First Freedom

Pakistani Christians protest against the suicide bombing in All Saints Church in Peshawar on September 23, 2013.

For the last couple of months, I’ve been thinking a lot about the geopolitics of religious freedom, thanks to the latest assignment from Congressional Quarterly Researcher.

Turns out there’s a whole world of folks who care a great deal about religious freedom and the persecution of religious minorities, and a very robust debate about how the United States should be engaging religion in international development and diplomacy.

“Religious intolerance,” religion scholar Kelly James Clark told me, is as big a threat to global stability “as oil, as nuclear weapons.”

Read the report.

Pieces of the Past

Winston police force in front of the Winston Town Hall, 1894.


Once again, I’m a lucky story magnet. A week or two ago, I was walking through the park with Bunny Snowflake the terrorist retriever and I saw my neighbor Bill Brake playing with his girls on the swing set.

“Hey,” he called out to me. “David Gall called me the other day, said he had something I should come take a look at.”

Turns out that David had found a piece of the old Winston Town Hall, a short-lived but beautiful building where the Reynolds Building now stands in Winston-Salem. David and some other volunteers had been cleaning up at the Happy Hill cemetery, in an old African-American neighborhood in Winston-Salem, when they unearthed a marvelous piece of terra cotta molding.

A couple of days later I went by David’s office. Right away I knew it was a story, especially given that a) it was a mystery as to how pieces of the old town hall ended up in an overgrown and essentially forgotten African American cemetery, and b) that it had been found just before the anniversary of the merging of Winston and Salem, two towns with very different but intertwined and inseparable stories.

Lucky me. Those who run the paper still see it fit to let me write once in a while. The story appeared in Sunday’s edition.

A Pig Tale

WInston-Salem Journal photo by Lauren Carroll

This litle Berkshire pig went on an adventure near my neighborhood last week.

As an online editor, I don’t get to write much for the daily paper anymore, but I haven’t lost my capacity for attracting stories wherever I go.

So the other day, when my friend Jeanne started telling me about the piglet who got loose in Old Salem, providing terrible distraction on the day before a big public event there, I knew that it (the story, that is) had some legs.

I got to the office and went straight to the metro editor’s desk to tell her about the prodigal pig. She loved it. “Who should write that story?” I asked her. We looked around at the newsroom, decimated by layoffs and furloughs. Three reporters hunkered in the corner, hoping we wouldn’t see them. They were busy cranking out copy for the weekend papers.

“Why don’t you make some calls?” she asked.

“Oh come on, Annette, I have work to do, ” I said, sighing. I’m rusty. It’s been about five years since I had a byline.

But once I got to my desk, my curiosity got the best of me, and I started poking around.

I found a cell phone number for the farmer. He rather sheepishly admitted that she had busted out while he was unloading the critters for a TV spot plugging Old Salem’s Harvest Day. As far as he knew, he told me, the little gal was still on the loose, rooting around in back yards and posing a potential distraction to drivers.

A little while later, though, he called to tell me that she’d found her way back to the barn.

There might once have been a time when such a story wouldn’t have made the paper, when a crusty old editor would’ve said “Who the hell cares about a missing pig?” There might’ve been a time when I would have said the same thing.

But I also had a hunch that it would be the best-read story of the day. We live in hard times, and yeah, there’s a lot of bad news rushing at us all day long. I’ve kept thinking of a line from David Whyte’s poem, “Loaves and Fishes,” which I have posted on my cubicle wall:

“People are hungry,
and one good word
is bread for a thousand.”

Suicide on Campus

Two long months have passed and the door to the room where Paul Wilfong lived at the N.C. School of the Arts remains locked, the shades closed.

On Thanksgiving night, Wilfong, 22, a fourth-year student in modern dance, turned down dinner invitations from friends, cleaned his room, made one last try at calling his mother on her cellular phone, and, in the silence of the deserted campus, hanged himself in his room.

On the small NCSA campus, the painful, ultimately unanswerable, question persists: Why didn’t we see?

No one, it seems, recognized the extent of the turmoil that Wilfong apparently kept locked inside his mind. Classmates and teachers knew him as a handsome dancer who relentlessly pursued the perfection of his form. Intensely private, he kept even his friends at arm’s length.

Now, in the aftermath of his death, they have been left to second-guess their own relationships with him, to read new meaning into the offhand comment he made here or the isolated incident there – and finally, to try to make peace with his death.

“We spent countless hours together, and that’s what makes it all the more confusing,” said Trish Casey, one of Wilfong’s dance instructors. “How could we not have seen? That’s the biggest question, and the one that’s hardest to hold in our minds.”

Though the school offers counseling services, Wilfong never attempted to take advantage of them, officials say. Nothing known about his life signaled him as someone at risk for suicide.

“We never got a chance to help him,” said Chris Burris, the director of counseling at NCSA.

