By Bob Allen
Leaders of the South Carolina Baptist Convention have asked officials at North Greenville University to explain circumstances around the departure of the school’s former president after an online video made it appear he was having an extramarital affair.
Dwight Easler, chairman of the state convention’s executive board, summoned three university leaders to attend a meeting of the full board Oct. 15 in a Sept. 4 letter published in the Baptist Courier.
Easler, pastor of Corinth Baptist in Gaffney, S.C., said convention leaders are “engaged and very concerned” about rumors swirling around the sudden retirement of 23-year President James “Jimmy” Epting earlier this year.
University officials announced Jan. 6 that Epting was taking an immediate sabbatical and retiring in May for various reasons, including concerns about his health. Leaders publicly praised Epting’s leadership, until a video date-stamped prior to the announcement portraying him in a compromising position was published on YouTube Aug. 27. The board of trustees then issued a statement saying all North Greenville University leaders are “expected to lead Christ-centered lives.”
Easler asked NGU Board Chairwoman Beverly Hawkins, Interim President Randall Pannell and a board vice chair to appear before the executive board Oct 15 “to give explanation of actions taken, and future actions to be taken to improve accountability and processes.” Individual board members will have an opportunity to ask their own questions.
In the meantime, Easler said, the chairman of the board’s budget and finance committee has authorized the delay of payments of the $1.2 million in convention funds budgeted for the university in the current year. Funding will remain frozen, Easler said, until the full budget and finance committee “can determine an appropriate recommendation to the executive board.”
Easler and Interim Executive Director Richard Harris met with the three university officials for two hours on Aug. 31.
“We want to assure you that we desire godly integrity, appropriate accountability, cooperation and healthy collaboration with our universities,” Easler assured fellow members of the executive board.