Who Is the Master at Master’s University and Seminary?

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Joel Shaffer's picture

If MacArthur’s comments to the seminarians in August are any indication, the institution has a long way to go. The university and seminary are required by the accreditor to give notice if placed on probation. But MacArthur told students that the university’s accreditation struggles were, essentially, none of their business.

"I'm gonna be real honest with you," he said. "You didn't have any right to find out about anything. That's not your responsibility."

In his remarks he referred to a Bible passage from the Book of Proverbs.

"There are things that God hates, right?" MacArthur said. "One of them is the one who stirs up strife," he said, urging students to keep their complaints within the university and seminary.

"Keep your mouth shut," he said. "Don't stir up strife. You don't know the whole story."

WallyMorris's picture

I wouldn't be so quick to condemn a situation where very few on this site have personal knowledge of the current situation at TMS. Secondhand info from friends and other sources is often unreliable and biased. Part of the problem with social media is the assumption of omniscience from those who actually have little accurate information or knowledge. If TMS has legitimate problems, they will be dealt with. They don't need our help.

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

amomentofcharity.blogspot.com

TylerR's picture

Editor

You are absolutely correct! 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

pvawter's picture

WallyMorris wrote:

I wouldn't be so quick to condemn a situation where very few on this site have personal knowledge of the current situation at TMS. Secondhand info from friends and other sources is often unreliable and biased. Part of the problem with social media is the assumption of omniscience from those who actually have little accurate information or knowledge. If TMS has legitimate problems, they will be dealt with. They don't need our help.

Yeah, but how will we fuel social media outrage without hastily formed and mostly uninformed opinions to spew?

Joel Shaffer's picture

My son attends Wheaton College and the costs for tuition and room and board is approximately the same ($48,000). If one of the region's leading accrediting agencies put Wheaton on probation, and its president was circling the wagons and placing blame on outsiders rather than owning up to some of their mistakes, I'd have several red flags too and I would strongly encourage my son to find another place to spend his and our money for college, especially if the president was saying that its none of their/our business.  Maybe he was trying to deal with gossip (which is understandable).  But it comes across as someone who doesn't value accountability. 

For the past 15 years, I've been the executive director of a non-profit organization (Urban Transformation Ministries) and served on two different non-profit boards) and have spent a considerable amount of time understanding and distinguishing best practices of a non-profit board from questionable ethical practices.   Some of the things that were report on Masters College and Seminary   (https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/5022278-TMUS-Team-Report-by-WASC...) are pretty straight forward questionable ethical practices (Nepotism and Conflict of Interests) that need corrected-which I believe they are in the process of doing, although begrudgingly.   

Wayne Wilson's picture

Joel Shaffer wrote:

If MacArthur’s comments to the seminarians in August are any indication, the institution has a long way to go. The university and seminary are required by the accreditor to give notice if placed on probation. But MacArthur told students that the university’s accreditation struggles were, essentially, none of their business.

"I'm gonna be real honest with you," he said. "You didn't have any right to find out about anything. That's not your responsibility."

In his remarks he referred to a Bible passage from the Book of Proverbs.

"There are things that God hates, right?" MacArthur said. "One of them is the one who stirs up strife," he said, urging students to keep their complaints within the university and seminary.

"Keep your mouth shut," he said. "Don't stir up strife. You don't know the whole story."

Joel, I agree about the red flags.  Dr. MacArthur's chapel talk is disturbing on many levels, and was concerning to at least some in attendance.  But on a positive note, insiders at TMU have told me this whole mess has led to very good discussions among faculty and leadership. There has been genuine repentance expressed by some who have been a part of the problems (which are very real).  

Praying for the best for two biblically faithful institutions. It's an important time.   

 

Joel Shaffer's picture

Joel, I agree about the red flags.  Dr. MacArthur's chapel talk is disturbing on many levels, and was concerning to at least some in attendance.  But on a positive note, insiders at TMU have told me this whole mess has led to very good discussions among faculty and leadership. There has been genuine repentance expressed by some who have been a part of the problems (which are very real).  

Praying for the best for two biblically faithful institutions. It's an important time.   

Great to Hear.  Too bad the article wasn't able to express that side of the story as well.

Bert Perry's picture

Nonsense.  Listen to the recording.  Now I don't have the hour to spend on it, but those who claim it's "just social media furor" are wrong here.  If you like, listen for yourself and ask yourself whether MacArthur said it or not.   It's either true or false, in context or out of context.  And either those comments reflect an institution whose leadership is humbly dealing with the accreditation report, or they do not.  Moreover, either those comments reflect a leader who values the best interests of the students' right to an accredited degree, or they do not.

