In a previous article I posed the question, Is NIU Fundamental? While the article went on to lay out some activities at NIU that I believe exposed the drift away from fundamentalism and into evangelicalism, now we have NIU making its own statement as to where they are in this spectrum. Howard Patz (son of Paul Patz founder of Northland camp and the college/university) is stepping down from the chairmanship of the board of directors and the mantle has been offered to Daniel Patz a grandson of the founder, alumnus of NIU, and pastor of an Evangelical Free Church in America (EFCA) which is part of the NAE (National Association of Evangelicals). Daniel Patz is clearly a self-identified Evangelical and he’s been offered the chairmanship of the board of NIU. Would a fundamentalist institution of higher learning extend the offer of chairmanship of the board of directors to an evangelical? Answer: No!
NIU also has dropped their current statement of faith and adopted the New Hampshire Confession of Faith of 1853. While they state that this adoption is provisionally pending a review, they have noted, “Our president, the Board of Directors, and our Bible faculty have all signed the New Hampshire Confession in support of what it affirms.” One must ask the question, why did they drop their existing statement of faith? One conjecture would be that they needed to bring their statement of faith into line with their new practice and rather than doing the obvious and remove portions of their current statement they instead adopt a new one, provisionally, of course, and thus, rather quickly and quietly have eliminated those portions which needed to be “adjusted.” Now as they adopt, change, revise this new confession of faith, they will have their “doctrine” in line with their new found “practice.” Their now “old” statement of faith put them squarely violating their own statements. Something had to be done, they couldn’t just continue to ignore their own statement, too many of us have called them out on this. But I digress somewhat.
Should we be surprised by the events of the past two weeks? In one sense, yes. On April 29th the board had a meeting in which Matt Olson was called in and for all intents and purposes was fired. He was given notice that his termination as president was effective graduation day, May 11th. Matt Olson was given the nod to make his termination known to the school on the following Monday in chapel. He did so in a gracious manner. Now move forward one week from that chapel announcement and according to Daniel Patz on his facebook page, the Patz family was meeting on Monday, May 6th at 7pm and he was requesting prayer for that meeting. Two days later on May 8th another board meeting takes place. While the events of this board meeting aren’t very public at this point, it is quite clear that there was a power struggle within the board and the Patz family board members made their desires known. It is known that four non-Patz family board members resigned at the May 8th meeting. It looks like this restructured board then voted to reinstate Matt Olson as president to which he accepted and this was announced the following day in chapel along with the announcement that Howard Patz was stepping down as chairman and the offer of the chairmanship was being extended to Daniel Patz who has yet to give his official acceptance. Here is a link to NIU’s May 11th announcement about the May 8th board meeting (found here). Notice nothing was said of the resignation of 4 board members even though they apologize for their lack of communication in the past they continue with a lack of communication about what took place. Another point of a lack of communication is the financial concerns which were mentioned which caused Matt Olson to be released at the April 25th board meeting. What about those financial concerns? Did they disappear over the course of a week and a half, so that Matt Olson could be re-hired? It is rumored about that the endowment that the Patz family set up for NIU is depleted. NIU has been running in the red and seemingly relying on the principal of that endowment rather than just the interest. I understand, this is a bit of speculation on my part, because there has been a lack of communication on the part of NIU concerning their financial viability, so much for transparency.
Matt Olson a while ago in one of his articles mentioned “transparency.” The goings on at NIU have been anything but “transparent.” Instead, some secrecy, some cover up has been the modus operandi of NIU. A rock band is initiated in January of this year but is not made public until April 2nd only to be removed from the home page of NIU’s website two days later and left buried within their website pages. This begs the question, why wait some three months before announcing this recruiting tool? This same band was on stage with Big Daddy Weave in concerts in Oshkosh, and Wausau, WI in February. At the Oshkosh event some 40 students from NIU and Matt Olson were present “recruiting” for NIU. As the presence of the students and Matt Olson became public knowledge, no mention of the band was given and NIU quickly downplayed their presence by insisting they just had a booth there for recruiting and Matt Olson just happened to be given the opportunity to speak to the crowd. Instead, this event was put on by Lamplight Productions which has strong ties to NIU and NIU’s own band was part of the event. The band was never mentioned in all this kerfuffle back in February, so much for “transparency.”
Then there’s the NIU chapel speaker, Guy Conn, pastor of Fox River Christian Church, and the video link of his church service which initially was open for public viewing and then suddenly that one video (link here) became members only accessible and cannot be found on the church’s webpage for sermons (link here) hmmm…
“Transparency” and “stonewalling” are not synonyms. Instead, they are more like antonyms, yet Matt Olson and crew would try to have us believe that they are synonyms by the actions that they have taken this past semester with the direction change that has been going on for quite some time at NIU. Even with the change Matt Olson and even Les Ollila initially told us that there were no changes going on at NIU. I am thankful that that “no change change” has been dropped. That makes for a little glimmer of transparency along the lines of being, say, translucent instead of stonewalling. But in the end, the change that has been ongoing has brought NIU clearly, squarely into full-orbed evangelicalism and away from any version or strain of fundamentalism.
Where does this leave us? As fundamentalists, with one less college to send our young people to for higher education; for evangelicals, it gives them a college in the north woods of WI, where they use a dog sled team to take you from Green Bay to Dunbar. Surely there will be standing room only for young people flocking to NIU to enjoy their winters instead of the balmier places available say, in Illinois, Ohio, or California. The future looks bleak for a once fine institution. This is tragic.
Just today, May 13th, Matt Olson at his blog writes and notes that four board members stepped resigned at the May 8th board meeting (link here). In this article, Matt Olson says nothing of the Patz family of the evening of May 6th two days prior to the board meeting in question. Matt Olson states,
On the evening of May 8, the chairman of the board, Howard Patz, clarified for the rest of the board the history of Northland, as well as the direction he believed it should now take. After some discussion, four members of the board graciously and respectfully resigned. Nothing was forced, and it was a grace-filled meeting.
Right, the Patz family meets one week after Matt Olson publicly announces his termination and two days after the family meeting the board meets, Howard Patz reviews the history of NIU and four board members (all non-Patz family members) resigned. All this after constantly being reminded this past year or so by Matt Olson at his blog and NIU’s vidcasts that he and the Patz family are together with what Matt Olson is doing.
The sane ones have left the Titanic.