The board of Brownsville Revival School of Ministry in Pensacola dismissed Michael Brown as the school's president in December. As the school begins its spring semester, Brown has created the F.I.R.E. (Fellowship for International Revival and Evangelism) School of Ministry about 15 minutes away from his former campus and expects a sizable number of his former students to move to his new school.
Brown also has created ``F.I.R.E. Church,'' which he said drew more than 500 for its first service this past Sunday.
Bob Phillips, chairman of the board of the Brownsville school, said the board dismissed Brown after three months of discussion. The independent school was affiliated with the Brownsville Assembly of God Church in Pensacola, which became known for its revival meetings that began in June 1995.
Phillips, whose board includes a majority of members that also serve on the church board, said Brown was seeking greater independence from the 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 church and the school and so we saw the presidency as a position of stewardship, not ownership,'' he said.
Phillips said the school, which opened in 1997, is on property purchased with the help of a loan of more than $2.5 million from the Assemblies of God, the Pentecostal denomination based in Springfield, Mo.
``The board felt that its only decision was to release Dr. Brown from the position as president,'' said Phillips, senior pastor of The Encourager Church, a nondenominational church in Houston.
Brown, a messianic Jew affiliated with a nondenominational church in New Jersey, said he had hoped the church and school could continue to ``work together as one'' but wanted the school to have a self-governing board rather than a church-appointed one.
``We were just looking for a more sharply functioning organization that could give itself to the large vision of the school,'' he said.
Brown said the school was going to be placed under some denominational restrictions and that might affect the school's credentialing and mission-sending programs because the church is affiliated with the Assemblies of God.
The Rev. Thomas Trask, general superintendent of the Assemblies of God, denied Brown's assertion.
``We made a loan to the church based upon the value of the property the church was buying to facilitate the school,'' he said. ``There are no restrictions to the church relative to that loan as to how the school operates.''
Brown said he started a new school in part because ``hundreds of students would simply not have come back if we weren't there to continue what we have started.'' Two black Pentecostal churches in the area are providing 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 moved from the Brownsville school to the F.I.R.E. school as a result of the conflict.
``Absolutely, there will be students that will go with their new efforts,'' Phillips said of Brown's ministries. ``There will be students that probably will drop out, unfortunately.''
He said the Brownsville faculty who switched schools have been replaced and students registering for the spring are ``excited and optimistic.''
Richard Crisco, a faculty member of the Brownsville school and youth pastor at the church, has been named interim president.
The student body at both two-year schools is predominantly college-age, but has included adults who have postponed careers as doctors and lawyers to pursue ministry training and missionary work.
Even as he begins a new church, Brown said he hopes his ministries can have ``a good strong relationship'' with those who remain members at Brownsville Assembly of God.
``There's no competition,'' he said. ``We're all building the same kingdom.''