Big, big red flags on all sides here, because accreditation, and its importance, affects everyone from the CEO down to the janitor.  MacArthur had no business blaming the devil for acts that TMC either did or did not do, and he had no business telling students it was none of their business.  As Joel noted, it is their business to the tune of $48,000 per year and the value of their degrees, and at least one person who was there demonstrated that reality by recording MacArthur's comments.  

Which is probably the biggest red flag of all, really. 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Joeb's picture

Joel is correct it is the Students business since their tuition money is being spent to keep the Institution going.  Especially at that price.

 I paid for two at Gordon so I say Joel is spot on.  The students are the customers so they should know.

I think a lot of these Christian Schools are going to struggle financially over the next decade.  In my mind they priced themselves out of the market. I hold the same opinion about my College Drexel.  They want 60 Gs a year and Drexel is no Ivy League School.  

Now a plug for BJU.  Myself included in this statement. People  can have their criticisms of BJU, but the school in my opinion offers the best bang for your buck academically then all the other Christian Educational Institutions out there period.   

 

Jay's picture

As Joel noted, it is their business to the tune of $48,000 per year and the value of their degrees, and at least one person who was there demonstrated that reality by recording MacArthur's comments.  

Which is probably the biggest red flag of all, really. 

Yeah, when things are so far gone that you feel like you have to record what is said (either as proof that they actually said something or as proof that you're telling the truth), things have gone seriously awry.

It's typical for most nonprofits to founder once the original founder steps away - it's called Founders' Syndrome, and I think something like 80% of NPOs go through it - but this seems to be more than that, which is a shame.  I wonder, as well, if this is a similar situation with most Fundamentalist institutions losing their constituency after the end of CDS movement.  Either way, it's a reason to pray.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

mmartin's picture

Joel Shaffer wrote:

For the past 15 years, I've been the executive director of a non-profit organization (Urban Transformation Ministries) and served on two different non-profit boards) and have spent a considerable amount of time understanding and distinguishing best practices of a non-profit board from questionable ethical practices.   Some of the things that were report on Masters College and Seminary   (https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/5022278-TMUS-Team-Report-by-WASC...) are pretty straight forward questionable ethical practices (Nepotism and Conflict of Interests) that need corrected-which I believe they are in the process of doing, although begrudgingly.   

I read part of the document Joel provided a link to.  I went to the section titled "Findings, Commendations, and Recommendations."  Based on this document, which was prepared by a committee of non-TMU personnel, I would have to say that TMU is not in a good position.  This report references nepotism, hostile behavior towards those that speak-up, multiple instances of conflict of interest at the senior management level, and a general toxic work environment.  The list of recommendations starting on page 42 are appalling.  

On page 40 there is this quote. "When one leader explained to the review team that if individuals are committed to an institution's values, salary increases become less important, it was disturbing,"  While I do not know this situation that sounds to me as the mindset of a leader and organization that is out-of-touch and obtuse.

I know very, very little about TMU or John MacAurthur.  But, when I read this document prepared by a third-party entity, to me this speaks of an organization that has a toxic work culture and a lack of true leadership.  I would not want to work there.

Reading this document, I am reminded of working for three years at a ministry that had the most bizarre and toxic culture and leadership personality I've ever encountered.  While I am grateful for what I learned there (as in, to be a good leader, do the opposite of this guy), I still shudder inside about working at that place and for that man.

Lastly, I don't know if this IS the case at TMU, but this document seems to describe your typical, old, fundamentalist-ish organization founded around a "Big Man" who has been in leadership for decades, where people are expected to know their place without question, where senior leaders are paid well enough - but not so much for folks down the line, isolated from and resistant to general business best-practices, and management by fear and bullying.

Bert Perry's picture

...is one of the biggest reasons that a lot of companies require their vendors to be ISO certified, and why smart young people ought to require a college to be accredited.   They know that they can deal with the founder now, but they know that as the founder gets "set in his ways", or worse yet gets hit by a bus or a winning lottery ticket, there will be a leadership transition.  And in that way, smart companies insist their vendors get their business practices in writing.  Then the new leader simply starts working with the new documents instead of trying to create things from scratch.  

Obviously, headstrong business leaders often try to "trick" the ISO certification process into allowing them huge latitude in action, so you've got to take certification seriously for it to work.  Part of the genius of a good auditor, therefore, is to know where to look to find the "hidden factory" that exists contrary to the ISO systems.

In this case, there are troubling signs that Master's may have a heavy dose of this.  Hopefully this is either incorrect, or resolveable.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture

Editor

My understanding is that MacArthur is leaving the presidency relatively soon. I think they'll address the issues raised by the accrediting organization and move forward in a constructive direction. I'm not worried. We may send our oldest son there for undergrad in three years. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Bert Perry's picture

Tyler, read the link Jay provides--the key issue for getting things accredited properly (as opposed to accreditation for marketing purposes only) is to come to grips with the reality of personalities and separate corporate operation from undue influence by them.  If MacArthur steps down, THEN they start fixing their procedures, you've really got the worst of all worlds--a lack of leadership, the culture a flawed leader created, and huge changes in procedures. 

