Pennsylvania Bible College Arms Own Trustees With Honorary Doctorates

By Sarah Einselen
Lancaster Bible College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania was founded in 1933. (Photo: LBC / website)

A Bible college in Pennsylvania has awarded honorary doctorates to its own trustees multiple times over the last few years. It’s a practice discouraged by the state of Pennsylvania and by the college’s accrediting agency. And now, one of the recipients is styling himself “doctor” in launching his own seminary partnered with the Acts29 church-planting network.

Two sitting trustees of Lancaster Bible College | Capital Seminary & Graduate School and a former trustee have received honorary doctorates from LBC since 2014.

Philip Clemens, current chairman of the board of trustees, received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree on Dec. 12, 2014. In May 2018, trustee Steven Wilson received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from LBC. And Doug Logan Jr., who until 2019 was also an LBC trustee, was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree at the institution’s Dec. 13, 2019 commencement.

The Roys Report reached out to Lancaster Bible College for comment but the institution didn’t reply.

Pennsylvania state regulations don’t permit an institution to award honorary degrees to its own trustees or faculty “except in extraordinary cases meriting special consideration.” The Association for Biblical Higher Education, one of Lancaster Bible College’s accrediting agencies, has a similar policy.

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“The state will say in order to qualify to give an honorary degree, then you have to meet certain standards,” ABHE President Philip Dearborn said. Dearborn is an LBC graduate and worked there for more than 20 years, including as provost, before becoming ABHE president. He earned a doctorate from Temple University.

It’s normal for an institution to award one or two honorary degrees a year, Dearborn said, often to the university’s commencement speaker.

Honorary degrees “don’t go through the normal academic process,” he said, and ABHE accreditation doesn’t apply to them. As at Lancaster Bible College, honorary recognition is approved by the board of trustees rather than an academic department, and recipients don’t complete a specific course of study or a dissertation.

“It’s a different kind of recognition for somebody who’s distinguished themselves in some way,” Dearborn said. Institutions set their own criteria for what accomplishments they consider worthy of honorary recognition, he added, and ABHE would consider whether institutions followed their own policies in awarding honorary doctorates.

In cases where an institution gives an honorary doctorate to one of its own trustees, like LBC did, “I would say the burden of proof is on the institution to demonstrate that this was the extenuating circumstance,” he said.

Lancaster Bible College didn’t respond when The Roys Report asked why the college’s trustees thought the three men’s accomplishments merited the extraordinary step.

The Trustees

Doug Logan Jr. was on LBC’s board of trustees until 2019, according to the college’s IRS filings. Then he helped found Grimke Seminary, where he’s now president of the Grimke School of Urban Ministry. He’s also associate director of Acts29, the church network with which Grimke is affiliated. Acts29 didn’t respond when The Roys Report reached out for comment.

It’s unclear whether Grimke is pursuing accreditation. It can take some time for a new institution to be accredited through an agency like ABHE, but there’s nothing on Grimke’s website indicating it’s even seeking that.

A phone number for Grimke couldn’t be found and the seminary didn’t reply when The Roys Report emailed.

Logan received his honorary Doctor of Divinity degree in 2019 shortly after he helped found Grimke. Logan’s board service wasn’t mentioned when he was awarded the honor. Clemens, speaking at the commencement, echoed a common reason for bestowing honorary doctorates: “It’s our hope that this honorary degree will strengthen his hand of ministry as he provides visionary leadership and effective training for church leaders.”

On Dec. 13, 2019, longtime Lancaster Bible College trustee Doug Logan Jr. was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree at the institution’s commencement ceremony. (Photo: Screengrab / YouTube)

LBC trustee Chairman Philip Clemens received his honorary Doctor of Letters degree in 2014 for “distinguished leadership achievements” including two decades of service with the trustee board. His LinkedIn profile shows he’s been board chairman since 2007. He retired in 2015 as chairman of The Clemens Food Group, which is now facing lawsuits over alleged price-fixing along with several other pork processing businesses.

