Four Trustees Resign From Bryan College Over Leadership, Statement of Faith Controversy

Four members of the board of trustees at Bryan College in Dayton, Tennessee, have stepped down from their positions, citing a disagreement with school leadership that could not be reconciled.

After a private board meeting earlier in July, Trustees Jeff Ryan, Gary Phillips, James Wolf and Mark Senter stepped down from their positions, citing concerns over the leadership of Stephen Livesay, president of the small Christian liberal arts college. Twelve other trustee members remain on the board.

Former Trustee Jeff Ryan told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that the special July board meeting was called to address "the issues and controversies and problems at Bryan College that have developed in the last year." When an agreement couldn't be reached during the closed-door meeting, the trustee added to the local media outlet that he chose to resign due to the "failed leadership at the level of the president and within the board itself."

Ryan added in his resignation statement that it was time for him to end his professional relationship with Bryan College, writing: "The board majority has made it clear who the conductors are on this train and it's time for me to step aside and allow them to carry out their vision with those who are unified behind them," Ryan wrote. "A line has been crossed in that I cannot continue to support Dr. Livesay or [board] Chairman Haynes."

The school has been embroiled in multiple controversies in the past year that began when it changed its 80-year-old statement of faith in February. While the original statement of faith said that the creation of man was by "fiat of God," the new statement of faith specifically said that the school believes "all humanity is descended from Adam and Eve." Some students and faculty took issue with the amended statement of faith, arguing that although God created man, He may have also allowed for man's evolution.

Although the changed statement of faith was the impetus for controversy among faculty, students and administration at the Christian school, many critics of the college argue that it was the leadership's handling of the situation that led to so much subsequent backlash.

Student Body Vice President Allison Baker told the Chattanooga Times Free Press in May that "there seems to be an emotional disconnect with what we're seeing and how Dr. Livesay perceives things." Her comment came after students had circulated multiple petitions regarding the statement of faith and nine staff members resigned, only for Livesay to say at a fundraising event in April that the unity between students and faculty remained "solid" and the controversy had been blown out of proportion by the media.

Livesay also received backlash when he announced in late May that the school would be laying off 20 of its 173 employees, citing necessary budget cuts after the school suffered low enrollment in 2012 and 2013.

According to the Associated Press, Chairman Col. John Haynes issued a statement last week, saying that the majority of the trustees agreed with the direction the school was taking at the July 11 board meeting.

"There was a strong spirit of support by the majority of the board for the wonderful faculty, administration and staff at Bryan College and continued support for our Statement of Faith and our historical stand on Creation," Haynes said.