An Open Letter to Southeastern University
of the Assemblies of God
alumni and friends.
example, my dad should have succeeded Dr. Cyril Homer as President of
Southeastern College of the Assemblies of God after serving as
Assistant to the President and various other positions for many years
at the College. But because he wasn't one of the church government
good ol' boys, he was cast aside.
my father was a man of integrity and dignity who refused to be a part of
the good ole boy network and grovel at the feet of church officials.
father had the courage to refuse to "play the game."
So, he was passed over as President; James Hennesy was chosen.
Under Hennesy’s leadership
of 19 years, the School’s enrollment dropped drastically and the campus
then Mark Rutland succeeded Hennesy: the enrollment increased
along with a multi-million dollar debt.
Currently, there are about 3,000 students enrolled. However, in the 1970s there were around 1,500. So, in 30 years, even after greatly expanding the number of programs and increasing the debt into the multimillions, the school has only doubled in size.
Southeastern University has been without a President for well over a year.
SE family and friends: Is
the Assemblies of God destitute of worthy leaders to lead its own
Southeastern’s “Mission in Action” statement boasts:
. . . We offer a vital, Christ-centered education that, through a wide range of academic majors leading to bachelor’s and master's degrees, prepares our students for a life of world-changing leadership in church-related positions and in other professional fields. Arriving at Southeastern as people committed to following Jesus Christ, these students graduate ready either to enter graduate study or to serve throughout the world as ministers, teachers/educators, social service and mental health professionals, and business men and women. . . (Emphasis added.)
in their recent snazzy PR booklet The Dream, Acting President
Charles Kelly writes about Southeastern students: “I wish you could look
into their eyes and listen to them as they talk about their intended
career paths. . .You would see and hear friendly, studious, mature
individuals who are serious about their pursuits and poised to be world
changers! SEU is committed to
the proposition that servant leaders are world changers.”
my friends, let me relate what I heard when I listened to a student in
November 2009. Here is my e-mail to Kelly in December:
Dear Brother Kelly,
I hope that you had a blessed Thanksgiving. My husband and I have much to be thankful for even though I have not yet found employment. We are waiting and trusting in the Lord.
Brother Kelly, I want to share an incident with you that burdens my heart: A few weeks ago, a Southeastern alumnus from out of state came to Florida for vacation. He has not seen the SE campus for many years, and he visited the campus. He was saddened over the spiritual atmosphere. He explained that when you walk on campus, you discern a change in the spiritual atmosphere than when we were students.
The next evening, we decided to eat dinner at the SE cafeteria. While standing in a food line, he was looking around and quietly said, “I could never recommend Southeastern.” Well, the young girl standing in line in front of me turned around and said, “No, don’t.” I was dumbfounded. I asked her why. “It’s not spiritual anymore. I’ve heard stories of the way it used to be years ago, and that’s what I want to experience. Oh, how I wish I could have been here then.”
She went on to explain that the students were given a survey recently; her and several friends rated the spiritual atmosphere very low. She did say that she is in the minority as most students think the spiritual atmosphere is great. However, she indicated that these students are not spiritual nor seeking a true moving of the Holy Spirit. Moreover, the rules have become lax. And she further explained that 2 of her friends are leaving after this semester and she wants to leave also, but her parents won’t let her. Then she made a negative comment about the campus minister not allowing for the moving of the Spirit.
I encouraged her to pray about this matter. And I assured her that I would pray for the School and a new president that will renew the original mission and revive the Spirit.
Brother Kelly, it burdens my heart that young people are hungering and thirsting after a true moving of the Holy Spirit at the School and are left empty. If they don’t experience the moving of the Spirit at Southeastern, where are they going to experience it? I attended Evangel in 1979-80. It was so different than SE. My friends and I never once experienced the moving of the Holy Spirit in EC’s chapel services.
The Spirit has urged me to write this e-mail on behalf of this young woman and her friends. It was divine providence that we stood by her in the cafeteria line and that she poured out her heart to us.
Brother Kelly, please continue to seek the Lord with prayer and supplication about finding the right president for Southeastern.
