Founded on Christ

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Connecting Points article submitted by Don Griffith, FPU Board of Trustees Chair

Sometimes it’s good to get away to gain fresh perspective and reflect on where we have been and where we are going. Those were some of the needs as the FPU Board of Trustees conducted a retreat in the Santa Cruz Mountains this past weekend. The purpose of the retreat was to create an environment to foster discovery about what God is up to at FPU, to facilitate learning about how to become a board characterized by excellence and to deepen relationships. The retreat cost was offset largely through trustee donations specifically for this event.

Prior to a full day of training on Saturday, the board conducted its regular business meetings on Friday and Saturday morning. The board passed a number of motions, including: approving two new degrees—the Master of Arts in Ministry, Leadership & Culture and the Master of Arts in Community Leadership; adding “Clinical Faculty” as a new faculty classification; and changing the Faculty Handbook (subject to legal review) to reflect language proposed by the FPU Diversity Committee. Additionally, the board approved the 2016-17 university budget and discussed how initiatives in branding and marketing currently under way at FPU may positively impact the 2017-18 budget and beyond. On another note, in an effort to better understand the unique needs and governance issues of embedded seminaries like ours, the FPU Board of Trustees was invited to join the Seminary Committee on May 24 for a day of training and discovery facilitated by the Executive Director of the Association of Theological Schools, Dr. Dan Aleshire.

During sessions focusing on diversity, the trustees were challenged to see through a different lens, as we heard presentations by two gifted board members; Dr. Xavier Piña and Dr. Juan Martínez. We learned the character of God is displayed through the diversity of his creation, so experiencing diversity in community allows us to more fully understand and appreciate the character of God. Various cultures see the world through their own lens and tend to assume their lens is the correct one. Americans tend to want to “fix things” when they perceive things are not ordered as they are accustomed. But focusing on “fixing things” rather than understanding differences may prevent one from discovering how to see the world differently. Sustained relationships with others who have a different lens provides opportunities to understand there might be more than one way to see the world, which can then lead one to experience the diversity and character of God in new ways.

The board spent Saturday with Dr. Paul Corts of AGB Search. Much of the day was spent on training and board development issues, and the balance of the day was focused on the presidential search process. What impressed me about Dr. Corts was his deep personal commitment as a “Christ-follower.” Dr. Corts reminded us the FPU mission of offering an education “Founded on Christ” needs to be the primary focus of the board of trustees, and we are to pay close attention to this. He spoke about the fact that small missteps now in regard to the mission of “Founded on Christ” can lead the institution to become significantly off-course in the future. His challenge to the board was to “keep the main thing the main thing.” Dr. Corts also led the board through an overview of the presidential search process and answered a number of questions. It was obvious he is very experienced and skilled in this process and I think the board is quite comfortable with its selection of Dr. Corts as our search consultant. In addition to leading the board through the specific steps of the search process, Dr. Corts spent some time developing the concept of “consensus” in the decision-making process. He said that consensus is the ideal goal, especially in a Christian setting. The concept of consensus requires taking the necessary time to graciously listen to one another and to the spirit of God before proceeding. Conversely, unanimity results from an action (a vote), whereas consensus suggests a process lead by the spirit resulting in mutual understanding and shared consent. He discussed the spiritual nature of calling a new president, and the need for those on the search committee to not only conduct objective evaluations, but to also be sensitive to God’s leading in the process—which admittedly takes effort.

If I could summarize our retreat, I would say the board came away with a greater appreciation of the character of God as demonstrated in infinite diversity, and a deeper commitment to the high calling the board has to ensure the mission of the university to offer an education “Founded on Christ.” Finally, I came away with a renewed appreciation of the quality of the FPU board. It is a high honor and great responsibility to serve with them. As we work together to do everything in our power, and as we pray and trust that God will do everything in his power, I believe the FPU community can be assured the transition to a new president will be exactly what God purposed for us as we determine to offer the next generation an education of the highest quality which is “Founded on Christ.”