August 4, 1999

Coppenger confesses his anger
___By Bob Allen
___Associated Baptist Press
___KANSAS CITY, Mo. (ABP) --Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Mark Coppenger confessed "misappropriation of anger" to trustee leaders July 3l. He also promised to seek reconciliation with people he has offended.
Mark Coppenger
___Trustees also required Coppenger, 51, president of the seminary since 1995, to follow specific steps to aid "repentance and restoration" for what has been described as a chronic problem with anger. Officials would not say what specific steps Coppenger would take, but a knowledgeable source said they include counseling.
___In a four-hour executive session, the trustee executive committee discussed leadership concerns with Coppenger that were raised during a two-month investigation by trustee officers. The report's findings reportedly included other concerns, but the focus of the meeting was anger.
___Two members of the executive committee, Kent Cochran of Kansas City, Mo., and Tony Mattia of Wamega, Kan., reportedly filed a complaint about repeated reports that Coppenger became enraged and in at least some cases used profanity in discussions with employees.
___After lodging the most recent complaint, the seminary's dean and vice president of academic affairs, James Cogdill reportedly was fired by Coppenger, but the trustee executive committee reinstated him the following day.
___Trustee officers interviewed both current and former staff and developed a list of concerns presented to Coppenger when he returned from a two-week mission trip to Africa July 27.
___During the closed-door meeting with trustee leaders, Coppenger acknowledged the "problem" of his anger and "embraced" the recommended steps for "repentance and restoration," according to a brief written statement read to reporters.
___Trustee Chairman Carl Weiser, pastor from Lynchburg, Va., said the committee would not "elaborate on specifics."
___Coppenger also declined to discuss the agreement.
___Asked if he believed the investigation would hinder his ability to lead the seminary, Coppenger said he would trust in God. "All you can do is just take your step," he said. "If you try to chart the whole thing out, you are playing God."
___A statement said the committee is praying "this biblical process will serve as an example to the students, faculty and trustees of Midwestern and others."
___"It is our sincere and prayerful desire that God will use these events to work revival in this place," the statement said.
___Weiser said the executive committee would give a fuller report to the complete trustee board when it meets next fall.
___An informed source said the agreement protects current employees who cooperated with the trustee investigation but predicted it would make it more difficult for certain staff members to work with the president.
___Coppenger is the school's third president and the first elected since conservatives gained control of the school during the 1980s and early '90s.
___At the time, the search committee cited Coppenger's conservative theology and his "vision and leadership."
___Coppenger came to the post from Nashville, Tenn., where he was vice president for convention relations at the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee. Before that he was executive director of the Baptist State Convention of Indiana and pastor of First Baptist Church in El Dorado, Ark.
___Sources confirmed that Coppenger has a reputation of alienating subordinates with his volatile temper. One knowledgeable source described it as a "life-long problem."
___One person who formerly worked for Coppenger at Midwestern said he was "not surprised" that Coppenger's anger had become an issue. "I'm just surprised that it took this long."
___A former co-worker at the SBC Executive Committee who did not work for Coppenger directly said she had a good relationship with him and that he was often friendly with secretaries in the break room. Even in that setting, however, she recalled women being surprised by his use of what she described as "raw" language.
___Another former staff member at Midwestern said she never saw one of Coppenger's angry outbursts firsthand but heard about them from others. She characterized his use of profanity as mild, "PG"-type words, like "hell" and "damn." But it was more the way they were used that upset subordinates, she said--delivered in "extreme anger" and directed toward the person and not the situation.
___She said the type of language Coppenger used in the pulpit during chapel differed from what she overheard in the hallway. "The walk and the talk don't match," she said.
___According to SBC Executive Committee directories from past years, three secretaries worked under Coppenger in five years. In four years at Midwestern, he reportedly has had five.
___Two of four "dream team" administrators Coppenger put in place at Midwestern also left within about two years.

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