White and the Executive Board of the GBC stalled, refused to negotiate and made excuses. However an even greater problem was on the horizon.

On January 4, 2002 Dr. Schrader sent a memorandum to Dr. Bob White and pertinent officers of the GBC. In that memo, Dr. Schrader addressed the upcoming SACS re-accreditation visit. He writes, “Shorter College has been warmly regarded by Georgia Baptists for its entire 129 year history. Personally, I want Georgia Baptists to view me neither as a politically ally nor opponent, because I am neither, but as a Brother who is committed (and called) heart and soul to Christian higher education, fostering a good relationship between Shorter College and the Georgia Baptist Convention, and unswervingly dedicated to the spiritual and academic advancement of Shorter College.  I will fight to insure Shorter College remains a Georgia Baptist College and Shorter College will fight to insure that its progress and future are undiminished and unblemished.”  These were hardly the words of a man who later would be portrayed by GBC executives as intent on “stealing” Shorter from the Georgia Baptists.

The memo further relates a conversation between Dr. Schrader and the President of SACS, in which Dr. Schrader assured the SACS president that Shorter was addressing its concerns with the GBC proactively. “Since these issues (over-involvement of the GBC in the running of the college) were of concern in the previous re-accreditation review 10 years ago and not satisfactorily addressed then, the visiting team would take a very harsh view of our ignoring them in the intervening period.”

Dr. Schrader was concerned about the impact the loss of accreditation would have on the college. “Such public rebuke is the death knell for external fund raising, recruiting of top students and faculty and maintaining – let alone advancing –  the school’s academic and artistic reputation and standing.”

Schrader and the Board of Trustees had reason for concern. In the Reaffirmation Committee Report from the February 18-21, 2002 visit, the committee came down hard on the GBC involvement in Shorter affairs:

“It is the judgment of the Committee that Shorter College is in compliance with all Conditions of Eligibility except Condition Three.  The College has an active policy-making board, which meets the mandatory requirement of this section.  However, undue pressure is being placed on the Board of Trustees by an outside agency, namely the Georgia Baptist Convention.  The issue is the selection of trustees. In November 2001 the Convention broke with a long-standing practice and elected several trustees, which were not nominated by the College.  Serious concerns exist regarding the existence of an independent governing board and for its ability to protect the Institution from undue outside influence from the Georgia Baptist Convention.  Specific actions by the Georgia Baptist Convention this past year regarding the politicization of the trustee election process demonstrate that the College is subject to external political and religious influence that may affect its ability to carry out its mission, infringe upon its academic integrity and threaten academic freedom. Additionally, a pattern of activities carried out by the Georgia Baptist Convention and its agents has demonstrated a desire to affect outcomes of the College’s internal governance by this external third party entity. Therefore the Committee recommends that the Institution demonstrate that its bylaws and other legal documents ensure the independence of the board (Recommendation 3). This recommendation does not reflect a problem with the institution or its administration.  This is a problem between the Board of Trustees and the Georgia Baptist Convention leadership over the issue of governance.

The recommendation of 10 years ago echoes the same issues facing Shorter faculty and students today. Academic freedom and integrity are core values of higher education. As Mr. Pirkle’s letter of resignation reveals, the Georgia Baptist Fundamentalists have only increased their hold upon the University. To what sorts of interference was the report referring? Who from the GBC would have tried to influence the Board of Trustees? How is that influence being carried out with the current board? There is much more to this story, which we will disclose in our next post.

Documents cited here obtained from public records.

21 responses to “AND SO IT BEGINS

  1. Larry T. Burgess

    I am so glad that this post includes quotes from the SACS Reaffirmation Report of 2002. When you read the actual report, as I did when a Trustee, you then cannot be told by those with the GBC that this was an imaginary “paper tiger,” the creation of Dr. Schrader and those of like mind, in order to “steal the college.” I was told just that when serving as a Trustee. My response in a meeting was, “You can tell me what is in the report if I have not read it and you may convince me. However, if I have read it, do not expect me to sit idly by and nod my head affirmatively while you inaccurately describe its content. I have read the report, so let’s stop playing games.” The problem is that in-the-pew Georgia Baptists had not read the report and were dependent on “The Christian Index” and other “official channels” of communication to be told what was in it. To this day, it makes me sick that the GBC would not and still will not acknowledge the obvious truth. They were and are the ones seeking to absolutely control the college, “independent trustees be damned.” If SACS allows it, that will be on their hands. However, if they meant what they said in 2002, I cannot imagine that they will allow this continued farce.

  2. John_of_Silence

    I thought you were concerned with exposing the truth? Why, then, did you take my comment down? Do you really think that will work? We will just employ the same tactics of inundating you with comments–just as you do on the Shorter University Fan Page,, and other sites. There is much more to the this story, which we will disclose in our comments.

  3. John_of_Silence

    Truth: Ed Schrader chose a slate of trustees he knew the GBC would not approve so that he could indeed create a paper tiger with accreditation.

