The board of Brownsville Revival School of Ministry in Pensacoladismissed Michael Brown as the school's president in December. As theschool begins its spring semester, Brown has created the F.I.R.E.(Fellowship for International Revival and Evangelism) School of Ministryabout 15 minutes away from his former campus and expects a sizablenumber of his former students to move to his new school.
Brown also has created ``F.I.R.E. Church,'' which he said drew morethan 500 for its first service this past Sunday.
Bob Phillips, chairman of the board of the Brownsville school, saidthe board dismissed Brown after three months of discussion. Theindependent school was affiliated with the Brownsville Assembly of GodChurch in Pensacola, which became known for its revival meetings thatbegan in June 1995.
Phillips, whose board includes a majority of members that also serveon the church board, said Brown was seeking greater independence fromthe church.
``As the board, we took the position -- and it is in our bylaws --basically that there's an accountability of the board to both the churchand the school and so we saw the presidency as a position ofstewardship, not ownership,'' he said.
Phillips said the school, which opened in 1997, is on propertypurchased with the help of a loan of more than $2.5 million from theAssemblies of God, the Pentecostal denomination based in Springfield,Mo.
``The board felt that its only decision was to release Dr. Brownfrom the position as president,'' said Phillips, senior pastor of TheEncourager Church, a nondenominational church in Houston.
Brown, a messianic Jew affiliated with a nondenominational church inNew Jersey, said he had hoped the church and school could continue to``work together as one'' but wanted the school to have a self-governingboard rather than a church-appointed one.
``We were just looking for a more sharply functioning organizationthat could give itself to the large vision of the school,'' he said.
Brown said the school was going to be placed under somedenominational restrictions and that might affect the school'scredentialing and mission-sending programs because the church isaffiliated with the Assemblies of God.
The Rev. Thomas Trask, general superintendent of the Assemblies ofGod, denied Brown's assertion.
``We made a loan to the church based upon the value of the propertythe church was buying to facilitate the school,'' he said. ``There areno restrictions to the church relative to that loan as to how the schooloperates.''
Brown said he started a new school in part because ``hundreds ofstudents would simply not have come back if we weren't there to continuewhat we have started.'' Two black Pentecostal churches in the area areproviding office and classroom space to his predominantly white school,which he considered ``a positive statement.''
Phillips and Brown said eight of 10 full-time faculty have movedfrom the Brownsville school to the F.I.R.E. school as a result of theconflict.
``Absolutely, there will be students that will go with their newefforts,'' Phillips said of Brown's ministries. ``There will be studentsthat probably will drop out, unfortunately.''
He said the Brownsville faculty who switched schools have beenreplaced and students registering for the spring are ``excited andoptimistic.''
Richard Crisco, a faculty member of the Brownsville school and youthpastor at the church, has been named interim president.
The student body at both two-year schools is predominantlycollege-age, but has included adults who have postponed careers asdoctors and lawyers to pursue ministry training and missionary work.
Even as he begins a new church, Brown said he hopes his ministriescan have ``a good strong relationship'' with those who remain members atBrownsville Assembly of God.
``There's no competition,'' he said. ``We're all building the samekingdom.''