Steven Wilson was awarded his honorary Doctor of Divinity degree in 2018 for his work with Compassion International and his reputation as “an insightful strategist with strong business acumen.” His position on the board of trustees was mentioned when he was introduced earlier in the ceremony as the commencement speaker.

A ‘Doctor’ or Not?

Contrary to normal academic practice, the three trustees and at least one other associated with Lancaster Bible College have been referred to as “doctor” without having an earned doctorate.

Honorary degrees don’t reflect the same work that earned degrees do; for example, recipients didn’t write a dissertation or contribute to the literature in a field of study, Dearborn said. So as “not to mislead or unintentionally mislead or whatever, we always would recommend that it’s stated it’s an honorary degree,” he said.

Academic institutions generally agree that the title of “doctor” shouldn’t be used for people who hold only an honorary doctorate.

“Honorary degree recipients should not refer to themselves as ‘doctor,’ nor should they use the title on business cards or in correspondence,” wrote April Harris, an academic etiquette expert who’s written several books on hosting ceremonies and special events in higher education. Instead, recipients can show their honorary recognition with an abbreviation after their name, she wrote.

Academics reading the abbreviations recognize the degrees they stand for as exclusively honorary designations.

“Many people don’t use this designation correctly,” Harris told The Roys Report in an email. “This is not necessarily their fault or an attempt to deceive, rather, no one has explained the proper use of the term.” 

Harris wrote on her blog that it’s appropriate for honorary degree recipients to be called “doctor” only verbally at the institution that awarded the degree or in correspondence from there.

However, Logan uses the title on the website of Grimke Seminary. Clemens and Wilson are identified as “doctor” on LBC’s public board of trustees listing.

None of the three have an earned doctorate, and they’re not the only ones at LBC to adopt the “doctor” title without having done the work.

LBC’s Washington, D.C. site director is styled “Dr. A. Michael Black” on his profile on LBC’s website. His profile shows he’s working on a Doctor of Ministry at Wesley Theological Seminary, but he hasn’t completed it. Elsewhere, LBC’s website states he received an honorary doctorate from Saint Thomas Christian College, an apparently unaccredited Florida school with an F rating from the Better Business Bureau.

Such use of the “doctor” title gets into a “gray area” of academic ethics, Dearborn said. “It’s all in the spirit of how somebody is using that particular honor that’s been given to them.”

“If I were receiving an honorary degree and I did not have an earned doctorate . . . just in my personal ethic, I would not be comfortable saying I’m a doctor,” Dearborn added. “Because it’s not an earned degree. It’s something that’s honorary.”

Sarah Einselen is an award-winning writer and editor based in Texas.

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22 thoughts on “Pennsylvania Bible College Arms Own Trustees With Honorary Doctorates”

  1. This subject has come up in other blogs. Here are some of the observations I remember:

    Larry-Moe-Curly Doctorates:
    “Reverend Larry awards Reverend Moe an Honorary Doctorate.
    Reverend Moe awards Reverend Curly an Honorary Doctorate.
    Reverend Curly awards Reverend Larry an Honorary Doctorate.
    NYUK! NYUK! NYUK!”

    Several actual PhDs weighing in saying that an Honorary should only claim the title “Doctor” when actually at the institution that awarded it. Otherwise, no dice.

    And that calling someone “Doctor” should only be reserved for MDs and withiin academia itself. Also that the more someone insists on being addressed as “Doctor”, the more likely the Doctorate is an Honorary, a Fake, or both. Coupled with anecdotes about preacher-men with Honoraries who insisted even their family always refer to them as “Doctor”.

    Me? Resume inflation is nothing new.
    Whenever a preacher-man calls himself “Doctor”, call his bluff and require him to prove it’s real. Only way to be safe.