Your Sister in Christ,
Karen Pansler Lam
my friend, which one is telling the truth?
The student? Or the PR booklet The Dream?
The Dream boasts: “From
its inception in 1935 as a Bible Institute to train pastors and
missionaries, Southeastern University’s focus has been on preparing
effective Christian leaders. Throughout its history, Southeastern has
upheld a commitment to equip students to be people of character and
integrity who enter the workforce prepared to serve and lead in their
families, churches, and communities.”
focus has been on preparing effective Christian leaders?
then why can’t they find even one graduate to lead the School as President?
SE boasts about equipping graduates for servant
leadership for 75 years, and out of all the thousands and thousands of
graduates, there is not one SE graduate qualified to be the new School
a Southeastern alumna, I love Southeastern. I pray that the School will
return to its spiritual emphasis and seek a shepherd to lead the School in
the paths of righteousness.
Here is an e-mail I sent to the School's Presidential Search Committee last year:
October 5, 2009
Dear Southeastern University Presidential Search Committee:
I awoke at 5 o’clock this morning with Southeastern on my heart. The Spirit of the Lord led me to pray that the School would return to the spiritual emphasis that its founders intended.
As a Southeastern alumna, let me tell you about a day in the 1970s that I will never forget . . .
There was a great moving of the Holy Spirit in the chapel service that morning. Immediately after chapel, I was in Rev. Robert Elliott’s evangelism class. Rev. Elliott was led by the Holy Spirit to disregard teaching and lead the class in prayer. As the class was praying aloud in one accord, a loud roar came from the back corner of the classroom. The sound of a mighty rushing wind filled the room! Oh, what a glorious day! A day I will never forget. It was like the day of Pentecost!
I have never experienced anything like it since, not even in a church. And I have recounted it many times to believers. I wonder, when was the last time that happened on the campus?
My dear brothers in Christ, those four years at Southeastern Bible College were some of the best years of my life. The administration and faculty were God-fearing men who looked first to our spiritual welfare: President Cyril Homer, Rev. Robert Elliot, Rev. Bashford Bishop, Rev. William Richardson, and many others, including my father, Dr. Eugene Pansler.
My father loved Southeastern with all his heart. He truly cared about the spiritual welfare of each student. His chief concern was not that they should become great business leaders, but his chief concern was that they should become great spiritual leaders at home, at work, in the church, in the community, and in the world.
And students revered President Homer. Did students look down on him because he was older and we felt he couldn’t identify with us? No. Students looked up to him because he was dignified and godly. Yes, we revered him because of his spiritual stature.
Brethren, like the apostle Paul, I have suffered many tribulations in life: persecution, unemployment, slander, and many other trials. But I have weathered the storms of life because my faith is built on a solid foundation – Christ. And my years at Southeastern played a formative role in building that rock solid foundation.
Is it lessons from the Educational Psychology course that cause Southeastern to be near and dear to my heart?
Is it material learned in Principles of Education that cause Southeastern to be near and dear to my heart?
It was the godly exhortations of my Southeastern professors that helped inspire me to lead a life led by the Holy Spirit; and strengthened me in the battles of life.
Does it bother me that the School’s current logo is a palm tree instead of yesteryear’s logo of an open Bible and a hand-held torch?
The logo symbolizes the heart of the School. What does a palm tree have to do with the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ? The old logo exhorted students to be torchbearers – to carry the light of Truth into a dark world. “Ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of the light” (Ephesians 5:8). On the other hand, a palm tree is merely a secular marketing device for Florida, devoid of spiritual meaning.
Now I exhort you brothers in Christ, that as you search for a new president for Southeastern, that you earnestly fast and pray for a president who will revive the spiritual emphasis of the School.
The campus is very impressive, but at what price?
The enrollment is now slightly over 3,000, but at what price?
When my father worked at the School in the 1970s, the enrollment was about 1,500 with little debt.
On the contrary, it is rumored in the community that the School is heavily in debt for many, many, many millions. So, the enrollment has doubled but the debt has far exceeded the enrollment. In other words, how many millions did it cost to merely double the enrollment?
