Category Archives: Georgia Baptist Convention


Dr. Carolyn Ward loved Shorter College. As a student at Shorter, she was active in student affairs, president of her class for 3 years and president of the student body her senior year. She graduated cum laude with a degree in biology and later became a well-respected physician in the Atlanta area. She was also a woman who brooked no nonsense.

She served on the Alumni Governing Board 1963-1964

She served as a trustee for Shorter College from 1986-1991, 1992-1997, 1999-2002 and served on the reorganized board from 2002 through October 7, 2005. She served as Chairman of the Board 2001-2002.

In 1997, she was awarded the Distinguished Service Award by the Alumni Association.

The faculty and Staff of Shorter College named her the Red Cross “Hero of 2003” as past chairman of the Shorter Board of Trustees.

The following are excerpts from her diary of her experiences with Shorter – a diary that she kept from 2001 until shortly before her death in 2011.

From her cover letter:

“ These last years (2001-2005) were tumultuous years for me and the rest of the Board, during which in the Fall of 2001 the College Executive Committee realized that the Georgia Baptist Convention which had the right to elect trustees since the 1959 charter was about to begin packing the Board of Trustees with men (sic) whose first loyalty was to the Convention. In spite of all that we tried – 2 face-to-face meetings  with our boards and committees as well as meetings with both groups’ officials, numerous letters back and forth  – – – we lost the decision of the Supreme Court by a vote of 4-3 in May 2005.  Thus by one vote, the history of Shorter was forever changed as well as her future.

“. . . My grief and sadness has continued, especially as I see the predicted changes occurring. In addition the Baptist media, the now (2006 -2011) Board chairman and even the now president in his speeches, continue to rewrite Shorter history according to their own desires.  They paint those of us who tried so hard, in the worst possible light.

“One thing I know is that I did my best, that I did what I thought I should and that I have no regrets.  I would do it again.


From her diary:

“Fall 2001 – GBC elected 3 trustees who were not originally presented by SC [Shorter College].  They turned down a former trustee, the immediate past chairman of the Board and the immediate past President of the Alumni Assn. We asked them to reconsider. Especially since 4 ladies had rotated or resigned off the board, and Shorter, having a long history of being a woman’s college and today has approximately 65% women in the student body, we asked that the alumni president be nominated.  They refused.

“Being the first time this had occurred and given the history of the politics and record of the Convention, it was immediately seen as a takeover of the board by the extreme fundamentalists of the Convention.  It was also evident that such a takeover would forever change the entire character and soul of Shorter College.

“AT THE SAME TIME, it happened that this year of 2002 was the ten year audit to be done by SACS.  The SACS Handbook mandates that a college through its governing board must be free of undue external pressure from any outside group.  As the workup for the review proceeded, the SACS group found that they had questioned the independence of Shorter’s governing board 10 years ago and thus they focused on this unresolved issue.

“Since our paperwork had to be submitted to SACS by Jan1, the BOT on Nov 2 voted a lease arrangement for the management of the college, which was considered to be temporary until changes could be made with the GBC. This had not been accomplished by January 1 and so the lease went into effect on January 2.  Because of the immediate furor and reaction that it met with the GBC’s leader, it was rescinded on Jan     (date omission by the author) in order to work with the GBC as they refused to talk until it was.”

From February until November 2002, work went on in order to come to an agreement with the GBC on the selection of trustees. All efforts were met with the same sort of intransigence that is evident now.  In May, the Shorter trustees passed a new bylaw to the charter in an attempt to clarify Shorter’s position regarding the election of trustees. The bylaw, in essence, set forth in writing what had been the agreement with the GBC since 1959. It said that the Georgia Baptist Convention would still elect trustees, just as it always had, but that the nominees would be qualified first by the College. The vote on the bylaw was split; it passed and became a bone of contention between the GBC –placed trustees and the rest of the board.

As was the custom, Shorter sent a list of proposed trustees to the GBC. The proposed trustees were to be evaluated by the GBC Nominating Committee and selections for each of the eight vacancies were to be made. The Nominating Committee would then present the slate of candidates to the full Convention for a vote.  For each position, three nominees were submitted.

The Convention began and the Nominating Committee had still not informed Shorter whom they had chosen as trustees for the school. It was not until November 11 that the GBC Nominating Committee handed the list of nominees selected to the Shorter representatives at the Convention.

Dr. Ward writes, “. . . NONE of the 8 are from our list. Thus they have completely ignored our bylaw, have once again demonstrated that the Board is not independent and remains under the pressure and thumb of the GBC. This means we again have an issue with SACS.

“Rev. Mike Everson, chairman of the GBC Nominating Committee prior to reading the names of the GBC nominees, gave a “7 minute dialog” against the College and our President in particular.  . . .He also made comments about the ones which Shorter had nominated to the GBC. He said that one woman had joined a Baptist [church] recently in order to be on the Board and there was a question about how much either she or her church gave to the Cooperative Program. He also said one of our nominees only went to church a couple of times a year. Etc.  Their 8 nominees were, of course, elected.”

And so the process of electing trustees began. No longer would the trustees be vetted by Shorter. No longer was there a primary focus on the qualifications of the candidates as would best serve the institution. Trustees would now first be qualified on how much they or their churches gave to the Cooperative Program of the GBC.

For those of you who have been scratching your heads and wondering how we could get to the place in which we currently find ourselves, you must look to the beginning of the Fundamentalist take-over of Shorter.

