On March 20, 2006, the monthly preachers/elders meeting occurred at the Hillview church of Christ's building. Over 70 concerned preachers and members of the church met with the new president of Ohio Valley University, James Johnson. Dan Kessinger of St. Mary's, W.Va., organized and moderated this meeting, and those who attended were able to ask Johnson about the direction in which OVU is going.
Johnson started his part of the meeting by giving the audience some background information on himself. He was raised in a preacher's family and has preached some himself. In college, he studied education in order to become a professor. Johnson has worked with several universities, including Lubbock Christian University, Odessa, Texas A&M, and Georgia University. He worked with LCU on two different occasions; the second time he was a vice president.
Johnson also spoke of his philosophy in approaching Christian education. He stated that three things will happen while he is at OVU: chapel will be required, all faculty will be members of the church, and all students will take Bible. He then stated his mission was to "transform lives for the kingdom."
After this, there was a lively session of questions and answers. Terry Varner of Marietta, Ohio, started the questions by asking if OVU was going to separate from the "change agents" in the church. Varner mentioned specific names of those who have had and currently have connection with OVU. Johnson answered that he did not know the people and situations of which Varner was speaking. Mike Moss, the head of the Bible department at OVU, was one of the men Varner mentioned. Johnson stated that he thought Moss was sound and conservative. Johnson said he could not "repent" of OVU's association with those labeled as "change agents" because "I don't know what I'm repenting of." He continued to say that everyone in the church needs to repent of creating factions.
Charles Pugh of New Martinsville, W.Va., asked if OVU would publicly commit to baptism, a cappella music, male leadership of the church, and maintaining that the church is not a denomination. Johnson said, "James Johnson believes in all these things," but went on to say that he could not speak for the university. Phil Grear of Springfield, Ohio, asked if faculty who did not believe in baptism would be retained, and Johnson answered that they would not. Kessinger also asked if Johnson could dismiss faculty over these issues, and Johnson said he could. He then explained the system he would have to go through to dismiss members of the faculty who did not uphold the tenets Pugh mentioned.
Other questions were raised concerning a capella music and the division in 1906 and Abilene Christian University's apologizing to the Christian Church for that division. Johnson made it clear that he did not agree with these things but did not comment concerning how OVU viewed what is happening within the brotherhood.
Glenn Hawkins of Massillon, Ohio, asked if OVU would be able to restore confidence in members of the church in the area. Kessinger brought up cases stating that evolution was being taught as fact, as well as present-day miracles, in classrooms at OVU. Johnson answered that if this occurs, the faculty member who teaches these things will be terminated. Other cases concerning false teaching occurring at OVU were presented. Johnson said that all the cases he was aware of have already been addressed.
Many brought up questions concerning the OVU lectureship. Arnie Goodnight of Moundsville, W.Va., stated that a separation occurred 20 years ago when OVU had unfaithful speakers on their lectureship. Denver Cooper, of Moundsville, added that the past administration had ignored the local churches and preachers who had concerns about speakers at OVU's lectureships. Johnson responded by saying that he was embarrassed by last year's lectureship and has considered canceling lectureships altogether in hope that maybe lectureships could start afresh later.
Johnson was also asked to comment on several rumors circulating concerning OVU. Concerning the rumor that the student body was less than 50% members of the church of Christ, Johnson explained how these figures cannot be trusted and that the student body made up of 18 to 25 year olds is over 50% members of the church of Christ. Concerning the rumor that OVU would dissolve its Bible department, he stated that it was completely false and that OVU is not trying to dissolve the Bible department, but rebuild. Johnson also confirmed that OVU has hired a full-time campus minister.
Johnson also addressed questions asked by Eddie Cooper, Jeff Rich, Don Cline, John Board, Mark Weaver, and others. Some of these questions dealt with similar topics that Johnson had already addressed. Other aspects of OVU questioned were its singing group, Express, its involvement with Summit, and whether or not concerned parents and preachers could observe classes.
Johnson answered questions for almost two hours. After Johnson spoke about the reorganized PACE program and the new graduate program, he closed by stating, "I am not asking for your money; I'm asking for your prayers."
No doubt all the Christians in this area need to pray for OVU and its new president, James Johnson, during this time.
To receive a tape of this meeting, e-mail the Hillview Terrace church of Christ at firstname.lastname@example.org -1009 Amherst Rd NE, Massillon, OH 44646. email@example.com
Editor's note: Jack is the preacher for the Massillon church of Christ, Massillon, Ohio. He is a graduate of West Virginia School of Preaching, Moundsville, WV.
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