The South Carolina Baptist Convention Executive Board has signaled its desire to move past a controversy surrounding the sudden departure of North Greenville University president Jimmy Epting earlier this year.
The move came after a series of meetings between NGU officials and SCBC leaders, during which time Cooperative Program payments to the school were delayed by Executive Board officials.
At their regular fall meeting at White Oak Conference Center Oct. 12-13, Executive Board members unanimously approved a resolution stating their support for the trustee leadership of North Greenville University and offering prayers, support and encouragement to the school.
The resolution was offered by Marshall Blalock, pastor of Charleston First Baptist Church and chairman of the board’s Budget, Finance & Audit Committee. Blalock said North Greenville trustee chairwoman Beverly Hawkins, vice chairman Bill Tyler and interim president Randall Pannell had satisfactorily answered all questions surrounding Epting’s retirement announcement in January 2015.
The three NGU officials met on separate occasions with SCBC leadership, including at times interim executive director-treasurer Richard Harris, Executive Board chairman Dwight Easler, convention president Tommy Kelly, and convention vice president Tom Tucker.
Blalock also said Cooperative Program funding for North Greenville University has been reinstated.
“Our state convention elects trustees to all institutions, and these trustees are responsible for governing their respective institutions,” Blalock said. “But, on behalf of the convention, the Budget, Finance & Audit Committee receives annual audits from each institution. Our official contact with institutions is through the audits. We read these audits, because the Executive Board has a responsibility to ensure the institutions are governed in ways that ensure financial security.
“This year, Dr. Epting’s retirement and the suddenness of it brought questions about his retirement,” Blalock said. “This summer, there was an awkward video that was publicly released, and that created more questions about leadership. It was the intention of the BF&A Committee, on behalf of the Executive Board and state convention, to create dialogue with North Greenville’s trustees to make sure everything is being done within the standards, ethics and values of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.
“Through several meetings, our questions were answered by Dr. Pannell and trustee leadership with clarity and complete transparency, and they did a great job answering all questions,” said Blalock. “North Greenville is actively moving forward in a way that is totally consistent with our convention’s morals and values.”
North Greenville trustee vice chairman Tyler told the board that North Greenville “is in great hands, and Dr. Pannell has done an amazing job through this.”
“We are in no hurry to find our next president,” said Tyler. “We are evaluating the board processes, ensuring we are governed properly without crossing the lines of operations. I assure you that leadership is in great shape.”
Blalock said the North Greenville board has adopted new policies consistent with the auditor’s recommendations that will serve the future best interests of the university.
North Greenville trustee chairwoman Hawkins said meetings have also been held on campus with students, staff and faculty to answer questions.
Convention president Tommy Kelly stood to say, “I believe North Greenville University’s best and brightest days are ahead.”
— From reporting by SCBC Communications.