c. 1999 Religion News Service
UNDATED _ The president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary was fired Tuesday (Sept. 14) after trustees determined his temper had imperiled his leadership.
The Rev. Mark Coppenger, unanimously elected president of the Southern Baptist seminary in 1995, had confessed to”misappropriation of anger”in July at a trustee board meeting.”After hours of agonizing discussion and interviews with Dr. Coppenger and vice presidents, a majority of the board concluded that the expressions of anger admitted to by Dr. Coppenger had irreparably damaged his ability to lead the seminary,”reads a statement released by the trustee board.
Carl Weiser, chairman of the trustee board, said the decision came after a special two-day meeting of the trustees of the Kansas City, Mo., seminary.”It was a very difficult decision,”he told Religion News Service.
Despite Coppenger’s problems with his temper, Weiser said he admired the former president’s”passions for spiritual revival in the Great Plains”and creative leadership skills.”He is an outstanding man and I appreciate him greatly,”said Weiser, pastor of Hyland Heights Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va.
The trustees’ statement also addressed the effect of their decision on the seminary community.”The board and the MBTS family have suffered an enormous hurt as the result of the board’s action,”it reads.”We have closed this difficult chapter and have confidence in God’s providence during the next chapter in His story at MBTS.” Coppenger, 51, could not immediately be reached for comment. He previously served as vice president for convention relations for the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee in Nashville, Tenn. He is expected to relocate to that area, said Tammi Ledbetter, director of communications for the seminary.
Midwestern’s trustee board originally had planned to discuss Coppenger’s leadership at its October meeting, but more than 10 trustees requested the special meeting.
The trustees unanimously named Michael Whitehead, the vice president for business affairs, as acting president, Weiser said.
Weiser said he spoke with faculty and staff in a closed meeting Tuesday to inform them of the decision.
Ledbetter said Whitehead addressed students at a chapel service on Wednesday and focused on healing and a need to pray for Coppenger.”The campus is very somber and serious,”she said.”I think it’s reflective of the vision he (Coppenger) had that things be bathed in prayer.” Midwestern, one of six seminaries of the Southern Baptist Convention, has a student enrollment of about 700.
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