I’ve had a relationship with Birmingham-Southern College long before coming to North Alabama. My friend Neal Berte had invited me to speak at the college. I am the grateful recipient of an honorary degree and, until this semester enjoyed teaching classes at the College.
Having been on the campuses of dozens of church related colleges, I can say without fear of contradiction, that BSC enjoys one of the most positive relationships with the church of any college in our connection. Our church not only gave birth to BSC but, in Neal Berte’s presidency helped save this college. BSC currently receives about $300,000 from the North Alabama Conference per year, our largest size, local benevolence.
When our previous president was installed, I said at his Inauguration, “We entrust to your care a college that we have birthed, a college that we have loved, a college that we have saved, and a college that we have sacrificially sustained.”
The current, unprecedented crisis at BSC is the results of: the CFO’s pattern of financial mis-statements to Administration and Board, financial aid to students at an unsustainable discount rate, expensive and inadequately funded building projects. These mistakes have caused a huge amount of pain and anxiety about the future.
I also believe that we are in this crisis because the college, for a moment, lost sight of its identity as a church college.
I want you to know that we trustees are determined to preserve and even strengthen our beloved college. BSC is blessed with a self-sacrificial faculty of great academic ability, some of the very best students in our region, a beautiful campus, and a church that loves its college.
Some of the very best students, in a college with academically able students, come to the college from United Methodist Churches. Laura Sisson, our Director of Church Relations, provides support for these students. Some of our most able pastors are products of BSC. The majority of our Board, including our chair are Methodists. My message to North Alabama Methodists is:
- Our college is going to weather this crisis and prevail. We are making changes in the way the college is governed and we are seeking a new President who can lead us forward.
- Send us your well qualified UM Students. Birmingham-Southern is a quality, church-related environment for undergraduate education. The education offered here is superb.
- United Methodist Alumni need to speak up for and to generously give to the college now. If your congregations are not currently paying its full higher education apportionment, we desperately need that paid in full this year and the next.
God has graciously given us a great treasure in Birmingham-Southern College. I’m determined that this crisis will be an opportunity to recover and to strengthen our church’s ties with the college. We need BSC and BSC needs us.
I’m in a rare and privileged position: I get to go to work on the campus of one of the most beautiful and academically rigorous small colleges in America – BSC – a church-related college.
William H. Willimon
One of BSC’s greatest alumni is Bishop Robert Morgan. For more than a decade he has taught popular courses at BSC and thereby sent us some of our most talented new pastors. This month Bishop Morgan will be honored by Candler School of Theology with its Distinguished Alumnus Award. Congratulations to Bishop Morgan and to BSC on this honor.
One thought on “Birmingham-Southern as a Church College”
Thanks for this article, Bishop. Just like the church, BSC is much greater than the recent, unfortunate mishaps of some of the people within it. I'm a proud United Methodist pastor who was blessed to be nurtured and developed by the many fantastic and faithfully committed people at BSC. And I concur: send your UM students to BSC – you won't be disappointed…