Friday, August 17, 2012

Will LifeWay connect this man to Glorieta? Updated

Baptist Press now has a story, LifeWay awaits study pending Glorieta sale,  based on the Christianity Today article linked below.  

The CT article makes it very difficult, in my opinion, for LifeWay to go through with this. One notes that Al Mohler and Danny Akin have very recently resigned their affiliation with Jang-related organizations. It makes it complicated that Olivet University is already renting a large chunk of Glorieta even now. What happens to all that if the sale is deep sixed?

Life is complicated for LifeWay...

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I'm five states away and have never been to what I'm told is a very nice facility - Glorieta Baptist Conference Center. You know, the one that has lost money for 24 of the last 25 years and about which LifeWay says that there's just not much demand for the stuff offered at the center.

So, LifeWay puts it on the market for sale with considerable stipulations (details and links in an earlier blog of mine here).

Sounds both reasonable and responsible to me.

The best sale prospect, the Baptist Convention of New Mexico, said the price quoted them, one dollar, was ten to twenty million dollars too high so LifeWay finds another potential buyer, a real buyer who presumably will write a real check to LifeWay - Olivet University in California, who is even now renting Glorieta facilities for about 200 students and faculty.

But it seems there is a question about theological compatibility with Olivet, sufficient for LifeWay to retain, as in spend good money, the National Association of Evangelicals "to conduct a thorough review of their theological views to determine compatibility with ours”, as a LifeWay executive put it in an Associated Baptist Press story. Baptist Press reported in July that a third party investigation was under way but did not name NAE.


Scrutiny on the potential deal may just have increased exponentially as a result of a Christianity Today article, The Second Coming Controversy, which names a Korean pastor and Olivet founder, David Jang, likely unknown to almost all Southern Baptists, as the questionable figure lurking behind the potential sale. The article, co-authored by the considerable Ted Olson, is no superficial treatment of the matter and is rather lengthy. I'm guessing that LifeWay's folks have read every syllable of it.

Jang's critics point to his involvement with the Korean religious figure and organization that most SBCers have heard of, Sun Myung Moon and his Unification Church, the mere mention of which may poison the Glorieta deal. Others have declared Jang to be completely orthodox.

Some of the landed gentry at Glorieta, residents with long term land leases whom LifeWay says they will protect in any sale, are already dropping Jang's name.

One wonders, do not Southern Baptists have people of sufficient erudition and import to conduct such a study, or is a third party needed because some prominent SBCers, Al Mohler and Richard Land and formerly Jimmy Draper and LifeWay's current CEO, Thom Ranier, among others have tangential ties to some of Jang's sprawling organization?

I'm merely a curious Eastern seaboard Southern Baptist who doesn't venture west of the muddy Mississippi, much less the Pecos, who wonders if LifeWay may have roped a tornado on this deal.

I have no reason not to believe that LifeWay trustees, who exhibited some hasty skittishness in pulling the wonderful movie Blind Side from their stores (a predictor of a decision on this matter?), will make the proper decision on this and I trust that the NAE study, when completed and reviewed by LifeWay executives and trustees, will be made public.

Plodder predicts: no deal...but I'm just reading the Korean tea leaves on this. One this is for certain, LifeWay better find a way to get ahead of the publicity on this.


8 comments:

Anonymous said...

If Lifeway wishes to continue losing money, then it should keep Glorietta. If it wishes not to lose money any longer, then it should sell Glorietta, but drop the silliness of its buyer pre-conditions. The site is not magical, nor were the previous experiences at the site magical in orientation. Leadership might want to develop an adult theology, which would preclude magic being a part. Perhaps then a more plentiful population of potential buyers would result.

Lee said...

67Several of the most influential and meaningful encounters I've had with the Holy Spirit occurred at Glorieta. When I was in my early twenties, I was sincerely struggling with the whole idea of the veracity and validity of the Christian faith. A pastor friend of mine, who didn't know what I was going through, asked me to go with their church youth group as a chaperone to Glorieta because they had three boys going and couldn't find someone in their church to do it. So I went. Between being able to confide in the group leader who taught the adult session I attended, and the preaching and worship services, God worked and helped resolve all the doubts I was having. There are several places on that campus that hold special meaning for me.

Ultimately, it wasn't the place, it was the ministry taking place and the people who were involved. But I always thought that part of the reason for owning facilities like Glorieta and Ridgecrest were to make it possible to hold training conferences in discipleship and Christian education in a place that helped keep the cost per person at a more reasonable level than would be available in a hotel. It would seem, with some professional assistance, perhaps a conference center consultant, that Glorieta could at least be brought to a point where it breaks even.

But it is just a place, some buildings, and without the ministry programs and training events, does it really matter who buys the property?

William Thornton said...

Lee...it seems to me that LifeWay is highly restricted by their perceived obligation to the few people who have land leases and who live on campus which substantially reduces the marketability of the property.

Lee said...

As I recall, most of those who lease property are up at the far end of the campus, mostly churches from New Mexico and West Texas, who have cabins, and some private cabin owners. They do need access through the campus to get to the highway, otherwise, I don't really see why whoever owns the property would be a problem, except that Southern Baptists don't want anyone who may hold a different religious view to be their neighbor.

Given its location, within a 20 minute drive of several noted ski resorts, right off a major interstate, up in a gorgeous valley along the highest mountains in New Mexico, I do not understand why Lifeway couldn't make a go of it, marketing it as a inter-denominational conference facility.

Anonymous said...

"perceived obligation to the few people who have land leases and who live on campus"

If this is the case, then leadership should simply admit that it is not equal to the challenge and then bring in a third party to structure a deal.

Anonymous said...

Serving in West Texas I've been privileged to attend Glorieta many times in several different circumstances (SBC programs [SS, TU, IMB, HMB], retreats of my church and youth groups, etc.). If the rumors of this past summer are true, then the two most interested buyers at that time were: 1) one of the NM Indian tribes interested in making a Casino on the property, and 2) a muslim group who owns property around the Taos area.

I suspect it is concerns such as these two potential buyers are what has caused LifeWay to set some conditions on buyers, trying to somehow be good stewards of the disposal of the property bought and enriched by Baptist monies over the years.

Anonymous said...

How many conservative New Mexico and other-state baptists have been very willing to accept lottery funding for their children's education financing? Would religious bigotry be behind denying Muslims the property? How is it being a good steward to continue financing a property that reduces the organization's ability to be a good steward? Once the property is sold, the money can be used in some fashion to honor those that helped build and sustain the conference center. Is there no one in SBC leadership that can creatively think through this issue? Moreover, if the above stated concerns are true, so might hypocrisy and bigotry.

Anonymous said...

"percieved obligation to the few people who have land leases and who live on campus" ?!

I am one of those people, and my husband and I have put in thousands of dollars into our home, which we bought and own. We do lease our land. Life Way does have an ethical and Biblical obligation to protect the interestes of the home owners. We live here full-time and this is our only home. Where would we go!? We have children and we would have no place to live. Life Way made a bad decision when they decided to sell homes on the conference property. They sold homes even up to a few months before their decision to look into selling the conference center in Sept. 2011. One of the home owners even bought directly from Life Way. All of the homeowners were assured by managment and even higher up that Life Way would never sell and our investments were safe here. YES! They do have an obligation to act with Christian integrity by either protecting the homeowners investments in the property or by purchasing their homes and cabins at a price that is at market value.