    How do my comments violate your “Comment Policy”? Why won’t you post them?

    • Larry T. Burgess

      The SACS concern about undue influence on Trustees from a third party [the Georgia Baptisat Convention] was raised by the review committee during the reaffirmation process before Dr. Schrader ever became Shorter’s President. The same concern was raised by a different committee during Dr. Schrader’s Presidency. I read both reports. This was a SACS issue, not created by Dr. Schrader. He simply sought to respond to what he inherited. I totally and respectfully disagree with your claim that Dr. Schrader “chose a slate of trustees he knew the GBC would not approve.” First of all, Dr. Schrader did not choose unilaterally those who were suggested to the GBC Nominating Committee. Secondly, is it also a “happy coincidence” that three of the trustees who replaced Shorter’s choices were on the list of five handed by Rev. Mike Everson to Dr. Schrader during a confrontational meal at Cracker Barrel? I truly believe, based on my experience in the eye of the tiger, that you are creating revisionist history.

    • Larry T. Burgess

      By the way, I have nothing to do with the SOS “Comment Policy.” I have never left comments on The Shorter University Fan Page or, nor do I intend to. In fact, I only looked for the first time at The Fan page tonight after reading your comments. I rejoice with the several teams and the University at recent athletic accomplishments, and I love Shorter. I simply do not believe that the truth about the events of 10 years or so ago has been rightly understood by in-the-pew Baptists or acknowledged by the GBC.

  4. “How do my comments violate your “Comment Policy”? Why won’t you post them?”

    Hi, Silent John–

    I fully support your desire for truth and transparency–and that is really the central aim of the Save Our Shorter movement. We welcome you to join us.

    I’m Melissa King Rogers. I graduated from Shorter in 1989. I am saddened by changes in recent years that are undermining the spirit of the place that helped form me as a person 20 years ago– and I am saddened by what is happening to the reputation of my alma mater and to those who have contributed much of their lives to making Shorter a fine educational institution. Their loss is my loss.

    It’s precisely because of that aim for truth that we sometimes delete comments. Our reason for deletions is either (a) a claim that forwards something that isn’t true– we don’t let those remain on the website because they can forward misconceptions, or, even more dangerously, commit libel; and (2) claims that are directly hurtful to the people who are being hurt most by the current situation at Shorter. We’ve deleted claims like (I’m giving you the general gist here rather than reproducing comments verbatim)– “good riddance– these faculty members aren’t really Christian” or “quit your whining– you knew what you were getting into when you began working for a Baptist school.” We find such sour comments and their flatly hurtful aims to be inappropriate. Some real people are feeling real hurt in this situation, and we are working hard to be their advocates and to give them a voice where they feel they have little.

    It’s ineffective to make ad hominem attacks on individuals in this group. When the claims are also not true, you’ve committed the ‘double whammy.’ That’s why your comment (not plural comments, as you say? Is there something I missed?) was deleted.

    That said, we welcome any challenges to claims you find on our website– or the introduction of valid claims we’ve overlooked. But we will continue to work to keep comments germane to the issues we’re addressing, and I personally assure you that we WILL post comments that are germane to the issue at hand– even if they are claims we might not agree with ourselves. Even, occasionally, comments that are not true… like your ‘paper tiger’ assertion about Shrader’s trustee choices, but I think former trustee Larry Burgess has cleared that up.

    I also sent you a longer comment to your email– with my phone number in case there’s something we can discuss to clear up any misunderstanding about why your comment was pulled.

    We’re on the side of truth here. Join us.

  5. Larry T. Burgess

    Thank you, Melissa, for all you do! For some reason, I feel led to share one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite authors, Mike Yaconelli. In the midst of all the name-calling and deciding who is worthy and who is not, I believe this is a prophetic word…”Nothing makes people in the church more angry than grace. It’s ironic: we stumble into a party we wern’t invited to and find the uninvited standing at the door making sure no other uninviteds get in. Then a strange phenomenon occurs: as soon as we are included in the party because of Jesus’ irresponsible love, we decide to make grace ‘more responsible’ by becoming self-appointed Kingdom Monitors, guarding the Kingdom of God, keeping the riffraff out [which, as I understand it, are who the Kingdom of God is supposed to include].” [from Messy Spirituality by Michael Yaconelli, p. 47] In other words, we get in and then make sure that grace will never be that reckless again. We look around the table and we know how we got there. Yet we begin to ask, “How did he/she get in? This just cannot be. I will guard the door and make sure this outrage does not happen again!” May we recover the wonder of being included in God’s Grace. More often than not, in Jesus’ day, desperate people who tried to get to Jesus were surrounded by religious people who either ignored or rejected those who were seeking to have their hunger for God filled. Sadly, not much has changed over the years. Desperate people don’t do well around religious people. They don’ fit, and they don’t cooperate in the furthering of their starvation. People who are desperate for Jesus very seldom worry about the mess they make on their way to be with Jesus. My prayer is that Shorter and all who claim the Name of Jesus will be known for their “irresponsible grace.” That is how I got in, and I am not afraid to keep the same door open which allowed me to get in.

