Hannibal-LaGrange University, a Southern Baptist school in Hannibal, Missouri, is holding a 10-hour “time of prayer, fasting, petition, and repentance” on Thursday (March 10). But the Missouri Baptist Convention, with which the school is affiliated, posted and then deleted an article about the event that raises questions about the financial state of HLGU.
The prayer and fasting call comes on the heels of HLGU President Anthony Allen’s sudden resignation. Allen, who was elected as the school’s 17th president in May of 2012, announced on Jan. 21 that he would step down 10 days later. The school said his departure in the middle of a semester was so he could “recover from some lingering health issues, spend more time with his family, and give the opportunity for new leadership to move HLGU to the next level of success.” Allen is a member of the steering council for the Conservative Baptist Network, a group trying to push the Southern Baptist Convention further rightward.
An article posted by the MBC’s publication and HLGU on Tuesday said that HLGU’s Transitional President Rodney Harrison called for the event, which will be facilitated by Claude King, co-author of Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God. The piece vaguely references “current financial and institutional challenges.”
But an article posted by the MBC’s publication earlier on Tuesday about the solemn assembly offered more details. The piece, however, was quickly deleted from the site. While the URL now provides an error message, it was captured by the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.
In the deleted article, the call for “an emergency solemn prayer meeting” was made by MBC Executive Director John Yeats. And he offered a clear reason for the event.
“Emergency is a stronger word than urgent,” Yeats said. “The dire financial and institutional situation at Hannibal-LaGrange University is too big for humanistic responses, so we are compelled to begin with our faces to the ground in fasting and prayer.”
“The university is in dire financial straits and needs an immediate and significant inflow of funds to sustain its operations. We are on our faces before God, seeking his provision and direction for the university,” he added. “In the face of imminent loss, we must seek the Lord.”
Among the prayer requests offered by Yeats was for Missouri Baptists to ask God for “a miracle of generosity that enables HLGU to thrive in the coming days.”
Yeats added that in the Bible, “whenever God’s people were surrounded, or faced with a dire need or overwhelming tragedy, the first step of the faithful is to consecrate ourselves, confess our sin, and invite the Lord to reveal himself. After that we can call on our mighty God for deliverance and intervention.”
Yeats didn’t specify how HLGU’s financial situation occurred or what “sin” would need to be confessed at the solemn assembly. But he expressed his confidence that God would provide assistance.
“Our Lord owns the cattle on a thousand hills,” Yeats explained. “The Lord has no financial worries. He has not called for an emergency session of heaven, and he always provides the resources (human and financial) his servants need to carry out His purposes. Our time of prayer is to ensure that the mission, vision, and activities of HLGU align with our Lord’s perfect will for this day and time.”
According to the Higher Learning Commission, the accrediting body for HLGU, the school received an “interim report” on “financial indicators” on Feb. 15. This came after a decision in November by the HLC’s Institutional Actions Council to concur with “the Financial Panel’s findings” about HLGU.
Another school affiliated with the MBC is also facing significant challenges. Yeats has played a key role in the controversy at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Missouri, where actions he and other MBC leaders undertook were part of why the school’s accreditation is now on probation by the HLC.
Yeats did not respond to Word&Way’s request for comment about why the article was removed. HLGU did not respond to Word&Way’s request for comment about their financial situation in light of Yeats’s remarks.