Ruschlikon

 

by   William L. Hancock                                                                                                                                  Vol. V, No. 1, March 1992



[The Foreign Mission Board decision to use $365,000 originally earmarked for Ruschlikon Seminary in Switzerland for theological education in Eastern Europe and the ex-Soviet Union has provoked much comment, most of it negative. Indeed, in November the Virginia state convention voted to send $100,000 to Ruschlikon and to take that money from the "Missions Direct" line item for the FMB. Following is a summary of a ten page report sent to all Southern Baptist pastors by William L. Hancock, chairman of the FMB. Readers wishing to see the whole document can get a copy from their pastor or from the FMB in Richmond.]

 

History: In Sep. 1949 the International Baptist Theological Seminary was begun in Ruschlikon near Zurich when 10 acres and a 40 room mansion were purchased by the FMB. In 1973 and 78 financial crises occurred and an agreement was discussed regarding FMB financial support through 1992 and then declining support through 2008. In 1983 there was another crisis and further discussion.

 

In 1988 President Hopper reported more financial difficulties saying, "The seminary has used up all its resources. Next year it will go bankrupt." A committee of FMB trustees went to Ruschlikon for an evaluation. During those discussions European representatives unexpectedly exercised the option to accept the property as discussed in 1978 and 83. On 9 Oct. 1988 trustees voted 59-8 to deed the property, then valued at between $12 and $17,000,000, to the European Baptist Federation. FMB trustees had the strong impression that Ruschlikon's president was committed to move the seminary in a more conservative direction.

 

Stewardship: The FMB has been providing $400,000 annually for salary and support of three missionary families at Ruschlikon plus contributing $365,000 in cash toward the school's budget of $1,500,000. The recent FMB action affects only the $365,000; it leaves the $400,000 in missionary support intact.

 

Since 1949 1,060 students have been enrolled at Ruschlikon, an average of 25 per year. But only 402 have received degrees, an average of nine annually. Since 1988 enrollment has ranged from 58 to 43, with 48 in the fall 1991. At the latter enrollment, Cooperative Program cost per student at Ruschlikon is $15,937 compared to $2,474 per capita at the six SBC seminaries in the U.S. At the seven other international seminaries which the FMB helps support there are 732 students and a total budget of $808,000. The FMB contributes only a fraction of that total. The comparison with Ruschlikon is striking.

 

Theology: There are serious questions about theology at Ruschlikon. In the early 60s the school's president defended the Broadman commentary on Genesis. This was the commentary that was withdrawn and rewritten because of severe objections within the SBC. In the 80s a New Testament professor in Hamburg was dismissed for demeaning the virgin birth. Some of the Ruschlikon staff protested this action. Ruschlikon President Hopper (a Southern Baptist missionary) stated to FMB trustees on 5 Dec. 1991 that, though he believes in the virgin birth and bodily resurrection, he would not interfere with professors approved by the Ruschlikon trustees who did not so believe. In Oct. 1991 FMB trustees learned that a professor whose published works seemingly perpetuate liberal theology [Note: This is Dr. Glenn Hinson of Southern Seminary in Louisville. Readers who wish to examine his theology are referred to his book, Jesus Christ.] had been appointed for a four month teaching post at Ruschlikon.

 

Ruschlikon is not unanimously affirmed by European Baptists. The president and general secretary of the Baptist Union of Romania have written, "...professors from Ruschlikon who taught in our seminary and churches some years ago, had squeezed doubts in[to] their lectures that the Bible is entirely the Word of God. We have recently got the news that the ...Foreign Mission Board decided to support the biblical institute from the East European countries. The General Council of the Baptist Union of Romania welcomes and appreciates this decision as very important and more efficient for God's work in these countries."

 

Trust: FMB trustees got the clear impression at the 1988 meeting with the Ruschlikon President that he would be moving the seminary toward a more conservative theological position with a greater emphasis on evangelism and training church planters. Some trustees feel this trust has been violated. (Audio tapes of that meeting are available from the Foreign Mission Board for $6. You may purchase them and draw your own conclusions by calling 1-800-866-3621. Audio tapes of the 5-6 Dec. FMB committee meeting are also available for $13, and a video of the 11 Dec. full FMB meeting for $13. All the preceding are plus tax for Virginia residents.)