We thank Dr. Ward for her diligence and love of Shorter and for sharing her insights with us. We hope that we can honor her memory, as we step forth in faith to declare that Shorter has always been a Christian institution of higher education.

Not once, in all of the controversy currently surrounding our beloved institution has the current administration pointed to the reason for the “need for returning Shorter to its Christian roots”. They have not. Shorter has always held to its Christian roots; it just has not sold herself to the Fundamentalist agenda. The Fundamentalists of the GBC now have complete control – not ownership, as no one owns a non-profit institution – of the school.   The agenda at Shorter is no longer the pursuit of academic excellence; the agenda is power and control disguised in the  name of Jesus Christ.

As Dr. Ward wrote, in reference to her leadership of a rapidly changing Board of Trustees, after the trustee election of 2002:

“God Bless Shorter.  God bless our Board.  And God help me to do my duty.”


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.

The Truth About the GBC/Shorter Schism

The following was written and sent to us by Jim Morris, Class of 1984, approximately 7 years ago. It was originally published in the Rome News-Tribune. Morris grew up on Shorter Hill, as his mother was on the faculty there for 46 years. In sending this information, he writes ” I want for the public to see the pattern that the GBC has exhibited over this time period so that the public understands that this pattern of deceit and unscrupulous behavior on the part of the GBC is nothing new.”  We find his words of 7 years ago quite prophetic. Thank you, Mr. Morris, for sharing this with us.

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing in response to recent publicity, exchange of letters in the Rome News-Tribune and other newspapers, and inaccurate information apparently being given to Georgia Baptist pastors, regarding Shorter College and the Georgia Baptist Convention. Many allegations have been laid forth regarding who initiated the conflict in which these two institutions are currently embroiled. I am a graduate of Shorter College and come from a long line of Shorter College graduates. I also attend and actively participate in a local church that aligns itself with the GBC. I have accumulated the following information from publicly available documents and interviews with people who have first- hand knowledge of the circumstances.

One of the most inflammatory and inaccurate allegations is that Dr. Ed Schrader came to Shorter College with the intent of separating Shorter from the GBC. This is scurrilous at best. To allude that he would come to Shorter and intentionally create the controversy in which these two institutions are involved is just flat out wrong. Dr. J. Robert White, Executive Director of the Georgia Baptist Convention and a member of the Shorter College presidential search committee in the years 1999-2000, enthusiastically supported Dr. Schrader for the position of president at that time. One would have to question the motive of those who would spread such harmful, false and unchristian tales about Dr. Schrader. Innuendo and rumor do not equal proof, no matter who starts the rumor, and there is no proof since the allegations are false.

Shorter College approached the GBC in the late 50’s to request assistance in managing some financial affairs. The college was in a difficult financial situation. The GBC agreed to partner with Shorter at that time. Part of that agreement was that the GBC would have the right to elect the Board of Trustees but the actual selection process of Trustee candidates was left up to the two groups to work out. For many years there was an amicable relationship between Shorter and the GBC regarding this process, a “give and take” if you will. The Shorter’s Trustees and administration would select two potential candidates for each opening on the board and would submit them for review and selection by the GBC.  In rare instances, the GBC would submit the name of a qualified candidate to the president of Shorter. The president would meet with that candidate, conduct interviews with him or her, interview associates and would generally, based on the outcome of those interviews approve that individual for a position for a seat on the board. It is important to note that was the same process used regardless of who nominated the candidate, the college or the GBC.

Soon after Dr. Schrader assumed the presidency of Shorter, he received a communication from Dr. J. Robert White, the Executive Director of the GBC. Dr. Schrader was told that an influential member of the GBC nominating committee, Reverend Mike Everson, wanted to meet with him. Dr. Schrader met with Mr. Everson, who proceeded to question him about his professional and personal beliefs about his vision for Shorter College. It was during this meeting that Mr. Everson stated basically, I am the “new sheriff in town” and this is the way that the Trustees for Shorter College will be selected and this is what we want them to do. He presented Dr. Schrader with a list of five candidates who were of these same political convictions as he for openings for the Shorter Board at that time. This was approximately one month prior to the time that the new board members were to be nominated.

Mr. Everson also stated that the Board members needed to be “conservative” (I take that to be in the Baptist “political” sense meaning fundamentalist) like him. He also specifically pointed out two highly qualified religion department faculty members whom he believed to be too liberal for his liking and apparently needed to seek employment elsewhere. I need to stress here that the mark of a good faculty member is the ability to be an expert teacher of their specific area of the curriculum and not what their personal beliefs may or may not be since those beliefs are not the subject of the courses to be taught.

From what I have researched, of those five candidates, two said “no” from the start. One of the candidates was out of the country and could not be contacted. One was concerned about the time issues, but agreed to be placed on the list of nominees for the following year. The remaining candidate was placed by the College on the list of potentials. The College presented its nominees to the GBC Nominating Committee containing the one remaining candidate from Mr. Everson’s list. About two weeks after this meeting, Shorter received a revised list of the candidates from the GBC. Three names were included from Mr. Everson’s list of political allies, two of whom the College had not nominated including one with whom the college’s representatives had never even spoken. Excluded from the list were former trustees of the College that the GBC had elected previously (including one previous Chairman of the Trustees), one of the best known and respected African-American Southern Baptist Pastors in the country, and several Shorter College alumni including all of the women nominated by the College. To anyone’s knowledge at the College and in its written record, this was the first time this one-sided, politically based substitution of nominees had occurred and it happened in the actual academic year that SACS was reviewing the college’s reaccreditation. A year later, after much discussion about SACS accreditation concerns and attempts by the College to reach a middle ground with the GBC, the GBC Nominating Committee refused to collaborate on any new trustee nominees and rejected all16 candidates from the College and replaced them with 8 nominees whose names were not given to the College until the night before Trustee elections at the GBC Annual Convention

All schools that have any intrinsic value in their degrees have to pass a stringent inspection every ten years by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). SACS determines a college’s ability to meet a number of requirements that primarily have to do with its ability to provide a valuable scholastic opportunity for its students. Without accreditation, a school’s diploma is virtually useless. A student would not be able to get into any type of graduate school, is not eligible for any type of Hope grants or any type of federal assistance, and the “degree” is next to useless in using with potential employers. Without accreditation, you might as well not bother.

