The unanimous decision by the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities' board to dismiss its new president, Edward O. Blews Jr., barely 10 months into his tenure came as a surprise to several of his fellow association leaders.
In a news release posted late Tuesday, the council said it had decided to "transition" Mr. Blews from the position "after careful investigation and prayerful consideration."
The council's spokeswoman said she could provide no further explanation. The chair of the board, Charles W. (Chip) Pollard, president of John Brown University, did not return calls from The Chronicle or e-mail messages seeking comment. Mr. Blews did not respond to messages left for him on his cellphone's voicemail.
As first noted by Christianity Today, his wife and fellow lawyer, Debra McKenna Blews, who had been named an unpaid senior fellow at the council, remained listed in that position as of Wednesday evening. They had bought a house here at the start of his tenure.
A Call From God
David L. Warren, president of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities and a longtime friend of Mr. Blews, said he was "among the most surprised" by the news. "I last saw him at a meeting on October 1, and no mention was made by him of any problems," Mr. Warren said in an e-mail message.
A longtime lobbyist for private colleges in Michigan who described himself as an evangelical Christian for most of his life, Mr. Blews started work at the council in January, and during his "inauguration" luncheon in February he was hailed as an ideal leader for the council, which was looking to raise its profile in Washington and promote Christian higher education abroad.
The group had wooed him for several weeks, with the chair of the search committee—Messiah College's president, Kim S. Phipps—going so far as to call him one day with a good-natured offer he might find hard to refuse. "Ed, this is God," she intoned, "and she is calling you to the CCCU presidency."
Ms. Phipps would not speak with a Chronicle reporter on Wednesday. "Because she's a board member she cannot speak to a personnel matter," her assistant said.
The council has named William P. Robinson, a former president of Whitworth University, as its interim president.
The same day the council announced the departure of Mr. Blews, the board also issued a message to its 174 members apologizing for delays in planning for its quadrennial international forum, slated for February. "Our planning for the forum has been delayed for many reasons, including the presidential transition announced today," it said, while noting that the event would take place, but in a revised form, as scheduled.