Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Open Letter to the Editors of The Banner

To whom it may concern,

Your recent story on the departure of Dawn and Tom Wolthuis from the Institute for Christian Studies is one-sided and incomplete. To begin, it contains several factual inaccuracies that need to be directly challenged. First, the story cites “sources close to ICS” who claim that “the presidents did not receive board support as they did necessary staff cutting that had been approved by the board….” Obviously, the ICS Board supported the very cutbacks that they themselves mandated. Although the entire institution laments the fact that these measures were necessary, these cuts were discussed and supported by the entire institutional leadership (including, in addition to the Presidents, the Director of Finance and Administration, the Director of the Centre for Philosophy, Religion, and Social Ethics, and the Academic Dean).

Second, the article states that in late 2012, “financial statements showed that the school could accept students for only two more years unless it cut expenses by reducing faculty and staff and increased fundraising.” Prudent institutions make plans and projections based on the state of their current finances, and ICS is no exception. Reporting such a statement without further qualification, however, gives the misleading impression that ICS is closing its doors to incoming students this coming September. Of course, since 2012 we have taken measures that will allow us to continue to accept students this coming year and to commit to those accepted for the duration of their programs. In the meantime, we continue to work to bring ICS into a more fiscally sustainable future.

Anyone who knows anything about the history of ICS, including our wonderful donors and supporters, knows that it has been chronically underfunded for its entire existence. In that sense, today’s reality is not so different from yesterday’s, and in fact our current economic condition, at least for the near term, is much more stable than it has been at several crisis points throughout ICS’ history. In spite of these ongoing financial difficulties, the ICS has survived and thrived for over 45 years thanks to a group of passionate Christian intellectuals and administrative professionals who work for significantly less than market value because they strongly believe in ICS’ mission to integrate Christian faith and academic learning. Your article does their personal sacrifice for this important Christian cause a real disservice.

The article gives the impression of ICS as a rudderless ship that is crashing into the rocks. To the contrary, at a programmatic level the ICS has never been more robust. The current cohort of students is excellent, as evidenced by the fact that nine currently enrolled students are sharing their work at academic conferences or in publications this year. Our excellent faculty continues to publish in the best academic presses and journals, and their courses remain exciting, challenging, and innovative. Our research centre, the Centre for Philosophy, Religion, and Social Ethics, is partnering with The King’s University College to host a conference on economic justice in May 2014, where Bob Goudzwaard will be a plenary speaker. Last year, the CPRSE also secured a two-year $200,000.00 research grant to explore how people in the Christian Reformed Church understand the relationship between faith and justice. $80,000.00 of that grant flows directly into CRCNA coffers to pay CRC staff to partner with us in that project. Here we have ICS helping to fund CRC work rather than the other way around! Some mention of these positive projects that are moving full steam ahead would have added some balance to this article.

Finally the article states that ICS has recently been running “deficit budgets” when actually, thanks to the generous bequest from the estate of Lowell Andreas, the budgets have been balanced. Unlike many of our sister institutions in Christian post-secondary education, ICS carries no debt. True, we are depleting the funds of that bequest, and we know we cannot continue this pattern indefinitely. While we are aware of the risk such spending involves, we see it as a strategic investment in our significant work, an investment that will ensure that ICS maintains its reputation as an institution of Christian graduate education worthy of generous financial support.


Dr. Ronald A. Kuipers
Director, Centre for Philosophy, Religion, and Social Ethics

Dr. Douglas Blomberg
Acting President

Henriette Thompson
Chair, Board of Trustees