SACS guidelines clearly state that the Board of Trustees must be able to govern without any undue outside influence. The actions of the GBC most certainly constitute that undue influence. Without SACS approval, Shorter will be just another unaccredited “Bible College” and almost 150 years of academic excellence would have been gone. Another request of the GBC’s nominating committee member was whether all faculty and staff would sign the new “Baptist Faith and Message Statement” as a condition of their employment with Shorter.  Guess what? Not everyone at Shorter is a Baptist, and they don’t need to be. For academic excellence and diversity to occur then there needs to be a wide variety of teachers with a wide variety of beliefs. That is the process of learning and is why God gave us a brain…to be able to think! The God that I understand allows me to reach conclusions and a level of comprehension that is comfortable for me. Religious and spiritual beliefs cannot be mandated. In the relationship that I have with God, He tells me that I don’t have to always agree with others, but I do have to respect their right to believe differently. Does this mean that we will always agree? Of course not, but in the academic world this is how the learning process takes place. If the GBC has its way, and the faculty and staff are required to sign the Baptist mission statement, then many well-qualified teachers will leave in droves, simply because they will be unwilling, and justifiably so, to be in an environment where intolerance is encouraged.

The general response from the GBC about the accreditation issue was “so what?”  The most probable scenario if the GBC were to win the case is that they install their own Board of Trustees, try to structure the Trustee Board as though it appears that they have not had undue outside influence, and then you will have a school with many problems: an exiting faculty, an accreditation crises, declining enrollment and bottom line, just another “Bible School” with over 100 years of academic excellence, diversity and tolerance for one’s fellow man and beliefs tossed like yesterdays garbage. Even if the GBC wins, it loses.

During this same 40-year period, the GBC donated over $ 21 million in operating expenses and scholarships.  Seven million of those dollars remain under GBC control in the Georgia Baptist Foundation.  It is noteworthy that during the time of this relationship, the annual contribution from the GBC to Shorter was an average of approximately $500,000. The College’s annual budget today, however, runs approximately $20 million annually. The Executive Director of the GBC, Dr. Robert White, in his recent editorial to the Rome News-Tribune stated that it was through this relationship that the new buildings at Shorter College were built. This is misleading at best. The buildings at Shorter were constructed through fund-raising campaigns and bond funds, some of which Shorter is still paying off.

Dr White and his colleagues at the GBC seem to have the misguided notion that they “own” Shorter College. This is a physical impossibility since Shorter is a Georgia nonprofit corporation, which can have no owner under Georgia law.  That fact has been upheld by both court rulings. With the GBC’s contributions to Shorter averaging eight percent of the operating budget, it is a little difficult for anyone to believe this idea that the GBC could have any claim to “ownership.”  The GBC is currently as close to ownership as is possible with two other schools, Brewton Parker and Truett McConnell. These are two schools that are a classic example of how not “to run a railroad.” They are in heavy debt and are consistently near the bottom of the U.S. News and World Reports annual review of Southeastern small colleges. Shorter, on the other hand, is consistently near the top. The GBC, through a power play, seeks to instill its vision for a fundamentalist school at Shorter and achieve the same result as the aforementioned schools.

Mike Everson was quoted in the Magazine Georgia Trend, that at the moment he’d be willing to let Shorter College part ways amicably with the GBC:  “It’s not worth wasting money,” Everson says. “We could go on and pour our resources into schools that are glad to be Georgia Baptist. But if Schrader goes on and keeps playing his little games and goes after our money, we’ll come after him. And when we do, this time we’re going to nail his hide.” What kind of graceful and Christian attitude is that?

Shorter College has always considered itself a Baptist school, and always will. They have been grateful for the support that the GBC has provided up till recent times and the GBC has benefited from that relationship as well, at a minimum expense to them. It is not Shorter that is “going after the GBC money” it is very much the other way around and a definite power play as well. It looks like pride will not let the GBC leaders back down now. Do they think that they have too much to lose with the other colleges that they have a relationship with now? If Shorter wins this dispute, as I pray that they do, or if the GBC were to miraculously “part ways” with Shorter, do the GBC leaders think they lose all semblance of authority with the other colleges that they have a relationship with?

I urge Shorter College stakeholders to speak to their pastor about this issue, particularly if your church is affiliated with the GBC. Let’s end this spectacle in front of the secular press and public. The Rome News-Tribune reported that Shorter College faculty has voted 99% in favor of the Trustees and the administration. My pastor and I have had to agree to disagree on this issue, but just like the issue of academic freedom and the ability to make one’s own decisions, in my church I also have the ability to disagree from time to time with the beliefs espoused there and not follow blindly.  I have specifically changed my tithe, so that no money whatsoever will go to the GBC to support their misguided tactics. I urge others to do the same. Be active in this affair. The heritage and future of a major piece of Georgia’s heritage is at stake here.

