Theology study derails Glorieta sale
After an independent study of theological compatibility, LifeWay Christian Resources has decided not to sell a conference center that has been losing money for a quarter century to Olivet University International.
By Bob Allen
LifeWay Christian Resources decided not to sell its cash-strapped Glorieta Conference Center in New Mexico to a Christian college in California following an independent review of the potential buyer’s doctrinal views.
The Tennessean in Nashville, Tenn., reported late Oct. 16 that the Southern Baptist Convention’s publishing house has received the report of a study by the National Association of Evangelicals and that a potential deal with Olivet University International is off.
“LifeWay Christian Resources has reviewed the report from the National Association of Evangelicals, and decided not to go forward with the sale of Glorieta Conference Center to Olivet University,” LifeWay said in statement. “We are appreciative of our relationship with Olivet's leadership and indebted to NAE for their thorough work. We will now renew our pursuit of viable options for the sale of the property.”
A LifeWay spokesman declined to discuss details of the NAE investigation, but Olivet has long been hounded by controversy over a movement in Asia led by the school’s founder, David Jang, who has faced repeated accusations of holding heretical views about the Second Coming of Christ.
Olivet’s current president, former Southern Baptist missionary and seminary professor Bill Wagner, insists that the school’s teaching is orthodox. He released a statement saying Olivet intends to discuss the report with LifeWay leaders in hopes of reviving the deal.
Olivet, currently located in San Francisco, has already failed in bids to purchase Bethany University, a closed Assemblies of God school in Scotts Valley, Calif., and a 217-acre campus in Northfield, Mass., founded by famed evangelist D.L. Moody that was recently donated to formerly Baptist-affiliated Grand Canyon University by the billionaire owners of Hobby Lobby.
LifeWay has also had problems unloading its 2,100-acre encampment near Santa Fe, N.M., that has lost money 24 of the last 25 years. In July, the Baptist Convention of New Mexico turned down an offer to purchase Glorieta for $1, after a study committee failed to come up with a viable business plan to operate the conference center as a ministry.
The New Mexico task force estimated deferred maintenance of the conference center opened in 1952 would cost $10 million to $20 million and that any prudent business plan would include an environmental study. New Mexico Baptists asked LifeWay to indemnify the Baptist Convention of New Mexico for any environmental liability and litigation liability. LifeWay declined and the deal was off.
Olivet University leadership has leased unused space at Glorieta during discussions about possible purchases of the property. Olivet President Bill Wagner, a native of Albuquerque who served as an International Mission Board missionary for 31 years and as professor of missions and evangelism at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary for 10 years, was invited to speak to Glorieta volunteers in August.
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