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The Current Issue

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Bishop's Perspective
‘Give us the courage to make the right choices’

Dear sisters and brothers of the Holston Conference:

This is a painfully crucial time for Hiwassee College. Many faithful supporters of the college felt the promise of $20 to $50 million was an answer to prayers. From the beginning, some of us feared it was not a bona fide gift but our voices were lost in the false euphoria. This potential for crushed dreams drove me to my knees on many sleepless nights.

Since August 2001, nearly all fundraising activity has been suspended in anticipation of the large gift. Now Hiwassee College faces the enormous challenge of raising a minimum of $450,000 to balance the budget by June 31. If it does not achieve this goal, Hiwassee could lose its academic accreditation, which will make it nearly impossible for the college to survive.

I can assure you the trustees, faculty, staff and graduates of Hiwassee College are determined to invest their prayers, energy and money to save the institution. The outpouring of goodwill is an inspiration for us all.

When Ron Mills, chair of Hiwassee's board of trustees, was unable to devote adequate time to the issues pressing in on the college, Don Youell, vice chair, stepped up to the plate. He left his business and made himself available to Hiwassee for an entire week. Al Bowles, who already has a full schedule, is now assuming the chair for the board.

Our conference leadership is investing time and resourcing the Hiwassee College staff. As I write, Ron Matthews, conference treasurer; Kevin Slimp, director of communications; Roger Redding, director of the Holston Conference Foundation; and staff from Emory & Henry College's development office are on campus, offering support and expertise. Kevin Slimp has provided invaluable assistance in interpreting to the faculty, trustees and press the concerns surrounding the broken promises.

A group of trustees and persons from Hiwassee are meeting to examine all aspects of the college and ask honest questions about its mission and future. Another group will meet with persons from Tennessee Wesleyan College to ask what cooperative efforts should and can be explored.

I regret that James Dawson has resigned the presidency of Tennessee Wesleyan College. He has served the college exceptionally well and will be missed. We all wish him our best and he goes to Coker College with our prayers.

With the resignation of Hiwassee College's president along with losing Tennessee Wesleyan's president, the conference is challenged to be at its best in support through prayer and money.

What has been a nightmare of false expectations at Hiwassee College is over. Now, in the light of truth and reality, we have the obligation to be as faithful as we can to the rich legacy provided and preserved for some 153 years.

My earnest prayer is that God will guide us and give us the courage and creativity to make the right choices. After all, Hiwassee College does not really belong to the conference or to its trustees. We are the stewards for a college birthed to serve God and the young people entrusted to us.

Grace and Peace,
Ray W. Chamberlain Jr.

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