One of the most powerful things with accreditation is the Christian doctrine of repentance, actually.  Conversely, you generally do not solve problems raised by accreditors by firing people unless that is the last resort.  The whole point is to drive repentance and cultural change, and firings simply eliminate the people who know and understand the problems best.

No ill will to anyone here, but you won't see more red flags except at May Day parades, sad to say. 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

WallyMorris's picture

Apparently no one is immune to the all-knowing opinions and advice regularly offered by individuals in forums such as SI. Strange how one week a Christian is lauded and praised and the next week that same Christian is thoroughly condemned.

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

amomentofcharity.blogspot.com

Joeb's picture

Hey Wally a Christian College is a non profit business not a church.  The Management Of such an entity is still run by Humans who are flawed and saved by our Lord at the same time. They are talking about the flaws but also discussing basic management principals.  No one is going out of the way barbecue anyone.  So take it easy. Your becoming like me you better be careful it could be contiguous.  I’m the one who gets out of step on SI.  

Besides in this area Bert is probably the best one on SI to address the issues in this thread.  If a Christian Educational institution is having financial problems and needs to transition from a Founder they need people like Bert to do such a transition.  

Jim's picture

WallyMorris wrote:

Apparently no one is immune to the all-knowing opinions and advice regularly offered by individuals in forums such as SI. Strange how one week a Christian is lauded and praised and the next week that same Christian is thoroughly condemned.

Has an auditor ever audited your church's books?

Institutions should be accountable to their stakeholders!

This should be read!!!

https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/5022278-TMUS-Team-Report-by-WASC...

Jay's picture

Apparently no one is immune to the all-knowing opinions and advice regularly offered by individuals in forums such as SI.

And this includes yourself, of course?  #askingforafriend

Strange how one week a Christian is lauded and praised and the next week that same Christian is thoroughly condemned.

Well, if they run an educational institution that is under scrutiny for not doing a good job, then yes.  There’s a long list of believers that made massive mistakes in their life and ministry, starting with Noah, Abram and Moses.  Should I list some more?

All I know is that if you are trying to convince me to entrust my kids’ souls to you for education along with six figures worth of tuition, room, board, etc, you’d better believe that I want to know everything is legitimate and clean.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Bert Perry's picture

WallyMorris wrote:

Apparently no one is immune to the all-knowing opinions and advice regularly offered by individuals in forums such as SI. Strange how one week a Christian is lauded and praised and the next week that same Christian is thoroughly condemned.

Wally, you remind me of a joke that  former Penn State and NFL lineman (and current math PhD candidate) John Urschel once told.  There are two kinds of people; those who can extrapolate from incomplete data.

Point being that given that you can never have "all the facts", we are stuck in the water if we wait for all of them to come in.  News flash; they won't.  And in this case, the known facts are pretty straightforward.  Either Masters' had a quorum on the board that relied on John MacArthur for their mortgage payment, or they didn't.  Now that this recording has come out, there is another set of straightforward questions.  Did he say these things, or not?  Do they indicate Masters' is taking their accreditation probation seriously, or not?  Do the students have cause to be concerned that the degrees they're hoping to earn will be worth less because of these issues?

You could theoretically deal with the situation by having MacArthur step down (then the board isn't relying on the President for their mortgage payments), but a smart accrediting agency is going to see that an influential guy like MacArthur is going to cast a long shadow even though he's not in the big office anymore.  It's a mess that, unless those listening to the recording and the accrediting agency are feeding us a line, is going to take some real repentance to deal with properly. 

And since, unlike Joel, I have no immediate anticipation of the fracas at Masters' becoming immediately significant to me (though my daughter did tell me last night she'd love to have some seminary level education), the question that comes to my mind is simple; What can I learn about the institutions I cherish from this fracas?

My answer is simple, and it's basically Jim's.  If I value the institutions of which I am a part, I'm going to work to make sure that their governance is healthy, and that in key areas, like finances, they're reasonably open.  Put gently, bad things (like the Masters' allegations) happen when nobody thinks anyone is watching.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Joel Shaffer's picture

Bert, it is Tyler's kid that will probably go to Masters not mine.  But besides that small minor detail, I agree with everything you said.  

Bert Perry's picture

....when he gets to grad school, right, Joel?  :^)

Seriously, thank you for the correction.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Bert Perry's picture

More or less dealing with the handling of student loans, and the federal regulations that accompany acceptance of federal student aid.  What it means is that there are certain things they need to do to adhere to best practices in education, and Joe is correct that they need to have John MacArthur cede a great deal of authority to some folks who really, really understand these things.  (contrary to Joe, though, I'd have a steep learning curve, as I simply understand an analogous accreditation or two)

First, second.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.