One of Largest Christian Colleges Decides Divorcing President Can Keep His Job
The president of celebrated Ebola doctor Kent Brantly's alma mater will keep his job, despite divorce proceedings for “irreconcilable differences.”
After trustees at Abilene Christian University (ACU), one of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities' largest members, “agonized with the decision, praying fervently and investing significant time in dialogue,” they decided that president Phil Schubert won’t lose his job even though his wife Jamie has filed for divorce. The school newspaper, The Optimist, broke the story. The Christian Chronicle, associated with the same Churches of Christ denomination as ACU, reports more details.
Schubert worked at ACU, primarily in financial services, for 17 years before his inauguration as president in 2010. He and his wife Jamie, who have been married 22 years, are both alumni of the school. They have three young children. Jamie filed for divorce in July, citing “irreconcilable differences.”
During a quarterly meeting, the board debated keeping Schubert on.
“The Board of Trustees is deeply saddened about the situation and its effect on their family,” chairman Barry Packer wrote in an email to about 400 faculty and staff. “We believe the covenant of marriage is created by God. We also believe strongly in the power of grace in a broken world and the call to be peacemakers.” (Full text below.)
Schubert is a “man of deep integrity” whose “leadership will continue to bless ACU,” Packer wrote.
ACU, which recently placed among America's top 10 Christian colleges (according to one ranking), isn’t the only Christian college where getting a divorce might mean losing your job. A Wheaton professor resigned in 2008 rather than share the details of his divorce with school administrators. Biola University, Taylor University, and Gordon College have policies similar to Wheaton’s, which allow staff to remain employed "when there is reasonable evidence that the circumstances that led to the final dissolution of the marriage related to desertion or adultery on the part of the other partner."
In 2012, the board of King’s College in New York City accepted the resignation of president Dinesh D’Souza after he got a girlfriend and filed for divorce—in that order.
ACU recently drew attention after 2003 alumnus Brantly contracted Ebola working for Samaritan's Purse in Liberia.
The full text of ACU trustees’ email to staff, obtained and published by the Christian Chronicle:
Abilene Christian University president Dr. Phil Schubert and his wife, Jamie, have experienced challenges in their marriage, leading recently to divorce proceedings. The Board of Trustees is deeply saddened about the situation and its effect on their family. We believe the covenant of marriage is created by God. We also believe strongly in the power of grace in a broken world and the call to be peacemakers.
We have been in prayer for the Schubert family, the ACU community and for the trustees to have wisdom and discernment in reaching a decision regarding Dr. Schubert’s continued leadership of the university.
Our responsibility is to make decisions that best align ACU with its critical mission and Christ-centered heritage while ensuring its long-term success. Therefore, we’ve taken great steps to gain perspective on Dr. Schubert’s ability to be an effective leader in light of his present situation.
The trustees have agonized with the decision, praying fervently and investing significant time in dialogue. Based upon our discussions with Phil, we are confident he is a man of deep integrity, is pursuing God, and that his leadership will continue to bless ACU.
As a result, the Board of Trustees has concluded that we will continue to support Dr. Schubert in his role as president, while ensuring ACU’s mission is being fulfilled and its heritage upheld.
This is a highly personal matter for the Schubert family and we want to respect their privacy. Our hope is that the ACU community will support the board’s decision while continuing to pray for Phil and Jamie and their children, as well as for the trustees and our great university.
[Screenshot from ACU's Instagram profile]