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among traditional-age college students, behind auto accidents. The estimated number, 1,100 a year nationwide, is relatively low. But in an era when more people with identified psychological problems go to college – and more parents with grievances go to court – schools are paying increased attention to the issue.

They are committing additional resources to psychological services, but in doing so confront the question of how much responsibility they can, or should, take for their students’ lives. Moreover, there’s the hard reality that even well-designed programs or highly trained staff don’t always stop a suicide.

“One of the things that has yet to be well-defined is what kinds of initiatives are going to be effective for the prevention of suicide,” said Allan J. Schwartz, an associate professor at the University of Rochester who researches college suicide.

“We’ve got to do something – or at least we’ve got to find out if we can do something about it. Let’s not sit here and say, ‘Oh well, it’s always been that way,'” he said.

Rate is below general population
The suicide rate among college students is about half that of the general population, according to several long-term studies. It has been stable since the late 1970s, when it peaked.

“No data indicates that rates are getting any better, either … and that’s reason enough we should do something about it,” Schwartz said. The rate is lower among students than in the general population, he said, because guns are banned on most college campuses.

Campus counseling centers have, nonetheless, seen an upturn in the number of students wanting services, said Michelle Pruett-Nostheide, a spokeswoman for the National Mental Health Association.

“It’s a huge problem before you even get to the (serious) mental-health disorders,” she said. “We’re definitely seeing more people having trouble.”

About 80 percent of college counselors responding to a national survey in 2000 reported seeing more students with severe psychological problems. A new study at Kansas State University found a doubling of the number of students seen for depression and a tripling of students expressing suicidal thoughts between 1989 and 2001.

The availability of anti-depressants and other psychiatric treatment has enabled more students diagnosed with mental illnesses to attend college. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that schools admit them if they meet admissions standards and give them “reasonable accommodation” to make academic progress.

Some say that suicide prevention requires no less than a cultural shift on campus, starting with top administrators.

“You can’t just find needles in a haystack, but if you have a culture of prevention, you have a chance to uncover problems,” said Phil Satow, the president of the Jed Foundation, an organization that he founded after his son, Jed, committed suicide at the University of Arizona in 1998.

Suzanne Williams, the director of counseling at Salem College, has a simple way of expressing her approach to breaking the stigma around mental- health issues on campus.

“Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk to students, in every arena you can,” Williams said. “You can set brochures out and do screenings … but I think the relationship and continuing to talk is the most important thing.”

At the same time, overselling the promise to help troubled students could create the impression that schools are responsible for things that are beyond their control, thereby exposing them to legal action.

Schools around the country are awaiting the outcome of a $27 million wrongful-death lawsuit against the Massachusetts Institute of Technology filed by the parents of Elizabeth Shin, who set herself on fire in her MIT dorm room in 2000. Shin had had contact with the university’s counseling services and was known to have been suicidal. The family alleges that MIT was negligent and failed to follow its own policies.

“A return to in loco parentis is taking root with a pretty substantial litigiousness on the part of parents,” Schwartz said, referring to the philosophy that colleges assume a parent’s place in the student’s life. “If you’re a parent, a child’s well-being is your No. 1 concern. The more the institution agrees that it’s going to take on the parental role, the more untenable it’s going to be.”

But Satow said that previous case law indicates that colleges are liable only if they caused the suicide or were willfully negligent.

“If they have an active program to prevent suicide and use a variety of interventions, case law said they wouldn’t be considered liable,” he said.

Student confidentiality is also an issue, he said. Many students fear that asking for help will jeopardize their academic careers or social standing. Sometimes, they avoid the counseling office for fear that the school will notify their parents. Administrators are sometimes reluctant to tell parents of a suicide attempt, fearing that it may violate a student’s right to privacy under the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. But in the case of a suicide threat or suicidal behaviors, the law says that confidentiality must go out the window, Williams said.

“You’re walking the line between student privacy and informed family members. It’s a very hard thing to do. But I always have to weigh as a mental- health professional, what can I live with?’ she said.

Strategies to prevent suicide
Just three weeks before Wilfong’s suicide, Bill Donohue, the vice chancellor of student life, sat down with his staff to go through a checklist of strategies for preventing suicide on campus.

The checklist was part of a study published by the Jed Foundation. It advised schools to implement screening programs that catch students whose behavior might indicate depression, and create educational programs for students, faculty and advisers. It also recommended that schools have stress-reduction programs, emergency services and an emergency plan for dealing with the aftermath of a student suicide.

On paper, it seemed that the arts school was doing everything right.

Donohue tries to emphasize that everyone on campus, from the cafeteria workers to the instructors, is responsible for spotting students who might be in trouble. By its very nature, Donohue said, an arts education subjects students to a very stressful schedule and criticism from teachers.