  2. There is no excuse for these men inflating their credentials. We have an ethical crises in the Evangelical World.

  3. In the old days the only people to be called ‘doctor’ were those with a D.Sc, D. Litt, D. Mus, D. Div and I think maybe doctor of laws, but I don’t know the old abbreviation. And they were granted in recognition of a lifetime distinguished contribution to their field. PhDs were referred to as Mr/Miss/Mrs (there were on Ms then) J. Blogs, PhD.

    And another anecdote of upscaling: I overheard an undergrad in an Honours year at an Australian university bragging that because Honours was the stepping stone to a PhD, she should be called Dr.

  4. Christopher Hanley

    Jesus warned people not to give themselves titles like “Rabbi” or “Father”. This is in the same spirit.

  5. Just another example of “the end justifies the means”… the very unBiblical, but very much embraced doctrine of american evangelicalism these days…

  6. Sloth. These guys have a D.S., doctorate in slothfulness. If they want a title so much, they should go earn it.

    At more ethical institutions, honorary degrees are conferred on those who have so distinguished themselves in their fields that the honorary title means little more than just that, an honor. Those upon whom the degree is conferred have no need to “pad” their already esteemed resumes.

    If you need to use an honorary title for credibility, ipso facto you don’t deserve one.

  7. Ahhh more grifters being grifters. My conclusion is Jesus really wasn’t much of a role model because I’ve yet to read of him ever getting a degree of any type. Shame I guess they didn’t have the student loan programs back then. But hey now that all the godly men and women have PHDs aka: Piled Higher and Deeper. I will be able to listen to them intently. QUIT MOCKING MY GOD you brood of vipers and false teachers.

  8. Instantly recognized the photo of the LBC campus as I am a graduate and I drive by the school nearly every day. My thoughts about LBC are overwhelmingly positive. I received a quality education, I know present professors and I believe they are staying the course of upholding God’s word and teaching from a biblical worldview.

    That said, no organization is without flaws. I applaud your giving attention to concerns raised. It does smack of cronyism. Further, Jesus did warn us of those who love titles. It seems to me that we give too much credence to degrees. I wish that someone had responded to the request for comment. Hopefully that will change. I’ll look forward to hearing a follow up.

  9. Which contributes to many Canadian secular universities being generally skeptical/suspicious of the quality of degrees granted by U.S. religious institutions.

  10. When I was in seminary, we had two “reps” from one of the largest Baptist missions agencies in the world speak in chapel. They were both introduced as “doctors.” The first one got up to speak and said “people keep calling up doctors…we just have bachelors’ degrees.” He thought it was the funniest thing in the world. As someone with an earned doctorate, I was appalled and disgusted. As someone with an earned doctorate in expository preaching, I was also mortified at what they did to the text in the message that followed…

  11. JAMES B BARNES

    The Roys Report touts itself as: “Reporting the Truth, Restoring the Church.” Unfortunately, it seems as though many of the articles on the Roys Report website represent a blending of reporting and opinion…either by direct comment or innuendo. Most often, the inclusion of opinion is, unfortunately, couched in a negative or condemnatory tone. Far too often one does not sense a desire to truly “speak the truth in love” but rather speak the truth as I see it and let the chips fall where they may.

    I have to ask… why such an article on honorary degrees….what is the purpose? It seems you are condemning an institution for what YOU believe to be a personal misuse of an honorary degree by a recipient. If so, report on the person and do not taint the reputation of an institution which has remained deeply and thoroughly committed to the centrality of Christ and evangelical orthodoxy while preparing the next generation for service to our Christ and our world.

    When referencing that the man who served on the Lancaster Bible College (LBC) for twenty years, and as chairman of the board for eight years, and provided incredible leadership to, and support for, LBC, the author somehow thought it necessary to include: “He retired in 2015 as chairman of The Clemens Food Group, which is now facing lawsuits over alleged price-fixing along with several other pork processing businesses.” Shame on the author and shame on Julie for allowing such an unseemly implication which has no bearing whatsoever on the topic be allowed. It is akin to asking whether the author has stopped beating her children.

