A series of drastic board actions has launched a turnaround process at Canada's largest seminary and oldest Bible college.

Threatened by financial insolvency, the board of governors of Ontario Bible College (obc) and Ontario Theological Seminary (ots) laid off nearly all its staff and faculty on June 16. Then the board announced on June 29 the appointment of an interim president, Brian C. Stiller, executive director of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. In late July, the board presented a three-year plan of financial reorganization to the Canadian courts.

"While there is stress when a board initiates such radical measures as to lay off its entire staff, in my view it is very viable as an organization," says Stiller, who is volunteering his time and services for the transition. The Toronto-based Bible college (formed in 1894) and seminary (formed in 1977) is the largest institution of its kind in Canada. The combined student body numbered 1,100 during the 1994-95 school year.

Financial problems had been mounting for more than a decade, intensified in recent years by a building program for the seminary for which a substantial number of pledges did not materialize. Current liabilities total almost $6 million. Total assets are $4.6 million.

"Basically, the board was asleep at the switch, allowing the debt to accumulate without a comprehensive plan," Stiller says.

"Board members are solid, committed people, some of whom have personally loaned money to the school in order to make payroll," says Gary Walsh, one of the 25 members. "We simply did not take the action necessary to create an institutional configuration that we could afford."

The board has been working to build a new leadership team since the spring, when president Bruce Gordon announced his resignation to accept a position with Canadian Focus on the Family. During the interim, the board developed a new management team that includes several evangelical luminaries. Stiller is well known for his long-term leadership at Canada's counterpart to the U.S. National Association of Evangelicals.

Stiller has moved quickly to make sure the school is operational immediately. All faculty have been asked to return the last week of August.

By Warren Bird.


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