“We hold them close – real close, and there are some things we invade. I’m going to guess that – and I’m only projecting – that we’ll listen more carefully when people tell us things … we’ll respond more personally when we feel disengagement. I’m guessing that any family or community would do that naturally.”

Teachers are often the first ones to notice when a student’s performance is slipping because of emotional problems, and they are supposed to refer them to counseling, said Susan McCullough, the dean of the school of dance.

But, she said, “Paul wouldn’t have been in that category.”

“A” student with self-discipline
Even among his driven peers in the dance program, Wilfong’s self-discipline and persistence stood out. An A student, he was often the last one to leave the studio or the first one to get to the gym in the morning. But he was also often the first to criticize his performance and ability.

“When he got here, he hadn’t had a lot of previous dance training. This place cultivated all that – that the place could shape his body as a dancer,” said Kashanna Brown, a third-year dance student and one of Wilfong’s closest friends at the school.< "You would give him compliments, he would say, 'Thank you.' I don't think he believed it. He was a beautiful mover, a beautiful dancer," Brown said. Four days before his death, Wilfong had finished performing two lead roles in the fall dance recital. He was working on his senior projects and talking of graduate school. On the outside, everything seemed to be going his way. "We saw his potential. He would have seen it eventually. He was at the brink of a major breakthrough - he was there," Brown said. Wilfong was guarded about his personal life and feelings, she said. No one among his group of friends apparently thought he was at risk for suicide. "You just didn't know because the exterior was so beautiful," Brown said. "It's a lot of that not knowing - that's what hurts - of what was really wrong," she said. "If he'd come to any one of us, we would have helped him because he was part of our family. He was our brother." Brown went to Indianapolis, Wilfong's hometown, for the funeral. She keeps a picture of him at her bedside and still wears a loop of red and yellow ribbon that students made for his memorial service. "He's everywhere," she said. "There's not one moment in the day that he doesn't cross my mind. I'll be in dance class and I'll feel his absence." Brown and others who cared about Wilfong are slowly coming to terms with the reality that they may never fully understand what was going on in his mind. On campus, officials say that it is time to heal and to try to move on: They plan to open Wilfong's old room to a new student soon. Wilfong's mother, Kathleen Harman, said that in hindsight, she sees the clues that her son was deeply troubled. When they spoke a few days before Thanksgiving, Wilfong seemed very sad, but Harman attributed it to relationship troubles with his girlfriend, who lives in Taiwan. "He didn't use the word 'depressed,' but I thought he was sad," she said. "If I could have seen his face, I would have known." Harman doesn't think that school officials failed Wilfong. "They had no idea," she said. "The love they gave to my son on that campus - a parent couldn't ask for more. "You pray that they step out and ask for help when they need it instead of hiding it.... The bottom line is that Paul made a choice. It breaks my heart and I don't understand it and I never will." Published February 6, 2003 in the Winston-Salem Journal

A Strict Protocol

With a blue-chip pedigree, Dr. William Frederick McGuirt Jr. used to be a respected member of the faculty at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

Now, he is scheduled to go before the N.C. Medical Board on charges that he falsified research data for an industry-sponsored clinical trial – violating a fundamental tenet of research ethics. If he is found guilty at a hearing in December, he could lose his license for at least two years.

McGuirt resigned from his job as an associate professor of surgical sciences in otolaryngology at Wake Forest in April, and began seeing patients at Piedmont Ear Nose and Throat Associates, a private clinical practice. He declined to comment on his case.

The incident provides a window into the world of industry-sponsored research, where pharmaceutical companies depend on the work of impartial academics, and universities compete to attract billions of dollars of research contracts each year.

Professors of medicine are often expected to earn a part of their salary from research grants. The need to conduct research, in addition to teaching and seeing patients, can amount to a high-pressure honor system.

“We’re creating an environment where it’s very hard,” said Bette-Jane Crigger, an expert on human-subjects research at the Hastings Center, a bioethics study group.
“There are so many pressures to do as much as you can that it can lead to error, or outright fraud.”

For Wake Forest, which through hustle and skill has become a major winner of public and private grants for research, the incident was the spark for re-examining the way that researchers are monitored. It also came at a time when the medical school was reorganizing the administration of clinical trials.

Pharmaceutical grants
McGuirt, 39, graduated from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in 1989. He completed his residency at Presbyterian University Hospital in 1990 and a fellowship at Montefiore University Hospital, both in Pittsburgh, in 1994.

McGuirt also has family ties to the medical school. His father, Dr. William Frederick McGuirt, is the chairman of the otolaryngology department, where the younger McGuirt served on the faculty.

In 2001, he began working on two grants from Alcon Laboratories, a major pharmaceutical company with U.S. headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas, to study whether putting antibiotics drops into children’s ears after surgery helps prevent infections in the months after surgery. The research protocols specified that McGuirt was to follow up with patients within two to five days after surgery.