It is shameful that a Christian school should be indebted for large sums of money. For we must be good stewards of the School, and large debts are not godly stewardship. Debt is bondage. And, sadly, the School is in bondage to debtors: “The borrower is servant to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7).
Let me be perfectly honest, brethren. Kenny and I have only been married three years and are childless. We are middle-aged and past childbearing years. Therefore, we have no children to inherit our money. Kenny and I have often discussed that we would like to leave our money to a worthy Christian institution, possibly Southeastern. But we changed our minds after discovering that the spiritual emphasis of Southeastern changed to an emphasis on good works, like Catholicism’s social justice.
Now, please don’t misunderstand me. Kenny and I have always been thrifty and good stewards of the money God has given us the opportunity to earn. But we have suffered financial setbacks, such as unemployment. For instance, I lost my job earlier this year and have not been able to find employment. But we would like to leave our meager savings to a true-hearted Christian school. In other words, we want to leave our hard-earned money that we are wise stewards of, only to a Christian institution that also practices wise stewardship; and is faithful to the mission of making students disciples and ambassadors for Christ.
Now, the reason I mention this is because I wonder how many other Christians feel this way? How many other Christians long in their heart to leave their small savings to a school that teaches true Christian education? Needless to say, many small savings add up to large sums.
America is in financial trouble today because a multitude of Americans, including Christians, have not followed the Biblical wisdom of thrift and good stewardship. Unfortunately, Southeastern is included in the multitude of spendthrifts.
My dear brethren, Southeastern must return to the wisdom of the Bible: good stewardship. First, be good stewards of financial resources. The Lord instructs us: “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?” (Luke 14:28).
Second, seek the Lord with prayer and fasting for a president who will be a good steward in charge of the spiritual administration of the School. Southeastern doesn’t need a fund-raiser. Southeastern doesn’t need a big spender. Southeastern needs a good and faithful shepherd. “That the congregation of the Lord be not as sheep which have no shepherd” (Numbers 27: 17). A fund-raiser or big spender is merely a hireling. The School needs a true shepherd who will faithfully watch over and care for the spiritual needs of his flock. Southeastern needs a shepherd to disciple students to bear the light of Truth into a world of darkness.
Brethren, I exhort you, be led by the Spirit; rely not on fleshly wisdom to find a new president. Pray for the leading of the Holy Spirit to direct you to the new shepherd of Southeastern who will lead the School in the Spirit of Christ.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
Karen Pansler-Lam, J.D.
And here is the reply I received on October 10, 2009, from Gardner Altman, Chairman of the Presidential Search Committee:
Thank you for your note of an expression of your apparent sincere feelings and perceived observations.
Firstly, I apologize for my tardy response to your note; this week has been a bit hectic.
My presence on the Southeastern campus during the mid-fifties when my Father attended SEBI affords me the privilege of joining you in admiration and respect for prior administrators and faculty. I met your Father at the occasion of the dedication of the building in his well-deserved honor.
Please know that it is my sincere observation and strong belief that the recent endeavors of SEU have not approached an unwitting denigration of the legacy and heritage of Southeastern as a faith-based, Pentecostal
institution of higher learning. The erstwhile efforts and dedication of your Father and others sowed seeds and laid a foundation for growth which has occurred.
Please further know that I elect to not confront your feelings or engage in philosophical debate; notwithstanding, I shall be pleased to make every
reasonable effort to make available to you FACTS evidencing the financial status of SEU and the results of the current and proposed efforts of SEU to educate, equip, train and prepare spiritual leaders and faithful laypersons for future global service. Please advise of factual information you deem necessary or appropriate for your sincere review of the present posture and
proposed path of SEU.
I trust that you shall not receive and review this response as my ineffective attempt to become a toady in response to your somewhat chastising observations or a highhanded response; but, a response in a spirit of candor and sincerity similar to that in which I received and reviewed your comments and observations.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
And here is my reply to Mr. Altman on October 11, 2009:
Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ who is worthy of the highest honor and glory and praise!
