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Assemblies of God schools await merger vote

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Thousands of Assemblies of God delegates and ministers from across the country will decide the fate of a plan to consolidate three Springfield schools: Evangel University, Central Bible College and the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary.

If the plan is approved at an August AG conference in Phoenix, the schools could all fall under the Evangel name by fall 2013, according to Juleen Turnage, national director of communications for Springfield-based Assemblies of God USA.

She said church officials and members of the task force that recommended the consolidation would then work with the Higher Learning Commission during the next two years to ensure the resulting institution would retain its accreditation.

As schools owned and operated by the Assemblies of God general council, the consolidation plan must receive approval by a majority vote of an estimated 5,000 general council delegates and members at the biennial conference.

Earlier this month, the board of directors for the three institutions voted by secret ballot to proceed with the plan. The board’s action moved the plan to the council’s 19-member Executive Presbytery, which also approved the initiative and paved the way for the August vote.

A task force led by AG General Superintendent George Wood has discussed the consolidation since January. Wood declined a request for an interview through Turnage until after the August vote.

In a video posted to www.ag.org, Wood explained the need for consolidation: “In 2010, we saw one of the largest increases in our constituency we have ever enjoyed – more than a 4 percent gain, and now we have more than 3 million adherents in the USA. Thirty-four percent of those 3 million are under the age of 25. The leadership of the Assemblies of God passionately believes that a consolidation of the three Springfield schools will greatly advance our ability to strategically invest in the next generation.”

According to the Web site, Central Bible College was established in 1922 to train ministers and missionaries; Evangel was founded in 1955 as a college focused on arts and sciences for the Pentecostal community; and the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, which is adjacent to the Evangel campus near the intersection of North Glenstone Avenue and East Division Street, is a graduate school of ministry and theology. The consolidated university would create a single institution designed to meet the needs of Christian students, Wood said in the video.

Requests for interviews with Evangel President Robert Spence and CBC President Gary Denbow also were declined until after the general council vote. Spence has said he plans to retire at the end of his current term in April 2014.

In a statement released by AGTS, President Byron Klaus said, “I do believe that the decision of the three board of directors … gives clear affirmation of the wisdom of this plan for consolidation for the future effectiveness of AGTS as part of a consolidated university structure.”

Turnage said the consolidation, which has been discussed among church leaders since 1989, would be funded by a $5 million gift from the David Green family, owners of Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. The Oklahoma City, Okla.-based arts and crafts store operations 470 locations in 39 states with 16 stores in Missouri. Turnage said if the consolidation is not approved by the general council members, that money would have to be returned to the Green family.

“They are very committed to Christian higher education,” Turnage said, adding that the family has been known to donate to Oral Roberts University and other Christian schools. “They are very interested that the Assemblies of God develop a world-class university.”

Hobby Lobby founder David Green could not be reached by press time.

Under the plan, the consolidated university, which would be known as Evangel University, would operate five schools of study: the School of Theological and Church Ministries; the School of Arts and Sciences; the School of Behavioral Science and Education; the School of Business and Communication; and the School of Fine Arts.

“At least in the beginning, the CBC campus will be used for overflow. The disposition of that campus has not been determined at all,” Turnage said.

She said a newly appointed board of trustees and university president would determine the fate of the CBC campus, adding that it would likely continue to be used for at least a couple of years after the official consolidation because Evangel does not currently hold enough dorm space to handle CBC’s students.

Turnage said Evangel’s current enrollment is more than 2,000 students and the consolidated university’s enrollment would approach 3,000.

Assemblies of God USA is a multibillion-dollar organization serving 63 million people worldwide, nearly 12,500 U.S. churches, and 19 colleges and universities.[[In-content Ad]]

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