But he didn’t do that, according to officials at the medical school.

In February, the school began an internal investigation of McGuirt’s research after two nurse clinicians in the Office of Clinical Trials Research reported evidence of protocol violations to Dr. Sheila Vrana, an assistant dean for research and the research-integrity officer. According to the investigators, McGuirt tried to hide the violations by entering false data in the patients’ charts and signing off on them.

Based on the investigation, the school decided that the second clinical trial should be suspended. It also found problems with McGuirt’s data in the first study, said Mark Wright, a medical-school spokesman.

“We found that the protocol was not followed, but the documents indicated that it had been. In the medical school’s view, this is not the way the medical school conducts clinical trials,” he said.

McGuirt is widely regarded as a good doctor, Wright said, and no patients were hurt by his actions.

Dr. John Butterworth is the director of the Office of Clinical Trials Research. He wrote a long memo to Dr. William Applegate, the medical school dean, and Dr. James Smith, the associate dean, about the McGuirt incident and the medical school’s response.

“We were generally in the position of scrambling to gather our data-collection forms, drugs, etc., after Dr. McGuirt informed us that he had enrolled a patient and that he would need the drug in 30-60 minutes,” Butterworth wrote. “My colleagues in the OCTR (Office of Clinical Trials Research) and I saw much evidence of Dr. WF McGuirt’s disorganization and the frenetic pace of his clinical activity … I encouraged my staff to tolerate Dr. McGuirt’s disorganization (but to work to eliminate protocol violations) because there was no evidence for knowing and willful misconduct.”

In the June 6, 2002, memo, Butterworth wrote that he believed that McGuirt wanted to do industry-sponsored research to better his chances for promotion and attract more money for his own research.

Undermine validity of trial
Even if no one gets hurt, making up research data is ethically wrong, Crigger said.
“I would say that there is a dignitary wrong done to them,” Crigger said. “They (patients) weren’t partners in research – they’ve just been used.”

Clinical trials are carefully designed to test specific outcomes, she said. Faking data can undermine the validity of a trial, or stop it entirely.

“No sponsor is going to sit for that,” Crigger said. “They’re going to have to go before the FDA and show why the list of applications (for the product) can be extended. They need to be sure that the data is accurate. If the data is faked, potentially the integrity of the whole trial collapses.”

Wake Forest was one of several sites for the testing of a new application for Alcon antibiotics Ciprodex and Ciloxan, as well as a moxifloxacin solution in children and young adults who had had ear surgery, said Mary Dulle, an Alcon spokeswoman.

The clinical trial was suspended at Wake Forest, but not at the other sites, she said.
The legal, ethical and financial consequences of research fraud weigh heavily on officials at the medical school, Wright said. In this case, once the allegations of research violations were made in February, the school notified Alcon Labs, the Office of Human Subjects Research, the Food and Drug Administration and the N.C. Medical Board, Wright said.

No other industry-sponsored trials were stopped as the result of questions about McGuirt’s data, and no federal agency intervened, Wright said.

Large sums of money
A lot of money – as well as credibility – rides on a medical school’s ability to conduct clinical trials properly.

Researchers at Wake Forest bring in about 15,000 patients a year to take part in clinical research. Last year, the university won a record $146 million in research financing – less than 11 percent of it from industry-sponsored research projects such as the one in which McGuirt was participating.

Federal regulators rely on universities to oversee their own research programs, but do step in if discrepancies are found. For example, the federal Office for Protection from Research Risks shut down human-subjects studies at Duke University in 1999 after a random site visit in which investigators found inadequate oversight on the part of the school’s Institutional Review Board.

Last year, the government shut down Johns Hopkins University’s research program after the death of a healthy subject in an asthma-drug trial.

It’s impossible to know how often research fraud occurs, but there have been some recent high-profile cases, including the discovery that a physicist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory used deliberately faked data in his quest to identify a new element.

“We’re hearing about more of it,” Crigger said. “Is it because it’s happening more often, or are we just hearing about it more? I don’t know.”

After the shutdown at Duke, Wake Forest instituted a mandatory ethics exam for faculty who are conducting research with human subjects.

Following the investigation into McGuirt’s data, medical-school administrators reviewed research policies and took steps to tighten research oversight further, Wright said.

A clinical-research investigator/coordinator certificate program began in February, and the school is developing a mentoring program for inexperienced researchers.

The school has also taken steps to hire a research-compliance officer whose only job will be to monitor clinical trials. It has also closed its Office of Clinical Trials Research – which mainly served to recruit industry sponsors – as part of an administrative reorganization that was already under way in February.

“No system will be foolproof,” Wright said. “But we want to make sure that we have learned the most from every situation.”