This is an unconscionable action by the GBC and must not be allowed to happen.

Jim Morris

Silver Creek, GA.


The following guest column appeared in last Sunday’s edition of the Rome News-Tribune, and is republished here by permission.

GUEST COLUMN: Shorter’s broke, Rome must help fix it
by BETTY ZANE MORRIS, Guest Columnist

BEFORE MY CHURCH had even begun last Sunday, I’d had half a dozen people ask me if I’d seen the Rome News-Tribune’s editorial, “Mostly sad for Rome,” and comment on how good it was. One said, “They came out with guns blazing!” When I was able to get home to read it for myself, I found it to be as forthright as they said, and even chilling, as we think about the devastating impact on our beloved institution, the churches, businesses, education, and all the others affected by the impending doom.

While I loudly applaud last Sunday’s editorial I would suggest that the author reexamine the statement that next fall’s enrollment figures “are likely to be roughly the same.” While it is true that we won’t really know until fall, we must consider that entire departments are practically decimated because of the requirements being forced upon faculty and staff by the current GBC administration.

For example, the School of Nursing has lost all but two of its faculty, leaving two relatively inexperienced faculty to continue the program. How will they be able to find the qualified people to restaff this program, who are also willing to sign the required Personal Lifestyle Statements? If they can’t be found, what will happen to the more than 150 the students who are enrolled in it?

The Sciences, at the foundation of the strong premed and nursing programs, will lose 7 out of 12 faculty, who are leaving after this spring. With more than 200 majors, and more faculty losses expected, how will this department be staffed fully enough to teach students in those programs and others?

How do faculty and student losses in Nursing and the Sciences affect Rome’s medical community?

ANOTHER EXAMPLE, of course, is in the School of the Arts programs. This week, a source in the Music Department revealed that last fall’s enrollment of vocal students was 83 and, of that number, only 10 plan to return next year. Of the music and theatre faculty, 12 out of 20 will be leaving. Lost will be the glorious sounds of the Shorter Chorale under Dr. Martha Shaw’s direction. Lost will be the numbers of music faculty and students who directed and enhanced the music programs of our churches. Lost will be the delight of theatrical productions that have amazed and challenged us.

How do losses in the Fine Arts affect Rome’s cultural, church and arts community?

Another example of loss is in the School of Professional Programs which, in fact, did contribute greatly to enrollment increase over the past 15 years, but now is itself suffering a significant decline (down over 300 students) in enrollment due, in part, to the inability of businesses to pay for their students to enroll in it and, now, the forced signing of “the papers”, as they’ve come to be known. The School of Business on the hill is expecting a loss of 20% or more of faculty and students for next year.

How do losses of faculty and students in these areas affect Rome’s business community? How does the loss of these numbers of individuals affect the economy of Rome and Floyd County?

IT IS ALSO IMPORTANT to note that four of the seven Deans are not returning. They are from the School of Nursing, the School of Education, the School of the Sciences, and the School of Professional Programs, leaving those programs void of the valuable leadership they have provided.

These aren’t the only losses of faculty and students — just some of the more visible ones.

What will happen when 88 percent of the highly qualified faculty who responded in the faculty survey early this spring, leave, as they reported they would do as soon as jobs became available. If recognized, quality, qualified faculty aren’t there, why would students enroll?

What a gift Dr. Donald Dowless, Dr. Nelson Price and the GBC administrators have given to the schools and universities that are inheriting the excellent faculty and students from Shorter!

Another statement that caught my attention was “Supporters of ‘Shorter as it used to be’ can probably rely on Greater Romans to help them try to catch the school if the GBC some day abandons it.”

We need to ask “Why is the community waiting until abandonment by GBC to do anything?” Why do most of the people comment on how sad the situation is, sigh resignedly, and do nothing? Do we, as a people, give up so easily?

I CONTEND that, if the current situation is any indication of Greater Romans support, it isn’t so likely that we can rely on them. I’ve been astonished that more people in Rome and surrounding communities, who have no direct connection to Shorter, haven’t spoken out. Do they not realize that there is hardly a business or institution in Rome that doesn’t have Shorter graduates in responsible positions in their employment pool? There appears to be a blind eye among most regarding the gravity of the situation for Rome’s economy, not to mention all the other facets of a community, should the institution decrease significantly in size or, God forbid, fail. There have been many letters to the editor, articles and editorials but, I believe if a count were done, a majority of these have come from alumni, current students and former faculty, not from concerned, informed citizens of Rome.

As you may know, there are some groups under the radar who are fighting vigorously for Shorter to return to the shining example of higher education that has been built since its humble, Christian beginnings at First Baptist Church in Rome in 1873. Check to see how you might join in this battle. I hope and pray that these staunch defenders of the Shorter we knew and loved will be successful.

THERE’S an old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Shorter was Christian, thriving and unbroken until the GBC took over. Soon cracks began to appear, which have now become a huge chasm. Now it is “broke.” Let’s fix it!

Betty Zane Morris of Rome taught at Shorter College for 46 years, serving on the faculty and as department chair of Communication.

Read more: – GUEST COLUMN Shorter s broke Rome must help fix it


UPDATE: The Rome News-Tribune ran a story nine years ago which runs parallel to this one.

