October 23, 2000
BOT considering 60 percent goal
By Jan Gleason & Elaine Justice
Related closely to Methodism by history, charter, and tradition, Emory
has nurtured that relationship over the years in many ways. Last July,
in a continuation of a custom that goes back to the Universitys
founding in 1915, University administrators, faculty, and students reported
on the state of the University to the Southeastern Jurisdictional (SEJ)
Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Held every four years at Lake Junaluska, N.C., the SEJ Conference brings
together delegates from nine states to elect bishops and decide church
policy. The conference also provides an opportunity for the University
to celebrate with Methodist laity and clergy Emorys accomplishments
since the previous meeting, and to inform the church of ways in which
the Universitys work complements that of the church.
A direct descendant of the former Methodist Episcopal Church, South,
which founded the University in 1914-15, the SEJ has a charter relationship
to the University. Emorys 1915 charter, revised subsequent to the
Methodist church Unions of 1939 and 1968, grants the SEJ authority to
ratify the Emory boards election of new trustees, remove trustees
for cause, and approve changes in the charter. According to Gary Hauk,
secretary of the University, the conference has always looked favorably
on new trustees elected by the board and has never sought to remove a
Given the different missions of the church and the University, tensions
sometimes have arisen within the bodies overlapping constituencies.
When conservative elements of Southern Methodism, for instance, complained
loudly about Modernist teachings in the theology school in
the 1920s, Bishop (and also University Chancellor) Warren Candler stood
by the faculty. Candler and his son-in-law, Professor Andrew Sledd, incurred
suspicion and enmity from around the South by writing essays condemning
the practice of lynching. The Methodist layman who chaired Emorys
board in 1965 and the Methodist clergyman who was then dean of the theology
school stood firmly behind the academic freedom of Emory College Professor
Thomas J. J. Altizer during the God Is Dead controversy.
At the SEJ conference this past July, resolutions hostile to Emory had
been proposed by a small number of delegates. Among those were resolutions
which called for the dismissal of Susan Henry-Crowe as dean of the chapel,
the repeal of insurance benefits to same-sex partners, and the prohibition
of the use of United Methodist property on campus by non-Christian groups
for worship services. To help move the conversation in a more positive
direction, the leadership of Emorys board of trustees offered a
covenant, pending approval by the full board, to foster healthy communication
among all boards and committees involved in the election and confirmation
of trustees for Emory. The covenant was intended to inform the conference
delegates of current practices of the Universitys Board of Trustees
in relating to the church. The covenant was approved by the conference
as a guiding document on July 12 and is now the subject of consideration
by the Universitys Board of Trustees.
Seeking to honor the principles implicit in Emorys charter, the
covenant reflects current practices of the University: (1) maintaining
healthy communication between the SEJ and Emory; (2) having United Methodist
trustees on the boards Committee on Governance, Trusteeship, and
Nominations; (3) providing information to the SEJ Conference on those
elected as Emory trustees, and affirming their support of the historic
relationship between the University and the church; and (4) encouraging
United Methodist trustees to review with the whole board issues facing
the church that are important to Emory. The cove-nants new proposal,
to work toward a board whose membership is 60 percent United Methodist,
is now under discussion by Emory trustees.
Emorys long and healthy relationship with the United Methodist
Church has required frequent dialogue about the respective needs and aspirations
of the church and the University, said Gary Hauk, University secretary.
This relationship has been marked by a respect for academic freedom
The Universitys Board of Trustees has historically been made
up of a majority of trustees who were United Methodists, said Trustee
Ben F. Johnson III. At present, half are United Methodists. The
covenant proposal regarding the 60 percent goal is a reflection of the
SEJs desire to insure continuing dialogue with Emory through its
Board of Trustees. Both Emory and the Methodist leadership on the Board
are committed to increasing the dialogue and are studying ways to achieve
our common goals in that regard. While we understand the need for a continuing
dialogue with the Church, we also understand the need for Emory to have
the strongest possible Board, and we are all committed to working together
to achieve both ends.
I felt very supported by the covenant that was offered by the trustee
leadership, said Dean of the Chapel Susan Henry-Crowe. Its
my sense that this proposed covenant does not signal any changes in Emorys
policies or practices or our ecumenical approach to religious life on
campus. If we did have a board that was 60 percent United Methodist, that
doesnt mean they would vote as a monolithic block.
While there are broad and diverse opinions within the church and among its lay leaders on many issues thats consistent with the Methodist tradition of free-thinking, which the Methodist Church has upheld at Emory since its founding.