The N.C. Medical Board is expected to hear testimony in the matter Dec.19.
If McGuirt is found guilty of an ethical violation, the board could revoke, annul or suspend his license for a specified period of time. McGuirt could appeal the decision in Wake County Superior Court.

Published Oct. 20, 2002 in the Winston-Salem Journal

Faith Refocused

They are 15 women and five men, ranging in age from 25 to 61. They include a one-time businessman and a former schoolteacher, and represent a cross-section of Protestant denominations, from Baptist to Presbyterian to Moravian.
They are the first graduating class in the School of Divinity at Wake Forest University.

Few in this group receiving their diplomas on Monday are headed for a traditional pulpit. They speak more of social justice than of sin and salvation.
All came to Wake Forest conscious that they were part of an experiment: the creation of an ecumenical divinity school that would, among other things, serve as a counterweight to the conservative domination of the Southern Baptist Convention and its seminaries.

The school is still a work in progress. Students and faculty have strugged to find a balance between honoring Wake Forest’s own Baptist roots and promoting religious pluralism and academic freedom.

“It’s not without its faults – because whenever you bring all those different voices together, there’s tension and disagreement,” said Stan Cross, one of the graduating students.

“It’s like the Bible. Out of the tension and argument and disagreement comes life,” he said.

Because they were the school’s first students, this group actively participated in helping to refine the school’s mission and identity, Cross said.

“We all felt part of that pioneering experience,” he said. “That awareness adds a sense of responsibility and a real desire to make things work and do our best.”

A call for moderate voices
Talk of starting the divinity school first surfaced in the late 1980s, a few years after the conservative takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention. Many moderates had left or been forced out of posts at Baptist seminaries because they refused to teach biblical inerrancy, the defining conservative tenet.

The Rev. Mike Queen, the pastor of First Baptist Church in Wilmington and a Wake Forest trustee, was among those who approached the university’s president, Thomas K. Hearn, with the idea of starting a divinity school.

They argued that Wake Forest -whose Baptist founders in 1838 envisioned it as a producer of ministers -needed to join other Baptist schools that were re-embracing theological education. Over the years, that training had moved to denomination-run seminaries.

Baptist universities, meanwhile, had grown increasingly independent of the denomination: Wake Forest severed its last ties to the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina in 1986.

But the university made slow progress in creating the divinity school, and some early backers withdrew financial support, Queen said. He nonetheless defends Wake Forest’s approach.

“The university is dealing with so many different constituencies about money, space … we had to make sure that this was going to fit in with everything else,” he said.

The school opened its doors in 1999 with 24 students. Moderates and liberals hailed a new era; conservatives questioned whether the school would ever meet a critical challenge: turning out a significant number of graduates who actually wanted to preach.

Today, the ideological divide remains deep. The Rev. Jerry Pereira, the conservative president of the Baptist State Convention, declined to comment about the school, saying that he doesn’t know much about it.

But Willie Jennings, the academic dean at the Duke University Divinity School, said that other schools are watching and hoping for Wake Forest’s success.

“Everyone … understands that Wake Forest’s seminary is significant and has promise to be a major voice in theological education,” he said.

“We really want them to do well. We’re convinced that the formation of the clergy for the church needs to be done in the context of the university.”

The first year
It wasn’t always easy.

Early on, the divinity school got caught up in the maelstrom surrounding the use of Wait Chapel on campus for a same-sex commitment ceremony. Susan Parker and Wendy Scott, the two women who requested the ceremony, are members of Wake Forest Baptist Church, which holds services in the chapel.
Parker is also a member of the inaugural divinity-school class.

The university allowed the ceremony in September 2000 – but not before a very tense hesitation as officials tried to reconcile the differences between conservative alumni and more liberal faculty and students.

Divinity school dean Bill Leonard would later describe the controversy as a “tar baby.”

“It just fell on me,” he recalled in a 2000 story published in the Biblical Recorder, the newspaper of the Baptist State Convention. “I didn’t go looking for it.”

The controversy erupted at the very time that the students and faculty were trying to figure out what it meant to be starting a divinity school at Wake Forest.
Parker’s classmates supported her but were angry that all the attention of the outside world focused on the union ceremony, said Stephanie Wyatt, a graduating student.

“We didn’t want this union to define us,” Wyatt said. “When we talk about the first year, we don’t talk about the union ceremony. We talk about the anxiety – of saying who are we as a community, as a school, going to be and what does it mean?”

Making a minister
Many members of the divinity-school class remember what Professor Frank Tupper said to them on the first day of theology class in 1999.

“Divinity school is like taking your heart out, holding it in your hand and examining it while still depending on it to give you life,” Wyatt recalled.

Tupper’s words resonated with the group over time as they realized that their education depended on their ability to take their faith apart without killing it or losing it.