The motto that so many Shorter College students saw every day was Lux Veritas – Light and Truth. As Save Our Shorter grows, more and more individuals are sharing their stories with us – shining light into the dark places and telling the truth about what is happening on The Hill. We are humbled and grateful to Dr. Larry Burgess for his willingness to share Light and Truth with the Save Our Shorter community.


I graduated from Shorter College in 1970, in the same class as Dr. Wayne Dempsey, who was Vice President of the college during later years when I served as a trustee under the presidency of Dr. Edward Schrader. I was taught in seminary by Dr. Larry McSwain, who would become President of Shorter prior to Dr. Schrader. I have loved Shorter from the first day I set foot on the campus in the sixties. I was thrilled when our daughter, Joanna, chose Shorter! She graduated with highest honors in Theatre in 2006.

I have served on church staff and have been pastor of churches in Kentucky, Florida, and Georgia, including seven wonderful years [1978-1985] at Fifth Avenue Baptist Church, Rome, GA. I have always seen myself as right of center politically and theologically. I held out hope through 42 years of ministry in Southern Baptist churches that the Baptist tent was large enough to include and welcome those who were left of me and right of me in theology and politics. I often warned churches in which I served that we must avoid being “more southern than Baptist and more Baptist than Christian.”  That is, loving Jesus and faithfully serving Him was our first and highest calling. We must not allow regional peculiarities or denominational distinctives to get in the way of faithfulness to Jesus. It is my conviction that words like “Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, etc.” are adjectives, not nouns. The noun is “Christian.” Some of us are “Baptist Christians” and some are “Presbyterian Christians” and so on. But first we are Christians—sold out to Jesus— and what we share in Jesus is more important than anything we differ about. The Apostle Paul risked his life to avoid there being two churches—“a Jewish Christian Church and a Gentile Christian Church.” He would cringe at what we have done since!

Dear friends whom I cherish and respect, including some with whom I studied at Shorter, decided years ago that the Southern Baptist tent was becoming an increasingly intolerant tent, a tent in which issues previously left up to local church autonomy would become issues on which churches and individuals would be forced to “toe the line” or be excluded. Those friends and many others chose to pursue alliance with the Moderate Movement in Southern Baptist life. I did not choose to go that route. I continued hopeful that a day would come when people who had nothing more in common than Jesus would be able to serve and thrive together under the Southern Baptist banner.  That day has not come as yet, and I confess that I may be naïve to believe it ever will.  However, I continue to pray for that day!

In life’s pilgrimage, one of the assignments that came my way was to serve as Trustee of Shorter. Only God knew what those years of trustee service would include. If I had known in advance, I may not have agreed to serve. Allow me to share some history which causes me to make such a statement: SACS examines each accredited school on a periodic basis, to reaffirm accreditation. In the SACS report prior to Dr. Schrader becoming President, a concern was expressed that the Trustees of Shorter were vulnerable to undue, excessive influence from an external body. The external body named was the Georgia Baptist Convention. SACS insists that a Board of Trustees be independent and autonomous, free to act in the best interest of the school. The SACS Report did not call for any action. It simply expressed the concern.

When Dr. Schrader became President, the time came for another SACS reaffirmation. Each time such a SACS review occurs, SACS appoints a different group of educators and administrators to thoroughly examine everything about the school which pertains to accreditation. That is, the group that expressed the earlier concern was NOT the same group who did the review under Dr. Schrader’s tenure. They did, however, read the earlier report, as is customary. After reading the earlier report, the team doing the review asked Dr. Schrader if anything had happened since the last review which would either affirm or deny the concern expressed. It so happens that a few weeks before Dr. Schrader was asked the question, he had met with a Douglasville pastor who had called him asking for an appointment. They shared a meal at a Cracker Barrel on I-75 on the north side of Atlanta. The pastor, quite prominent in the Georgia Baptist Convention, was very critical of Shorter. He said the whole religion faculty should be replaced. He criticized Shorter for being too liberal, too “Moderate.” He was quite confrontational and it was clear he intended to see radical changes made at Shorter.  Admittedly, I was not in the meeting at Cracker Barrel. However, Dr. Schrader shared news of the meeting with the Trustees, and he and I had several conversations about the meeting. We even shared a meal at the same Cracker Barrel and talked about the earlier encounter. Events since those conversations have only served to prove to me the accuracy of Dr. Schrader’s reports.

The next significant development was the election of Shorter Trustees at the annual meeting of the Georgia Baptist Convention. Throughout the history of the college, the process had included suggestions being sent by the college to the Nominating Committee of the Georgia Baptist Convention. Each year, twice as many suggestions would be sent as there were vacancies to fill. That is, the Nominating Committee of the convention had a list twice as long as necessary, from which they chose the candidates whom they considered to be the best choices, and those candidates were then nominated to fill the vacancies on the board. For the first time in history, all the suggestions from the college were rejected and a slate of replacement Trustees was elected by the convention. Some of those rejected had a long relationship with Shorter and some had even served well as Trustees in the past. The replacement slate was obviously representative of the most conservative element of the convention, for whom the Douglasville pastor had been a spokesperson in the meeting with Dr. Schrader.

Then came the first meeting of the Trustees after the convention elected the replacement slate.  One of the replacement trustees spoke eloquently of his embarrassment at the treatment our President received at the hands of the Douglasville pastor. He said that the pastor from Douglasville was only speaking for himself and did not speak for anyone at the convention. It was further claimed that he had “no constituency,” that he was a lone voice expressing only his one-man opinion. I was in the meeting. The replacement trustee promised that he and others would welcome steps to prevent such a threatening confrontation from happening again. He also insisted that the SACS concern was not valid and that we needed to do everything within our power to maintain relationship with the Georgia Baptist Convention. I spoke against our taking any action in that meeting concerning Shorter’s relationship with the Georgia Baptist Convention, as I thought it was too early to tell what shape that relationship would take in the new context in which we were serving.  Action was delayed/tabled.

