The Walla Walla Union-Bulletin announced Tuesday that John McVay, who stepped down as president of Walla Walla University president in July, has been appointed to serve another term. After six years at the helm of the university, McVay had planned to transition from the president's office to the school of religion where he would teach New Testament studies. However, replacing McVay proved harder than anybody expected.
In June, the presidential search committee recommended Walla Walla University Church senior pastor Alex Bryan as McVay's successor, and the recommendation seemed all but certain to be approved by the university board. However, the certainty of Bryan's approval turned out to be anything but.
An anonymous Internet group started an opposition campaign, citing Bryan's involvement in "Spiritual Formation" as a reason he should not serve as president. The group published a letter of concern online, asking people to contact board chair and North Pacific Union Conference president Max Torkelsen, along with other board members. The offensive proved startlingly effective. Bryan had already been notified of the committee's recommendation and had accepted the call. But the board's vote, generally a formality, came out against him.
Torkelsen issued a statement on Bryan's rejection in attempts to quash fast-moving rumors that the university pastor had been lampooned by another web-based witch hunt. Minimizing the role of the anonymous letter and its critique of Bryan's perceived religious qualifications (or disqualifications), Torkelsen pointed to Bryan's lack of educational administrative experience as the reason he was rejected. Torkelsen pushed back against the perception of "undue and unjustified political pressures at work in this process."
The Union-Bulletin quoted Torkelsen as saying of McVay,
We are delighted that Dr. John McVay has consented to continue his leadership of Walla Walla University upon the completion of his current study leave/sabbatical. Dr. McVay enjoys the trust and respect of his colleagues on campus as well as the broader constituency across the Pacific Northwest. He has that rare combination of gifts for scholarship and research, education and experience, and administrative skills which uniquely qualify him to lead our university.”
Read the rest of the Union-Bulletin report here.