For Wyatt, who has deep roots in the Southern Baptist church, that meant asking some very hard questions about what it meant to be a woman, a Baptist, an academic and a person passionate about social change.

“There was a sense of the tug and pull in terms of the voices at the school that mirrored what was going on in me,” Wyatt said.

“Divinity school helped me find ways for all these parts of myself to talk to each other,” Wyatt said.

Today, Wyatt’s home congregation in Knoxville, Tenn., which has ties to both the Southern Baptist Convention and the moderate Cooperative Fellowship of Baptists, is voting on whether to ordain her.

If the congregation does, as expected, Wyatt will be the first woman to be ordained by the congregation. She plans to work for the Baptist Joint Committee in Washington, a nonprofit organization that deals with issues of religious liberty and the separation of church and state, and eventually return to graduate school for a doctorate in biblical studies.

For Cross, the divinity school curriculum, which includes instruction in biblical studies, church history, theology, homiletics (the art of preaching), spirituality and
pastoral care, transformed him from a self-described “moderate to conservative Baptist” to “one of the more radical students,” he said.

He almost didn’t come to the school when he found out that it had an open- admissions policy and that Parker, his classmate, was a lesbian.

Now she is one of his best friends.

“My whole attitude about homosexuality is changed because of her,” he said.

“That’s one of the ways in which I’m transformed,” he said. “I want to help the church step out of the boxed situation it seems to be in.”

Cross entered divinity school at 48, after a career in business. He has found a job as the minister to men at the Rescue Mission in his hometown of Roanoke, Va.

Different paths
Hearn said in 1999 that he hoped many students would ultimately choose ministerial work.

But the conservative challenge – that liberal divinity schools don’t make ministers – is still out there.

Leaders at the Wake Forest divinity school are careful to argue that “ministry” should be broadly defined.

“Better we form people who know how to have a certain presence,” said Jill Crainshaw, an associate dean and the director of the school’s vocational development program. “I’ve never intended us to have a toolbox mentality.”

The curriculum aims to help people form what is called in church circles a “ministerial identity,” she said. Students are required to complete internships in churches or other ministry settings as a way of figuring out their vocational paths.

The Southern Baptist Convention forbids the ordination of women, and even in other denominations, the traditional ministry remains male-dominated.

That has presented a special challenge for the divinity school as it tries to guide this year’s graduates -the majority of them women – into jobs that will allow them to do their chosen work, Crainshaw said.

Three of the graduates will complete residencies in the Clinical Pastoral Education Program at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.

Jennie Hemrick, 49, worked as an advocate for battered women before she entered divinity school. She is seeking Presbyterian ordination and hopes to work in ecumenical social ministry.

“My passion is to help faith community leaders understand that there are two people involved in domestic violence…. We can no longer say that it doesn’t exist in our church homes,” she said.

Leonard also sees no single career track for divinity-school graduates.

“We really have to prepare students for religious communities that are in what I call a state of permanent transition, and we are doing it inside a university that is trying to diversify itself. I find that challenging and a bit invigorating … certainly invigorating,” he said.

Part of the challenge is knowing that many people in this new generation of ministers wear their denominational affiliations loosely, Leonard said. Yet the way to ordination is through Christian denominations.

“Denominations still become a necessary entry point, but they’re not necessarily helpful in dealing with these broader cultural issues,” he said.

Leonard has always made it clear that he wanted a diverse school, one that reflected the state of modern religion. The faculty includes a Benedictine monk, a black preaching professor and a feminist biblical scholar, along with well-known academics who are veterans of the struggle between conservatives and moderates within the Southern Baptist Convention.

There is, however, no self-described conservative Baptist. And diversity for the student body has been a challenge, as it is at many schools.

The graduating class is all white, and mostly female. Subsequent classes have brought more balance: Seven out of the school’s 65 students in 2001-2002 were black. Men were also better represented.

“We’re trying to recruit students,” Leonard said. “We don’t know what future profiles will look like, and we won’t know until we get accreditation.”

Because it is so new, the school has not been accredited by the Association of Theological Schools. The accreditation process begins this summer but will not be completed until 2005.

“I think we all get impatient with that,” Leonard said. “It really is stages of growth.”

Graduation from an accredited school is generally a prerequisite for ordination, but students can ask for exceptions in some denominations.

A work in progress
Even though many of these graduates will not have a traditional pulpit, they will be asked to preach from time to time and will be judged as ministers by what they say, said Brad Braxton, the divinity-school professor who teaches the art of preaching.
Those first graduates will begin to develop the school’s reputation in the outside world.

“It begins to form an identity about what students come here to do,” Crainshaw said.
Jennings said that historians will be watching closely to see how the school deals with issues of diversity, theology and the complex interplay between cultural issues and religious beliefs.

“In many ways, it’s unprecedented – to have a major university found a seminary at the end of the 20th century,” he said.