Then came shocking news! A few weeks after the meeting described in the previous paragraph, I and others received news that the Douglasville pastor had just been elected as the next Chairman of the Nominating Committee of the Georgia Baptist Convention. That is, the very man who had so crudely confronted Dr. Schrader had now been rewarded for what he had done, and he would lead the very group who decided who gets nominated for any trustee position in the future, not just of Shorter but of all Georgia Baptist institutions. He obviously was not acting and speaking only for himself. He obviously did “have a constituency,” a powerful and calculating constituency who was now putting him in an extremely influential and powerful position. He in fact was being recognized and rewarded for the confrontation with Dr. Schrader. I realized that the promises made in the previous Trustee meeting were either intentionally misleading or totally ignorant. I felt betrayed, because I had so wanted to believe what was said by the replacement trustee. I later shared a parable with the trustees at the meeting in which we voted to break with the Georgia Baptist Convention. The parable is original with me and was not shared with anyone before the meeting, not even with Dr. Schrader. THE PARABLE—Imagine that you are in your house and it is set afire by an arsonist. At the moment that your house is burning, well-dressed, articulate, convincing representatives from the fire department enter your house and tell you, “Do not worry about this arsonist. We know how to deal with his kind. He is acting alone, is an independent fire-brand, and we are embarrassed that you are going through this. We will handle this and it will not happen again.” However, some time passes and not only is your house still burning, but those same well-dressed, articulate representatives of the fire department return to your house to reveal to you that the arsonist has just been named Fire Chief. When you protest, they respond that upon further reflection, they are convinced that the arsonist is in fact a fair and just man, and he will certainly do a good job with his new assignment. As the old saying goes, “I was born at night, but not last night!”  I see representatives who are still well-dressed and articulate, but THEY ARE NO LONGER CONVINCING!

Next, SACS gave the Trustees a deadline to take action, that the autonomy of the Board would be assured.  If we did not take action, SACS threatened putting Shorter on probation, a step short of losing accreditation. Such a threat was quite sobering. I called Morris Brown College in Atlanta, which had lost accreditation in 2002, to ask them how serious the matter was. They had 2,500 students in 2002. When I called, they were down to 300 students. Enrollment figures from the internet for 2009— 240 students. It was obvious to me that if Shorter were put on probation or were to lose accreditation, Shorter would be in the same terrible predicament as Morris Brown. LET THE NUMBERS SINK IN—2,500 DOWN TO 300 AND THEN DOWN TO 240!

The Trustees proposed a compromise to the Georgia Baptist Convention, which SACS agreed to accept if approved by both bodies [i.e. the Shorter Board and the Georgia Baptist Convention].  The compromise called for a meeting each year of representatives from the college and from the convention. Before the meeting, each of the two bodies would come up with a list of proposed Trustees. In the meeting, the representatives would stay however long they had to stay in order to sort through the suggestions from both bodies and come up with an approved list, double the number needed for that year. Then that list would be presented to the Nominating Committee of the Convention, and they would choose the half to actually nominate for election at the annual meeting of the Convention. The Trustees approved the compromise. The Georgia Baptist Convention did NOT approve. They claimed the compromise would force them to surrender autonomy. I personally called the Executive Director of the Georgia Baptist Convention, and I pointed out that we were dealing with three bodies, each of which claimed autonomy—Shorter Trustees, the Georgia Baptist Convention, and SACS. If we were to continue to have relationship with each other, some measure of autonomy had to be relinquished, as is true in any  relationship of equals. To this day, I do not see how the compromise would have resulted in relinquishment of essential autonomy by the Convention. They would have still made the final election of all Trustees. But the compromise was rejected and thus we still faced the SACS threat.

A very interesting vignette occurred about this time. Those of us who were perceived to not be supportive of the Convention received a letter from the Convention’s lawyers asking for a list of all our assets [bank accounts, investments, houses, retirement accounts, etc.] The letter said we may be held financially accountable if the Convention lost Shorter. The threat was also spoken in a Trustee Meeting by one of the Convention-friendly Trustees. This scenario was a breach of ethics in at least two ways—[1] As soon as a person or entity secures legal representation in a dispute, it is considered a breach of legal ethics for the lawyers to try to contact the litigants directly. The contacts must be made through the lawyers. Thankfully, to my knowledge, no Trustee submitted to the request for financial info. Again, remember, the Convention CLAIMED that they always left Trustees free to carry out their jobs as they felt led. No undue influence, no threats, no pressure.  [2] Trustees are legally empowered to lead and represent a college as they feel led, and they are protected from liability and reprisal unless they are guilty of serious dereliction of duty. The threat from the Convention lawyers was totally inappropriate. I know of no Trustee who sided with the Convention who has suffered reprisal. My family personally suffered reprisal, including my wife being fired from her position with the Georgia Baptist Convention, though all involved admitted that she had done a remarkable job in her assignment.  She was fired due to a “conflict of interest,” identified as her being married to a Trustee who had not sided with the Convention. She was then replaced by the wife of one of the men who voted to fire her, and that was not considered a “conflict of interest.”