These true concerns about Southeastern are not based on feelings. Nor is this a philosophical debate. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, my letter was an exhortation to Christian stewardship and leadership.
The Lord instructs us: “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?” (Luke 14:28). “The borrower is servant to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7). Hence frugality is a clear Christian duty.
In our personal finances, my husband and I practice stewardship of our income. We recently bought a modest home with a manageable mortgage. It was built in the 1950s and demanded much-needed work because the previous owners neglected it. But Kenny and I willingly work with our own hands in order to live within our means and not be in bondage to unmanageable debts. Moreover, we drive older cars that are paid for. And we economize in other ways.
As stated in an earlier e-mail, in the 1970s, SE had an enrollment of 1,500 students and very little debt. In fact, my father often mentioned that the School operated in the black for some time due to the financial frugality of business manager Thomas Wilson. And the only time SE purposely took on a debt was to build the chapel. But that was a manageable debt.
When my father left SE, the campus was modest. But the grounds and buildings were neat and clean because of grounds overseer Dwight Redus.
Later, the School began to decline and struggle during the presidency of James Hennesy. I do not know if this was a gradual or rapid decline. At the first sign of trouble, why weren’t changes made?
Was the multimillion-dollar debt absolutely necessary for deferred maintenance?
Could the campus have been adequately improved with a manageable debt without costly multimillion- dollar renovations?
Has an increase in budget been significant enough to justify the multimillion-dollar debt?
The School is in bondage to an unmanageable debt. Again, “The borrower is servant to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7).
B. Continuing legacy and heritage of Southeastern as a faith-based, Pentecostal institution of higher learning
When I attended SE, only applicants for faculty positions who were members of the AG were hired. This ensured that SE students would be guided and taught by professing members of the denomination.
It would be interesting to know the following:
1. What percent of the current SE faculty/staff (including adjuncts) is AG? What are the other denominations?
2. What percent of the current faculty/staff are SE alumni?
3. What percent of the current student body is AG?
4. How many members of the current Board are SE alumni?
5. How many SE presidents were SE alumni?
Clearly, if Southeastern does not find presidents from their own graduates, then they have failed in training men and women for administrative leadership in their own institution.
For example, prior to becoming president of Lee University, Paul Conn served on the Lee College faculty. And he was a Lee College graduate.
Conn has served as president of Lee University since 1986. During his
Conn holds the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in psychology from Emory University
BACKGROUND: Prior to becoming president, Conn served on the Lee College
other Christian colleges and universities train students to become leaders
C. Man-led vs. Spirit-led School
At the dedication of the Pansler Alumni-Student Union Building, there were several speakers, including my father. After the ceremony, guests commented to my family either face to face or in letters that my father was the only one who gave a spiritual emphasis to the School. If we find the letters in my father’s personal files, I will fax them to you (of course, with their names blacked out). And, over the years, students and professors have confided in me their concern over the decline in the School’s spirituality. Of course, names cannot be given because of confidentiality.
However, I will mention my niece, Kimberly. She attended SE a few years ago. She left before finishing her first semester. Why? She was discouraged and disgusted because the students did know the truth about Christianity; and the faculty did not teach true Christianity. So, she attended a secular school - the University of South Florida. She graduated valedictorian of her class this year.
Unfortunately, Gardner, since you never attended SE as a student you can’t truly identify with SE alumni or faculty.
D. Let Him Hear
Finally, in Charles Kelly’s telephone call to me and in your e-mail there was a purely secular tone. When Mr. Kelly talked about the impressive new campus, he patted himself and the Board on the back for a job well done. At no time did he give God the glory for the increase in enrollment.
Be led by the Spirit.
To God be the glory.
These are not feelings or philosophical debate.
These are the facts and truths about Southeastern.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto Southeastern.
My dear SE family and friends, there is a qualified Southeastern graduate whom God wills to lead the School. And he or she may be an unlikely choice.
For example, God called Moses, a lowly shepherd, to lead His people out of the bondage of Egypt.
And God called Deborah, a judge and prophetess, to deliver the Israelites from oppression by the Canaanites.