    With reference to the former board chairman at LBC, I find it most interesting that the author did not conduct due diligence and cite that: “The Court did not decide which side was right, but both sides agreed to the Settlement to resolve the case and get benefits to the Settlement Class.”

    My position has always been that anyone of average intelligence and significant amounts of tenacity can “earn” a doctoral degree. This is especially true in an era when the route to an earned degree has become significantly less rigorous at many institutions. However, for many schools, including Lancaster Bible College (LBC) during the presidency of President Peter Teague, the awarding of an honorary degree was awarded on the merit of a life well-lived in service to Christ. If you truly knew President Emeritus Teague and the depth of his Christian character, one could never even broach the notion that he wittingly would allow LBC to be compromised by awarding an honorary degree to someone who would misuse the honor. I do believe that many honorary degree recipients are totally uninformed as to the protocols surrounding the generally accepted best practices regarding receipt of an honorary degree. Perhaps someone could prepare a statement regarding commonly held protocols surrounding honorary degrees which could be provided to recipients to assist them in the “proper” citing of their honor.

    As the former president of Indiana Wesleyan University, we routinely awarded honorary degrees to meritorious individuals….some of whom had earned doctorates and others did not. Occasionally, a recipient would ask me whether it was appropriate to use the newly bestowed degree and title on their business cards, etc. I graciously and tactfully indicated that the degree and corresponding title were honorary and well-deserved. However, it was not appropriate for them to use the title on their business cards and stationery. It was appropriate for them to indicate that they had received an honorary doctorate. After all, it is an honor!

    Bottom line: I fear The Roys Report has created a tempest in a teapot. It seems the real issue is one in which an honorary degree recipient may have used that honorary degree and its corresponding title in a manner which was perceived to be inappropriate by the author & Julie. It seems to me that The Report is scratching the bottom of the barrel for material for articles, and then presents that material in what I deem to be a highly controversial manner.

    1. Hi James, I’m the author of the report and I appreciate you engaging with it! I have many friends who attended or graduated from Indiana Wesleyan and loved their time there.

      This report covers a couple of different issues, and like you said, one of them is primarily the responsibility of the individual (misuse of the “doctor” title). The other issue was an institutional pattern of awarding honorary degrees to trustees, which as the report states is a step that’s supposed to be reserved for extraordinary circumstances. I would’ve loved to include Lancaster Bible College’s explanation of the extraordinary step, but unfortunately the college didn’t respond when I asked about it, as stated in the story. So I had to go by descriptions of the recipients’ accomplishments as shared in the commencement speeches and in public biographies or news reports.

      I know some readers have questioned the worth of honorary doctorates in general, but the story doesn’t address that issue. Philip Dearborn, formerly LBC provost, simply said that honorary doctorates are a different kind of recognition than earned doctorates. And I think the etiquette expert I cited would agree with you that it’s very possible that an individual case of misusing the “doctor” title is simply an accident rather than intentional. As always, though, if a pattern emerges I believe it’s worth looking into.

      1. Thanks, Sarah, for the graciousness of your response to my comments re: LBC & honorary degrees. As LBC has a new president and essentially a new senior leadership team since the incidents you reference in your article, I can understand some institutional reticence in responding to your inquiry. However, it does seem that the president should have shown the courtesy of a response and minimally explained that he and several of the senior leadership team are new to the institution since the events cited in your article.