SACS gave the Trustees a final deadline of December 31 of that year to take satisfactory action to assure autonomy of the Trustees. Thus, we were led to the fateful vote to break ties with the Georgia Baptist Convention, which was actually two votes. The Executive Committee of the Trustees made two recommendations to the Trustees—[1] To remain a Baptist school but to break ties with the Georgia Baptist Convention;  [2] To take all legal action necessary to gain access to funds held in the Georgia Baptist Foundation which had been given specifically for Shorter College [i.e. to take the Georgia Baptist Convention to court to recover the designated funds]. I voted YES with a heavy heart on the first recommendation, as I was convicted that my first responsibility as a Trustee was not to the Convention but to Shorter, to protect the integrity/strength of the school [and to prevent the repeat of the Morris Brown experience]. I voted with a heavy heart as I had hoped for a resolution which would maintain the relationship between the school and the convention, and I felt that I had done everything I could to accomplish that but had been unsuccessful. I voted NO on the second recommendation, due to my conviction that I Corinthians 6:1-8 prohibits lawsuits between Christians. I knew Shorter needed the money in question, but I was convicted that my greater responsibility was to honor the Scripture and trust God to provide the necessary funding for the college. THE FIRST VOTE PASSED BY A MARGIN OF ABOUT 19 TO 11. I CANNOT REMEMBER THE EXACT NUMBERS. WHAT SHOCKED ME IS THAT THE SECOND VOTE PASSED BY A CONSIDERABLY LARGER MARGIN, ABOUT 24 TO 6. I WAS ESPECIALLY CONFUSED AFTER THE MEETING WHEN I DISCOVERED THAT FIVE OF US VOTED THE SAME WAY I DID, “YES” ON THE FIRST VOTE AND “NO” ON THE SECOND VOTE. THAT SAID TO ME THAT THE SECOND VOTE SHOULD HAVE FAILED. THE 19 “YES” WOULD HAVE BECOME 14, AND THE 11 “NO” WOULD HAVE BECOME 16—A VOTE OF 14 YES AND 16 NO. THE EXACT NUMBERS MAY BE WRONG, BUT THE POINT REMAINS—HOW COULD THE SECOND VOTE EXCEED THE FIRST VOTE, WHEN I KNOW OF FIVE WHO VOTED NO ON THE SECOND RECOMMENDATION BUT WHO HAD VOTED YES ON THE FIRST ONE? I REMAINED PUZZLED UNTIL A FEW WEEKS LATER.

During those weeks, the now independent Board of Trustees had elected a new slate of Trustees, including some who were not Baptist but in my judgment were excellent choices. By a large majority, the Board was still predominantly Baptist. The Georgia Baptist Convention rejected the validity of the election of the new Trustees, and they selected their own slate of Trustees [who were not recognized by Shorter]. We were at a predictable impasse!

The court case began, with the Convention claiming that they were only in court because Shorter had fired the first volley with our vote to take them to court. I read an article in the Atlanta Journal/Constitution which made that very claim. The claim was also made in “The Christian Index,” the newspaper of the Georgia Baptist Convention. Technically, they were right, but I still knew something was strange, perhaps even wrong, about the second vote. I again called the Executive Director of the Convention and suggested that if we honored the Scriptures we both said we believed, we would not be in court. I had talked with Dr. Schrader before I made the call. He gave me permission to suggest a “solution” to the litigation over the money. The suggestion was to have the college and the convention appoint representatives, give them the power of binding arbitration, and then those two groups would meet until they came up with an agreement as to what would be done with the funds in question. My suggestion was summarily rejected by the Georgia Baptist Convention Executive Director, with a reminder that “the convention was only in court because Shorter forced the issue.”

It was also during those first weeks after the Trustee vote to separate from the Georgia Baptist Convention that I discovered from multiple sources, including one Trustee who sided with the Convention, that there had been separate meetings going on for some time of the Trustees who sided with the Convention. They were meeting regularly and were sworn to absolute secrecy about the existence and content of those meetings. FINALLY, MY PUZZLEMENT MENTIONED ABOVE, BEGAN TO CLEAR UP. Remember, the Convention claimed all along that they NEVER sought to control how Trustees functioned. They claimed to have NEVER done anything to make SACS question the independence and autonomy of the Trustees. They said they simply elected them and let them do their job. I WONDER NOW HOW THEY MADE AND CONTINUE TO MAKE THAT CLAIM WITH A STRAIGHT FACE!

During this period, I spoke with a pastor who strongly sided with the Convention. I had been told that he was offended by me, and I called seeking understanding and reconciliation. However, I found him to be the most unreasonable person with whom I have ever spoken. He told me that my only role as a Trustee was to support the Convention. My guess is that SACS would disagree. He also asked if my daughter had received any scholarship money from Shorter. I told him she had, as she had a 4.0 average in high school and very deservedly received a scholarship. He accused me of selling my vote for a scholarship. That conversation did not go well! I concluded the conversation by saying, “I have one God to Whom I answer, and his name is not Fred! This conversation is done!”


One clarification. I was close to Dr. Schrader. We met fairly often. He asked me for advice on a variety of issues. He NEVER EVEN ONCE told me how to vote on anything, and he NEVER EVEN ONCE asked me to consider voting in any particular way. I know that my “NO” vote on the second issue was not what he would have preferred. I voted out of personal conviction, nothing more and nothing less, which is what I understand the role of a Trustee to be. Furthermore, there were no separate meetings of Trustees favorable to the college’s position. We NEVER met separately and we were NEVER instructed in anyway how to vote on anything.