“It’s going to be a very important test case for gauging the character of Christianity in the South in a very modern university at the turn of the century.”

For his part, Leonard downplays such talk.

“I think theological education in general is a test case,” he said. “We’re a microcosm of what schools all over the country are facing. We have an advantage because we’re new. We haven’t gotten to turf issues yet.”

Parker, who will be ordained at Wake Forest Baptist Church next Sunday, said that the school faces a struggle.

“If this is really going to be a new experiment, we’ve got to keep pushing back against the forces that want to make us into their image of what theological education should be,” she said.

“Are we going to find a way to live in the tension?”

Published May 19, 2002 in the Winston-Salem Journal

Making a Lake

Photographer Ted Richardson and I spent quite a few weekends one summer rambling around the Deep River, where the Randleman reservoir was about to be built.  We met dairy farmers and homeowners, renters and swimmers and lifetime dam opponents, whose conflicting feelings about the dam we tried to capture in a radio story, photographs and a print story.  Here’s the story that ran on WUNC.


A print version of the piece also appeared in the Winston-Salem Journal, where I was working as a reporter. At the time, I hadn’t had much experience working across platforms (or as a print reporter, for that matter), so I recall it as a great learning experience.

Here is that story:

Willie Coltrane remembers first hearing about the Randleman Dam when he was just a boy.

” I went with my father into Randleman. A neighbor … came running out of his driveway and said, ‘Hold up, Robert. Hold up. I want to talk to you.’ He got out into the road and he said, ‘The Corps of Engineers is surveying up the river for a dam to be built!'”

The year was 1918.

When the Piedmont Triad Regional Water Authority holds an official groundbreaking ceremony for the $120 million Randleman Dam and reservoir next month, it will end one chapter in a drama that has taken nearly a century to unfold.

In 1937, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed a dam on the Deep River near Randleman as a means of flood control. The project would have taken 10,000 acres of farmland.

Thirty years later, Congress approved the $11 million project, and residents organized to fight it.

Coltrane and his wife, Edith, were on the front lines, even after the project was scaled back, and their land was spared.

“I had started it and in order to help my friend, Thelma Adams, I went right along with her and they were going to take her home over there on the river,” Edith Coltrane said.

She went to hundreds of meetings to speak out on the project and spent countless hours talking with people under the shade of a maple tree in her backyard. Now, at 89 and in frail health, she spends most of her time in a recliner near a picture window in her kitchen. More often than not, Willie occupies the chair a few feet away from her.

“We did everything we could do, sure did,” Edith Coltrane said. “We did everything we could do, except stop it.”

When the reservoir is finished in 2004, it will provide as much as 48 million gallons of water a day to Greensboro, High Point, Randleman and other towns around it.

The path of the water
Most of the people whose homes were in the path of the water have long since sold their land or packed up and moved away from the river. The water authority started buying up land in 1988. What land it couldn’t buy it condemned. The water authority needed a total of 6,000 acres in northern Randolph and southern Guilford counties – about half for the reservoir and half for a 200-foot buffer zone all the way around it.

George Stanton sold 127 acres of his grain farm about eight years ago, but he insisted on keeping his house and about 45 acres around it. At 72, he is one of the last grain farmers in this part of Randolph County. When the river is dammed, the reservoir will be about 200 feet from his backyard swimming pool.

“We’ve always lived on a dirt road. We couldn’t get the road paved on account of the Randleman Lake. It’s paved over yonder and paved over here and that’s as far as they’d pave it,” Stanton said as he sat on his front porch, watching a thunderstorm gather in the sky above the rolling fields. “It’s been a gravel road ever since it was built in 1936.”

Stanton never believed that the dam would be built, and he never put up much of a fight. But others did. Opponents thought that they had scored a victory when the Corps of Engineers dropped the dam project in 1987. The federal Office of Management and Budget had determined that the cost of building the dam would outstrip the benefit of controlling flooding downstream.

But by then, the purpose of the project had also changed from flood control and recreation to providing drinking water for Greensboro and other nearby communities.

State leaders had already seen the handwriting on the wall. If they wanted to build the Randleman Dam, they would have to do it without federal money.

In 1986, the state set up the water authority. Though it studied dozens of other solutions to Greensboro’s chronic water problems, it preferred the Randleman Dam.

Stanton was among the first landowners to sell, but he negotiated the right to farm it until construction starts.

“We just hate to see the farm go because it’s an old land-grant deed farm. Two brothers came in here and settled here and we’ve got the old original land-grant deed,” he said. “But people got to have water to drink. You’ve got to get it from somewhere.”

The dam builders arrived in Randleman a couple of weeks ago to set up shop on a huge graveled lot on the outskirts of town. They’re building roads into the dam site, in a place that locals refer to as “the second bend.” After that, they’ll begin diverting the flow of the Deep River.