        I do not want to be guilty of what my father referred to as “flagellating a deceased equine.” However, while the Pennsylvania state code states honorary degrees should not be awarded to trustees “except in extraordinary cases meriting special consideration.” the state code leaves it to the institution to determine what an extraordinary case meriting consideration is. Thus, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

        I truly want to believe you intended no malice to LBC or President Emeritus Peter Teague, However, I must confess I felt that the article did reflect negatively on both the institution and the man. For what purpose? Dr. Teague is someone I have come to know in recent years, and I have the highest confidence in his ethics and integrity. He is a devout man of God whose spiritual disciplines of prayer, bible study, journaling, etc. are at the highest level.
        Rather than inadvertently, I trust, casting aspersions, I wish you had done a story on the Jessica & Friends Community, a ministry for special needs adults into which Peter and his wife, Paulette, have poured their lives and personal resources. It’s an incredible story and example of “serving the least of these” through personal sacrifice. It’s a marvelously uplifting example of living out Christ and making a difference in this world. Such a story would truly be good news and inspirational. It seems our world could use huge doses of both.

        1. Terry Jackford

          Mr. James, thanks for changing your torn from that of a bully to a respectful one towards Sarah. Her response to you, I imagine inspired you towards be respectful.

          Again, you seem not to get it. You are trying to divert the seriousness of Lancaster Bible College’s leadership sloppiness, negligence and deception by exploiting your relationship with Dr. Teague. This is not helping Lancaster Bible College’s public embarrassment.

          You are also misleading in your comments about Pennsylvania state law. Please read it here.

          “(b) Honorary degrees may not be awarded to active board of trustee members, administrators or faculty members except in extraordinary cases meriting special consideration. Honorary degrees should not be awarded to former trustees, administrators or faculty members until at least 1/2 year after association with the institution has elapsed. The institution shall use discretion in the number of honorary degrees awarded at any one ceremony or in 1 academic year. 22 Pa. Code § 31.61”

          There is nothing in the code about “Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder”

    2. John Richardson

      Acknowledging one’s part in deception is also part of Christian Character. Perhaps the leaders at Lancaster Bible College could start there. Sarah and the Roy’s report are helping many Christians and the next generation who institutions like Lancaster Bible College and some of its leaders have lied to. If you are so invested in the college and it’s leadership, please help them sort out their mess. Avoid resorting to bully tricks and act out the Christian character you are writing about.

    3. Hey James. Lighten up Francis. Jesus never had a degree. Why these alleged godly men and woman need these honorary doctorates is laughable. How about after serving for all those years a simple thank you. If they be called by god then they already have there rewards. But then there egos wouldn’t be rewarded. The evangelical industrial complex which is full of mega churches and grifters all wanting the big bucks and big homes and big bank accounts which are nothing more then fiefdoms disgust me and it’s more ego fulfillment than godly works. And all this grifting started in the sixtys with the jesussss isssss la ords convincing people there way of the Bible is gods way and used more slimy slogans to fleece the flocks under the feel good messages and of course ten percent for gods work or he will get you. My ex brother in law was a Methodist minister. They provided a parsonage. It was around 1800 square feet. What does Copeland and olsteen and other grifters live in. Exactly. And they are receiving all the reward they will ever get. Nothing in the Bible commands us to live large while others go hungry. Class dismissed.

  12. Sarah is correct. She wrote, “As always, though, if a pattern emerges I believe it’s worth looking into.” Sarah and the Roys Report have continued to expose the broader problem of corruption and favoritism (James 2:1-13) among leaders and their institutions in evangelism. Dr. King appraised the need to judge people by “the content of character”, and Sarah’s article is exposing the immoral behaviors of institutional employees of Lancaster Bible College. The leadership failures and negligence at Lancaster Bible College are responsible for disastrous realities not Sarah. Any defensiveness which seeks to excuse LBC immoral acts as an institution based on the “good” actions of an individual is part of the deceitful pattern. Sure, people should demonstrate good character. And this is the brilliance of Sarah’s article because she is shedding light on the lack of character in the favoritism of “honorary doctorates awarded to those who CONTROL the awarding institution” as Any Moore wrote. Sarah writely, demonstrated how Lancaster Bible College played fast and loose with the law. She wrote, “Pennsylvania state regulations. don’t permit an institution to award honorary degrees to its own trustees or faculty “except in extraordinary cases meriting special consideration.” The Association for Biblical Higher Education, one of Lancaster Bible College’s accrediting agencies, has a similar policy.”

