Questions Answered: @utsdoc Talks @UnitedSeminary & @CopelandNetwork

My last post on the nature of the relationship between United Theological Seminary and Kenneth Copeland Ministries garnered a quick response from Dr. David Watson, Academic Dean at UTS.

Here are a list of the facts I recounted in my blog:

*UTS began it's academic partnership with KCM in 2010.

*UTS hosted Kenneth Copeland to speak in Dayton, OH.

*A UTS official claimed his visit generated $20,000 for the school.

*As recently as 2009, KCM had been under investigation for financial practices – and we all know that's not the first time that's happened.

*I'm not sure if this means anything, a UTS board member a former employee of and son-in-law to Kenneth Copeland. (I'm not alleging any impropriety by mentioning that, I just think it's relevant somehow)

I have been asking questions like this since my time at UTS began. I've continued the practice because many of my colleagues – UTS alumni and not – continue to express concerns about the relationship. Absent any explanation from the school, the temptation to speculate abounded.

In his email reply, Dr. Watson addressed these questions. I will quote most of what he said verbatim.

Dr. Watson notes the transitive nature of the relationship between UTS and KCM:

United does not have an official partnership with KCM. We have a Doctor of Ministry group that is made up primarily, but not exclusively, of people associated with KCM. The leaders of this group have some past or present affiliation with KCM. There is also a United faculty member who serves as a faculty consultant for the group. The focus of the group is media ministry.

And, of UTS's decision to host Mr. Copeland:

The fact that United had Kenneth Copeland to preach at one of our DMin intensives is not an endorsement of the content of his message. United has widely known speakers come to campus quite often. We could not possibly endorse the ideas of every speaker. Further, while it is likely that many or all of our residential faculty members would have disagreements with theological claims that are more particular to KCM Christianity, the mentors and students in this group are good and kind people, and they are children of God.

The biggest concern regarding Kenneth Copeland is his indivisible identification with the Prosperity Gospel. It is the single-most disconcerting aspect of this connection. Of it, Dr. Watson says:

United never did, does not now, and never will endorse what is commonly called the “prosperity gospel”—the idea that God wishes for us to become wealthy, and that one can directly effect a blessing of material wealth by engaging in some particular type of behavior. Institutionally, our primary commitments are to the historic Christian faith, the cultivation of holiness, and the renewal of the church for the mission of Jesus Christ in the world.

In my reporting, I have mentioned Dr. Stephen Swisher. He is a UTS grad, board member and son-in-law to Mr. Copeland. The reason I kept mentioning it – and the reason I thought it was most significant – was my belief that therein lied the connection between UTS and KCM. Dr. Watson spoke of Dr. Swisher:

The Rev. Dr. Steven Swisher, Kenneth Copeland’s son-in-law, is on our Board of Trustees. Dr. Swisher is a UM elder in good standing. While at one time he was a full-time employee of KCM, he is currently serving under the appointment of UM Bishop Palmer as pastor of Centerville UMC, just south of Dayton, OH. He is a good man, and I am glad that he serves on our board.

Then, there is the issue of the $20,000 mentioned by a UTS official. Dr. Watson spoke to it, but couldn't quite understand where I came up with that piece of information, nor could he figure the context in which it belonged.

Admittedly, I overheard that tidbit during breakfast. During Gathering Week this past spring, I sat down to eat some strawberries and monkey bread (mmmm…monkey bread). Behind me, there was a conversation taking place. It was between some UTS officials (as a distance student, I can't yet place each staff and faculty member) and the subject matter consisted of Kenneth Copeland and how the school is being percieved – in light of the success it has been experiencing.

The idea was that Kenneth Copeland's speaking engagement generated a tithe of $20,000.

My memory of that event has since eroded and I cannot, with any discernable accuracy, recount the conversation. Therefore, I can no longer stand behind that fact as relevant to the discussion.

Consider it retracted.

Even before Dr. Watson said it, I knew these answers weren't going to silence all critics on the matter – and I vascilate as to whether or not I'm one of them. This is how he closed his statement to me:

I understand that there are still people who will wish to criticize us. That was the case before this matter related to KCM ever came up, and it will be the case well into the future. Nevertheless, I want to make sure that United is represented accurately in the blogosphere, in the world of social media, and in other venues in which information is widely shared. Thank you for allowing me to share these thoughts.

He's right.

But right or wrong, that's what UTS has to say on the matter.

I'd like to Dr. Watson for sharing this with me and clearing the air.

All that's left is for you to share your thoughts on the matter. The comments section below. The twittersphere. The Facebook.

Let your voice be heard! Let your frustrations out! Show your support for the school! Whatever you want or feel you need to do.

As for me and my reporting on the situation, this is as far as I go.

I hope it helps.

 

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