  6. John_of_Silence

    Mr. Burgess,

    My post about the “Comment Policy” was not directed at you but rather the moderator of this page and also those who oppose the future of Shorter, who regularly inundate forums with posts in a coordinated effort. I could name names but have been told not to by this page’s moderator. The same moderator asked me to reveal my identity, but I believe I will pass on the opportunity to receive bomb and death threats.

  7. John_of_Silence

    You claim the SACS reports are public documents. Where can they be found?

    • We think we will keep that information to ourselves for the moment. Suffice it to say that they ARE public documents and available to anyone who wishes to search for them.

  8. John_of_Silence

    I will not respond to private emails to discuss that which you have created a public forum. If you have something to say, say it here. As for keeping names out of the discussion, Burgess doesn’t have a problem dropping names in his post.

  9. Jonathan Luttrell

    Bomb and death threats? Perhaps you’re mistaken in regards to how disagreements are handled here, John. We all have taken steps to forward what we believe is the truth in these mentioned situations. We have put our names on our efforts, on our words, and on our actions. We do this because we believe in these efforts. You hide because you do not believe in yours, and you attempt to cheapen and discredit through your assumed necessary anonymity. Perhaps your version of the story can provide insight here, but cheap shots thrown from the shadows of anonymity do not gain much credence in these forums.

  10. Which Cracker Barrel did this stout conversation take place in. I am not aware of a Cracker Barrel in Rome; Iamguessing the one in Cartersville.

    As SACS confronts Dowles and Price, I suggest greater looks at what the current board of trustees bring to the table in the way of ability to communicate just what the goals of a Liberal Arts Institution should be.

  11. Larry T. Burgess

    It happened at a Cracker Barrel north of Atlanta on I-75. For more details, see my posting of April 24 entiutled “Lux Veritas.” Also read the Rome News-Tribune article from 9 years earlier that is linked to the April 24 post. Finally, I invite you to read the post of May 14 by Jim Morris entitled “The Truth About the GBC/Shorter Schism” and the related comments.

  12. John_of_Silence

    Jonathan Luttrell,

    Are you actually claiming there have not been bomb and death threats against those who support the future of Shorter? Is that the kind of truth you are selling here?

  13. Jonathan Luttrell

    Again, focusing on a straw man instead of a concrete argument. If you have an actual rebuttal to anything I said, you’re welcome to post it, and we will discuss it in an orderly fashion. Thanks.

  14. John_of_Silence

    Mr. Luttrell,
    The rhetorical strategy of the straw man is to attack someone who is not present to defend him or herself or to create an imaginary opposition in order to refute it. Neither of those conditions apply here. There have indeed been bomb and death threats. You have a presence on the web and a forum you created for discussion in which you may defend yourself. I am not throwing cheap shots from the shadows; indeed, I risk much more than you do because I am fighting an opposition with a fanatical wing bent on killing.

  15. Jonathan Luttrell

    No, John. You are not “fighting an opposition with a fanatical wing bent on killing.” You are throwing these words out to create an illusion of moral superiority with the intent of validating your argument. Thanks for the rhetoric lesson, it made my point more clear.

    Instead, you are participating in a discussion online and claiming the fear of physical violence as an excuse to not engage fully. To assume you are the only one taking risks is arrogant. While I applaud your meager attempts to make a personal stand for what you believe, I am risking my livelihood and future in the local Baptist church by doing the same. And my name is on it. As are many others here.

  16. Larry T. Burgess

    Dear John of Silence, Whether death threats have been offered on either side of this debate I do not know. If they have, I abhor them. I can say that I do not know anyone who has lost a job or suffered retribution for supporting the GBC position in this debate. In contrast, I have personally suffered retribution. My wife was fired from her position with the GBC, and the only reason given was that she is married to a Trustee [now a former Trustee]who did not support the GBC position. Even those who fired her acknowledged that she did an excellent job with her assignment with the GBC. Those of us who served as Trustees and who did not obviously side with the GBC during the most heated days of the 2002 conflicts received a letter from the GBC lawyers requesting a list of all our assets, with the threat that we would be sued if the GBC “lost the college.” I certainly know first-hand the risks of being on the “wrong side” of the GBC! One thing all of us can agree upon—no one has been killed. Many have been fired. If threats have been issued, it appears clear who was more serious about carrying out the threats.

  17. Jonathan Luttrell

    It saddens me to hear that my brothers and sisters in our convention are being treated in this way, Larry. I hope to remain and be a voice of change as this deplorable mindset is replaced by one more eager to first show the love of Christ in ALL THINGS. I don’t know if I will be allowed, but I would certainly love the opportunity!

    • Larry T. Burgess

      Dear Jonathan Luttrell,
      I and a host of others will be cheering you as you seek, by God’s grace and power, to make a difference that will count for eternity!

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