Politics: It’s in the water
John Forbis was the mayor of Greensboro when the Piedmont Triad Regional Water Authority was formed, and he is the only original member of the group still serving.

“We always, always had a water problem. This town has no business being where it is. It sits on a large rock outcropping. Everything runs away from it. Subsequently, there’s no opportunity to develop new water resources. The Deep (River) is, when you look right at it, our only option.”

Forbis would be among the first to tell you that the Randleman Reservoir presented a lot of environmental challenges, but he is confident that they have been met.

High Point will discharge 26 million gallons of treated wastewater into the reservoir every day. The lake will be built over a part of an old High Point landfill, and the former Seaboard Chemical plant, a Superfund cleanup site, is about 2,000 feet from the shoreline of the proposed reservoir.

Every public agency that deals with public health and environmental issues has concluded that the water will be safe to drink. All of these factors have been accounted for in three separate environmental impact statements, and millions have been spent on cleanup along the river.

“We’ve run every one of those rabbits to ground,” Forbis said.

Organized opposition to the project has dwindled, as landowners settled with the water authority and environmental agencies declared the water would be safe to drink.

But a few people, including Alan Horton, the dam’s most vocal opponent and a member of the Deep River Citizens Coalition, remain unconvinced. He is particularly concerned about concentrations of phosphorus, which cause algae blooms that deplete oxygen in the water.

“When you know you’re going to have nutrification problems in a lake, when you know you are going to have problems treating the water … the engineers say ‘Yes, we can treat the water to the standards,’ but that’s not guaranteeing you safe water,” Horton said.

The coalition and the American Canoe Association have appealed the project’s water quality permit to the state court of appeals, where a judgment is pending, and Horton has threatened to file an injunction in federal court to try to stop construction.

Deep River, shallow water
The water of the Deep River still draws people to its winding shores.

Most every weekend, Tony Ruggiero takes his kids down to the river to play in a deep spot back along a winding path a quarter-mile into the woods near Sophia.

Ruggiero has adopted the river as his own. Each time he comes, he spends time cleaning debris out of the river bottom. As his daughter, Pricilla, splashed onto shore, he pointed to a pile of rusty metal nearby.

Ruggiero moved his family here from Greensboro six years ago, to be near the new lake.

“I’ve had 80-year-old people tell me it wouldn’t be built in my lifetime,” Ruggiero said. “It’s coming and we’re saying, ‘All right!’ That’s all I can say. We love it. We’ve been coming down here 15 years.”

The shore where Ruggiero stood will be covered under six feet of water after the reservoir is filled in 2003. Once it’s built, his children won’t be able to swim in it. The water authority’s rules prohibit swimming and limit the size and type of motorboats on the lake.

Darrell Frye, a Randolph County commissioner who serves on the water authority, said: “I want people to take a little 10 horsepower (motor) and go out there and fish on a Saturday afternoon – that’s OK. Just to have massive recreation, no. And I really don’t think that will happen.”

Frye said that Randolph County officials were adamant that the state would not be allowed to take people’s homes and land for recreation.

Frye has been a Randolph County commissioner for 20 years, and he has always backed the project.

“In 20 years, you make a lot of decisions and you see the immediate results,” Frye said. “That’s the biggest decision I made and I won’t know the value of it until long after I leave office.”

Water-powered development
Herschel Hockett runs the Green Valley dairy farm near Level Cross with his father, Stanton, and brother, Keith. Dairy farming is all he’s ever done.

The Hocketts are remnants of a dairy farming community that has dwindled to just five family farms in this part of Randolph County. So far, they have made a go of their farm by expanding it as aggressively as they can. They will have to sell only 26 acres of their family land for the buffer zone around the lake, but Hockett is worried that it will attract new kinds of neighbors – subdivisions full of people who won’t look kindly on having a dairy farm nearby.

“We pretty much believe that it’ll be built up with fine homes around this lake,” Hockett said. “As long as we’ve got the land right here and there’s nobody that’s even touching us at all, we’ll be able to make our own decisions about whether we’re going to stay in the business or not.”

The bylaws of the water authority prohibit development in the buffer zone, but not on the land beyond it.

If land prices escalate the way Hockett thinks they will, his family will stand to make a tidy profit from selling their land, but it would mean giving up the livelihoods that have defined their lives.

The reservoir will eventually provide about 1 million gallons of water a day to Randleman. The Deep River runs right through the center of town, but it’s never had a very good water supply and the town has to buy some of its water from nearby Asheboro.

The reservoir gives town leaders and residents hope that they’ll be able to attract industry to replace the mills and factories that once dotted the river’s winding shores.

“If it brings in business, it can be a plus, but you’ll never know until it gets here,” said Randleman resident Ed Smith.

Published in the Winston-Salem Journal July 29, 2001