Members of the Board of Trustees
President Stephen Livesay
My dear friends,
I write these words to you as a ’65 Bryan grad, ’64-’65 student council president, and 2005 ’lum of the year along with my wife Lois, ’64. My advanced earned degrees include a doctorate in systems—with an emphasis on institutional behaviors. This spring marks my forty-sixth year serving as the senior minister in churches in western Michigan. More important than the background noted above, I write as one who has seen a number of great organizations bite the dust because good people sat on their hands as valued institutions and business disintegrated before their eyes. Ever hear of the Crystal Cathedral?
Bryan College is being unnecessarily damaged by this “clarification” issue. As one who’s been involved in conflict resolution, and functioned bi-vocationally to enable industries and businesses to operate more effectively, I’d like to offer a few observations directed toward 1) establishing a Biblical model for resolving the current situation and 2) restoring Christian unity in an institution much needed in today’s world.
I’d like to share with you three very specific resources at your fingertips that, when employed in an intelligent way, can restore hope and trust among all parties affected—and bring focus, clarity and resolution to the root problem. Again, to be clear, I’m suggesting ideas that I believe to be biblical that will set in motion a process to resolve the current tiff.
First, a thought you ought to consider is WWBD? What would Billy do? As Stephen and Corinne know, Lois and I have been deeply devoted to an extensive study of the life of our school’s namesake. William Jennings Bryan was a master arbitrator who at one point found employment in the administration of Woodrow Wilson as Secretary of State. In that capacity, Bryan developed a model requiring that countries on the edge of conflict honor a “cooling off” period. This process was incorporated into the League of Nations and is part of the United Nations protocol today.
Trust and honor and cooperation can be restored when something is not “shoved down my throat.” The sky is not falling! “Clarification” is not a “now” necessity! I don’t recommend rushing into a corner and “taking a stand” from that vantage point! Declare a year for deliberation…with time to allow good folks to land on their feet. Devote a year to analyzing significant issues…with time to consider probable consequences and to determine reasonable conclusions.
Second, let’s consider leadership models. I love the words of Matthew when he comments on Christ’s teaching on the mount: “And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at his teachings, for he taught as one having authority and not as the scribes.” Hmmm…. Great sermon there, folks, and it’s pretty evident that Jesus’ model of servant leadership would be the first point. “He who would be lord of all must first of all be servant of all.” That wins hearts, doesn’t it? Dale Carnegie had his finger on that one. How about a little foot washing party the next time the Board of Trustees meets? ‘Nuff said.
Third, I’d gently remind all the combatants that God’s Word offers a great conflict resolution model in Acts 15—The Jerusalem Council. Incredibly rich in insight and understanding, Dr. Luke takes us through a critical issue in the early church. Get hold of F.F. Bruce’s commentary on Acts. It contains buckets of insight about how to handle sticky issues of an ambiguous nature.
My DNA, Parley Zartmann, was part of the founding energy of the college. He and Bryan were buddies at Winona. In the name of William Jennings Bryan and all those who have invested so much in this Christian school—to which I owe a huge debt of gratitude—I urge you, Board of Trustees, to mobilize forces to establish peace and reach a reasonable conclusion. Without your initiative the college’s obituary will be national reading.
Ronald R. Zartman