    Some Christian leaders who try to separate employees from the employers particularly for the reasons of evading accountability should think twice. Such Christian leaders think they are saving their institutions but in reality, they are more Machiavellian in their divide and conquer approach, than biblical in practise. Christian institutions are employers and types of associations which have employees. When employees perform well, they are rewarded by the institution’s leaders through remuneration systems and procedures including other benefits. And when the employees of institutions act in immoral ways, institutions are also responsible for holding the offending employees accountable in order to remedy the injuries of the offended. The leadership of Lancaster Bible College needs to take stock and identify the offenders and own up to its public mess.

    Sarah has done a commendable service in pointing out Lancaster Bible College’s leadership’s immoral act of failing to institutionally align itself with Pennsylvania state regulations and its accrediting agencies. That’s the real problem, not Sarah and Roys report. Any appeal to the character of a few individuals at Lancaster Bible College is actually laughable and particularly irrelevant. Jeffery Epstein was a billionaire and philanthropist who was also imprisoned for abuse. Should Epstein receive sympathy and awards because of his leadership in philanthropy and finance? Ravi Zachary and the RZMI were once hailed with grandiose superlatives like “incredible leadership”, a “life well-lived in service to Christ ” and “the depth of ..Christian character”. Yet, due the truth seeking journalism of reporters like Sahar and Julie Roys Report, we now know the truth, his false claim about his academic credentials and widely known abuse.

    What is curious is the absence of defence for the Christian Character of Lancaster Bible College’s employees named Sarah’s reports. For example Sarah is named:
    Michael Black. He falsified academic credentials and claimed the title of “doctor” as the director of their DC site during Dr. Peter Teauge tenure. Black has not earned a DMIN, but his bio had the initials “DMIN”. Mr. Black’s bio is misleading.

    Dr. Dearbone. He was the provost of the college during Dr. Peter Teauge’s tenure. Surely, he must have known that Michael Black did not have a credible terminal degree. Did he cover up the truth? If so, why? Now that you know Dearbone’s implication in these matters, you might read Dearbone’s statements differently. Michale Black mascrabed around with the fake title of “Dr.” for years. Dr. Dearbone could have asked Mr. Black for his academic transcripts at least. Can LBC confirm his enrollment in the “Doctor of Ministry at Wesley Theological Seminary?”

    Another curious but deafening sound is the silence of current executive leadership at Lancaster Bible College. LBC has a Vice President of Institutional Alignment called Rev. Zachary Ritvalsky. Doesn’t it concern you that the Vice President of Institutional Alignment has not come to the defense of the institution of LBC regarding its institutional Alignment or lack thereof with Pennsylvania state regulations as Sarah noted? His silence is loudly sounding as an admission. Silence can mean admission, while hoping to be less exposed further. Silence could also mean ignoring the unresolved problems like graft, influence peddling, abuse, cover-ups and favoritism to continue. Such negligence slowly and silently destroys lives in Christian evangelical organisations.

    1. Is “A. Michael Black, D.D.” Or DMin, which one is it. Both are on Lancaster Bible College’s website. Which is which and how could the so called “incredible leaders” Lancaster Bible College miss this scandalous behavior?

      Can someone with “deep Character” at Lancaster Bible College clarity this deception and why it has been permitted?

      Who is covering up for the fake “Dr”?

      Is this another case of “ beauty in the eyes of Lancaster Bible College?”

      Also, Michael Black’s bio notes “ D.D. (studied)”, but he did not earn the doctorate. He still insists on referring to himself in his bio as “Dr”?

      “Dr. A Michael Black has been in pastoral ministry for almost 35 years….”

      https://www.lbc.edu/dc/programs/

      I spoke with Alumni and they are feeling disgusted about the institutions’s silence and inaction.

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