And God called the shepherd David to be anointed as king of Judah.
And Jesus called fishermen and other ordinary men to be His disciples.
Unquestionably, God calls ordinary, humble men and women to serve Him faithfully. Why? Because the humble realize that nothing can be accomplished without God’s help. On the contrary, the proud rely on their own strength and power and take all the credit.
Simply put, God calls ordinary men and women to do extraordinary works so that He will get the glory.
And God knows who should be the next president of our beloved Southeastern. And it may be an unlikely choice.
Above all, the new SE president must be a leader after God's own heart. The new president, like the Good Shepherd, must protect, care for, and feed the flock of students. The new shepherd of Southeastern must have pastoral character and habits. This does not mean he or she should be an ordained pastor. It means that the person must have a shepherd's heart.
For example, Jerry Falwell had a shepherd's heart.
He tried to protect, care for, and feed the Christian flock. I didn't always agree with Jerry Falwell, but at least he was strong-enough and Christian-enough to stand up for the Truth. Unfortunately, America has not been the same since his death. Today there is no spiritual leader who is strong enough to lead the Christian flock. And, unfortunately, many professing Christians are led astray by false shepherds - hirelings - who are more concerned with being politically correct than Biblically correct.
Falwell's outspokenness and courage made him controversial. In spite of this, he founded Lynchburg Baptist College in 1971. The name was changed to Liberty University in 1984. And today Liberty University is a thriving Christian school. According to Wikipedia:
"There are currently nearly 12,000 residential students and more than 50,000 online students – through April  a total of more than 60,000 students were enrolled"(liberty.edu). LU Online registered the 50,000th student on April 16, 2010. LU is currently the largest Christian university in the world.
As of February 2009, Liberty offers 71 majors & specializations and among those offered are Aeronautics, Philosophy and Religion, English, Worship & Music Ministry, Business, Criminal Justice, Education and Nursing. The university's Distance Learning Program offers 36 degree programs.
The acceptance rate for students entering LU in 2009 was 96.2%; the 25th-75th SAT percentile ranges for 2008 freshmen were 430-540 for critical reading and 420-530 for math, according to U.S. News & World Report.
The U.S. News & World Report currently ranks Liberty University as a Fourth Tier institution in the Universities Masters (South) category. Other schools listed on the same tier and category are Southern Wesleyan University, Bethel College, and Norfolk State University.
In 2007 Liberty University School of Law, provisionally approved by the American Bar Association, announced an 89% Bar passage rate from its first graduating class of Law Students. The bar passage rate far exceeded the State Average of 72%.
In 2009 the School of Business at Liberty University entered candidacy for full accreditation from the Association of Collegiate Business Schools and Programs.
The point is that strong men of convictions can build strong schools. Falwell had the courage to speak up and speak out to protect Christian America. Unfortunately, since Falwell's death, Christian America is rapidly dying. And cowardly, weak Evangelicals - false Christians -are to blame.
Southeastern needs a Jerry Falwell, a capable and strong leader who will stand up for Truth, and stand against evil.
Southeastern needs a strong leader who will inspire students to rebuild Christian America.
Southeastern needs a strong leader who has the courage to speak the Truth of the Gospel.
Southeastern needs a true shepherd who will faithfully watch over and care for the spiritual needs of his flock.
Southeastern needs a shepherd to disciple students to bear the light of Truth into a world of darkness.
Southeastern needs a man or woman anointed and ordained by God - not men - to lead the School. The President must take all matters before the Lord and be led by Him.
Southeastern must be Spirit-led, not man-led.
To be called by God to lead Southeastern is a calling, not a career. A Christian's calling must be put above his career.
Dear Southeastern family and friends, will you pray that the School will earnestly seek the Lord’s will and search out a true shepherd who will lead the School in the Spirit of Christ?
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto Southeastern.
Faithfully serving our Lord Jesus Christ,
Karen Pansler-Lam, J.D.
1977 & 1978 SE alumna
Southeastern University of the Assemblies
of God is located in Lakeland, Florida.