 

The FMB has a long-standing policy called the indigenous principle. It reads, "It is imperative that all missionaries should accept fully the fact that appeals for special gifts should not be made. The Foreign Mission Board shares in the Cooperative Program of the Southern Baptist Convention and is under obligation not to make appeals for specially designated gifts. Missionaries should look to the board entirely to provide all funds for their work and should not attempt to secure gifts directly from churches or individuals."

 

FMB trustees feel that trust was violated when the were not informed of the following actions by FMB staff and Ruschlikon trustees. (1) In autumn 1989 the Friend of Ruschlikon Foundation was established as a channel for special gifts and bequests. (2) The school employed a vice-president for development to live in Nashville an direct the fund-raising campaign in America. (3) Cargil Associates of Fort Worth was engaged for a three year fund-raising campaign that began 1 July 1991.

 

Actions: On 9 Oct. 1991 the Administrative Subcommittee of the FMB voted that the $365,000 not be designated for Ruschlikon but for theological education in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. To resolve the issues raised and consider restoring the funds to Ruschlikon, a meeting was convened in Richmond 5-6 Dec. including Dr. Hopper, President of the seminary; Dr. Karl-Heinz Walter, Secretary of the European Baptist Federation; and Dr. Wiard Popkes, Chairman of Ruschlikon trustees.

 

The 5 Dec. session concluded with the following proposal by Dr. Bill Hancock, FMB chairman. Drs. Walter and Popkes were to respond 6 Dec. (1) The FMB apologized for the manner in which Ruschlikon funding was reduced and recognized that the proper way would have been to consult with European leaders before acting. However, it was pointed out that for three years trustees had attempted to convey concerns and get answers to questions about Ruschlikon without full satisfaction. (2) Acknowledgment was requested from the president and trustees of Ruschlikon of their insensitivity to conservative concerns re professors and theological positions. (3) The FMB requested that the president and trustees of the seminary inform the European Committee of the FMB of professors selected to teach in advance of the fact and not just after the fact. (4) The FMB requested a full accounting of funds received by Ruschlikon from American sources other than the FMB and how that money is being spent.

 

On Friday morning, 6 Dec., Dr. Popkes stated that the proposals were unacceptable saying that they were unrealistic and implied FMB efforts to control the seminary.

 

Had the FMB's European staff been more sensitive and responsive to trustee concerns, the decision might have been different. Had the European leaders responded on 6 Dec. with something less than total rejection, the action might have been different. Had there been a clarification of fund-raising policy to Ruschlikon personnel by FMB staff, the outcome might have been different. [End of Hancock statement.]

 

As a result of the Ruschlikon affair, the FMB Vice-President for Europe, Isam Ballenger, and Area Director for Europe, Keith Parker (NOT to be confused with FMB President Keith Parks) announced their early retirement. They said they could no longer represent the FMB because of the trustees' "global agenda" to enforce theological orthodoxy overseas. Under an agreement worked out with trustees, the two left their jobs 31 January, will remain as consultants through February, and will receive salary and benefits through May 31 and July 31 respectively, the dates they had chosen. [BP]

 

Comment: Moderates and liberals no doubt view these events as clear evidence of "fundamentalism" at its worst, seeking to impose a narrow agenda upon well-intentioned fellow Christians whose only fault is that they are more broad-minded and flexible in act, attitude, and understanding of Scripture. Conservatives, on the other hand, recognize all the indications of liberalism in action manifest at Ruschlikon. These include but are not necessarily limited to tendencies toward (1) an intellectual elitism which regards anyone with a "Dr." before his name as above question by those not so endowed, (2) an approach to stewardship which assumes a right to SBC funds but no responsibility to account for their use, (3) no acknowledgment that the SBC has a right to give or withhold its own money, and (4) placing a higher priority on unruffled relations among people than careful adherence to God's Word. In sum, liberals incline toward an emphasis upon meetings rather than ministries, seminars rather than servanthood, institutions rather than evangelism, organization rather than orthodoxy, rights rather than responsibilities, and much more interest in others' money than others souls. Southern Baptists are better off for having reduced our support of Ruschlikon considering the attitudes and approaches of those who control it. As soon as it can be done honorably, we should stop providing the four "missionary" families.