Several years have passed. And there is much more to a long story, much of which I do not claim to understand. I do know more than I wish I knew about retribution toward those of us who did not side with the Convention. The convention won in court, by one vote in the Georgia Supreme Court. If just one justice had voted differently, Shorter would have won. But we lost, and now you who are presently fighting for your convictions know the contemporary story better than do I. I am no longer “in the loop,” but I certainly understand something of what you who are “in the loop” feel. My prayers go with you!!!

Rev. Larry T. Burgess

Shorter College, Class of 1970

Former Trustee, Shorter College

Back to Our Roots

On Sunday afternoon, April 1, Dr. Don Dowless released a statement through the Rome News-Tribune.  In his statement Dowless addressed an earlier RN-T article regarding the results of a survey sent to full-time faculty by a group named the Committee for Integrity.

In the article Dowless made a number of gross misstatements.  Dowless was, in fact, aware of how the survey was conducted and did know how the results of the survey were tabulated.  Dowless was clearly aware of the contents of the letter accompanying the survey. Anticipating an objection to the way the survey was conducted, the Committee for Integrity chose to have the letter inform the faculty members that Reed, Martin and Slickman, CPA had mailed the survey forms and letters; enclosed was a self-addressed stamped envelope that was addressed to the firm’s office.  Shortly thereafter, the CPA firm received a letter from Shorter’s attorney.  Either Dr. Dowless has an attorney that acts without instruction from his client or Dowless knew precisely how the survey was being conducted.

In his statement, Dowless did as the GBC, Nelson Price and Shorter Board of Trustees Chair Joe Frank Harris Jr. are wont to do. He deflected the issues of the survey results entirely and addressed the Board’s desire to return Shorter to its Christian roots.

We strenuously object to the notion that the Shorter Board of Trustees and Dowless needed to return Shorter to anything. Shorter was founded as a Christian school and is today a Christian school. Perhaps Dowless and the board should learn a bit about the institution before they make such rash claims.

When, in 1836, Shorter (then Cherokee Baptist Female Seminary) was founded, it clearly had ties to the Georgia Baptist Convention. The Georgia Baptists, however, did not support the school with enough money to keep it viable. The school was sold to Alfred Shorter and a group of Rome businessmen in 1877.  For 25 years, the school operated as a Christian institution until in 1902, it re-affiliated with the GBC.  That relationship was short-lived.  In 1914, when again, the GBC failed to live up to its financial obligations, Azor Van Hoose removed Shorter from the GBC.

From 1914 to 1958, Shorter remained a Christian school. The Christian ethos was a part of Shorter’s identity – so much so that in 1958, when the school became over-extended, the Georgia Baptists were more than happy to re-affiliate with Shorter.  There was no need to have professors sign Personal Lifestyle statements or pledge to integrate the Christian faith into their classrooms. They lived a Christian life every day.

For many years, prospective employees have been asked to give a personal accounting of their faith. Surely, in all this time, administrators must have turned away the prospects who did not clearly hold Christian values. The difference, however, was that what previous presidents were looking for were Christian, not necessarily Georgia Baptist, employees.

Those administrators were wise enough to realize that to be a Christian was enough. Whether an individual chose to practice their faith as a Catholic, as a Methodist, as a Presbyterian, as an Episcopalian or any other Christian denomination was not the focus of the hire. The focus was simply on upholding Christian values.

When, in 1958, Dr Minor chose to re-affiliate the school with the Georgia Baptists, there was no murmur in the community. The Georgia Baptists of 1958 were far different than the Fundamentalist power running the GBC today.  They lived peaceably with their fellow Christians.  They respected the values of others. They realized that we are called to practice our faith in our own way.

Ostensibly, that is what the Baptists practice today. The Baptist Faith and Message states in part:

1) That they constitute a consensus of opinion of some Baptist body, large or small, for the general instruction and guidance of our own people and others concerning those articles of the Christian faith which are most surely held among us. They are not intended to add anything to the simple conditions of salvation revealed in the New Testament, viz., repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord.

(2) That we do not regard them as complete statements of our faith, having any quality of finality or infallibility. As in the past so in the future, Baptists should hold themselves free to revise their statements of faith as may seem to them wise and expedient at any time.

(3) That any group of Baptists, large or small, have the inherent right to draw up for themselves and publish to the world a confession of their faith whenever they may think it advisable to do so.

(4) That the sole authority for faith and practice among Baptists is the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Confessions are only guides in interpretation, having no authority over the conscience.

(5) That they are statements of religious convictions, drawn from the Scriptures, and are not to be used to hamper freedom of thought or investigation in other realms of life.

Baptists cherish and defend religious liberty, and deny the right of any secular or religious authority to impose a confession of faith upon a church or body of churches. We honor the principles of soul competency and the priesthood of believers, affirming together both our liberty in Christ and our accountability to each other under the Word of God.

These are the principles under which Shorter faculty and staff have always lived and worked. They have never added more than repentance to God and faith in Jesus Christ. They have never assumed that the statements of faith were final or infallible. As academics, they believed in the idea that religious convictions were not to be used to hamper freedom of thought or investigation into other realms of life. And they believed that each person was not to be responsible to anyone other than his or her God.

Shorter has never changed. It is the Georgia Baptist Convention, channeled through Nelson Price, Don Dowless and the Shorter Board of Trustees that has changed.

Shorter doesn’t need to be led back to its Christian roots. It has never left them.

Meanwhile, the faculty continues to leave in droves.