Philip Ryken has been the president of Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, since 2010. Prior to Wheaton, Ryken served for 15 years at Philadelphia’s historic Tenth Presbyterian Church, including 10 years as senior pastor. He has published more than 50 books, including “The Message of Salvation,” “Art for God’s Sake,” “When Trouble Comes,” and expository commentaries on Exodus, Ecclesiastes, Jeremiah, Luke and other books of the Bible. Ryken holds an M.Div. from Westminster Theological Seminary and a doctorate in historical theology from the University of Oxford.
Controversies are often the things you want to leave in the past. That’s why this conversation with Philip Ryken is so unique. He served as senior pastor of the historic Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia for 10 years before joining Wheaton College as its president in 2010. As a high-profile leader for the past 20+ years, he has navigated many controversies.
Philip Ryken joins NAE President Leith Anderson in Today’s Conversation to share lessons learned and offer advice from his experience. In this podcast, you’ll hear:
- How past controversies can put you in a stronger position for the next one;
- What guidance Dr. Ryken finds in Scripture for dealing with controversies;
- When and how to talk with the media; and
- How to stay on mission when controversies seem to take over.
Read a Portion of the Transcript
Leith: Suppose that you’re in front of a [writing] workshop, and somebody says to you, “Ok, I’ve heard all this and this is great, but what’s the number one piece of advice?” How would you answer a question like that?
Leith: Some situations escalate very quickly and with the escalation, the breadth increases. So, you’re dealing with something that’s a few people, and suddenly it’s campus-wide, or it goes to the media and it could be countrywide. And people want all kinds of information from you. And maybe it’s information that you’d really like to give them, because if they could get that information, they would get what you’re trying to say except you can’t tell them — I think particularly of personnel issues. So, now you have the information that they can’t have. What do you do in a situation like that?
Philip: It’s really tough. You know enough about these things to know how important that question is. I’ve got a lot of thoughts about this, because I’ve had to deal with a lot of situations like this. For one thing, there is a value to transparency, to openness. I think those are important values. I think we can point to things in the Scripture that point in that direction. But there is also a place for discretion. That’s an important virtue. Sometimes privacy is not only a virtue but an important right.
If you’re on the outside of leadership roles and haven’t been in significant leadership roles, it’s easy to think that transparency is the only thing that matters, and it’s also really easy to assume: “The reason they’re not telling us more is because they have something to hide.” I think that’s a natural default impulse.
I’ve been in so many situation where in some ways it would be much more convenient to violate something legally or to do something that’s actually not in keeping with important policies just because you feel if people really knew what was going on behind this — if they really knew what had happened — they wouldn’t be coming after me this way or they wouldn’t be criticizing the institution this way. That’s a very common occurrence … .
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