Yesterday, Colleges and Evangelicals Collide on Bias Policy ran on the front page of the NY Times.
For 40 years, evangelicals at Bowdoin College have gathered periodically to study the Bible together, to pray and to worship. They are a tiny minority on the liberal arts college campus, but they have been a part of the school’s community, gathering in the chapel, the dining center, the dorms.
After this summer, the Bowdoin Christian Fellowship will no longer be recognized by the college. Already, the college has disabled the electronic key cards of the group’s longtime volunteer advisers. . . .
Michael Paulson’s insightful piece gives attention to significant Campus Access Concerns faced by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and other campus ministries across the United States.
. . . At Cal State, the nation’s largest university system with nearly 450,000 students on 23 campuses, the chancellor is preparing this summer to withdraw official recognition from evangelical groups that are refusing to pledge not to discriminate on the basis of religion in the selection of their leaders. And at Vanderbilt, more than a dozen groups, most of them evangelical but one of them Catholic, have already lost their official standing over the same issue; one Christian group balked after a university official asked the students to cut the words “personal commitment to Jesus Christ” from their list of qualifications for leadership. . . .
“It’s absurd,” said Alec Hill, the president of InterVarsity, a national association of evangelical student groups, including the Bowdoin Christian Fellowship. “The genius of American culture is that we allow voluntary, self-identified organizations to form, and that’s what our student groups are. . . .
If you have not already done such, I encourage you to take the time to prayerfully consider and discuss Colleges and Evangelicals Collide on Bias Policy. The below material is a distillation of what I have posted on Facebook (InterVarsity Faculty Ministry and InterVarsity Emerging Scholars Network) and received through InterVarsity’s ministry as a whole. Pray for God’s continued granting of discernment. As you have particular prayer concerns, please share below and/or drop me a line. May this article signal “a changing tide in matters of public policy and faith, principled pluralism and freedom of association”. To God be the glory!
Resources as you pray for, partner with, and participate in InterVarsity’s labors on campus:
- As we seek after and wrestle with a larger framework, our recent exploration of Richard J. Mouw’s Uncommon Decency: Christian Civility in an Uncivil World (InterVarsity Press, 2010) strikes me as a good place to begin. And yes, I am inspired to dig into Mouw’s When the Kings Come Marching In: Isaiah and the New Jerusalem sooner rather than later. Stay tuned.
- Prayer requests:
- The primary issue is the freedom of religious student groups to use religious criteria in leadership selection. These requirements are necessary to help InterVarsity keep a distinctive Christian identity. As you know, we welcome any and all students and faculty to participate fully in our community life. Pray that religious student groups be given the same opportunities and access that other student groups receive (primarily access to room reservations, student activities fairs, etc.; this isn’t primarily about money). No, we are not asking for special treatment. The Greek system selects members and leaders based on gender. Sports teams select on abled-body status, gender, and willingness to abide by the established rules of the game. Musical groups select based on status and skill. The university affirms these kinds of discriminatory behaviors all the time.
- Opportunity for our 40,000 core students and faculty who are committed to the good of their campus communities to continue to have the opportunity to love the university with an Uncommon Decency guided by a rich Doctrinal Basis drawn from the very Word of God. What a joy to read and share the ministry praises found not only in Making the Campus a Better Place: Highlights from the 2013-2014 School Year and Graduating for Good – Engaging Society with Knowledge, Passion, and Integrity, but also our specific local contexts.
- Intercede for campus fellowships facing particular challenges at present.
- Articles for discussion
- Tish Harrison Warren writes on faith and diversity at Vanderbilt and Reverend Gomes and Religious Freedom are two pieces from the Vanderbilt conversation by Tish Harrison Warren, former Graduate & Faculty Ministry (GFM) staff at Vanderbilt and now with GFM in Texas.
- Prayerful consideration & Discussion: Vanderbilt Town Mtg is a piece I wrote for the ESN Blog in response to the Vanderbilt Town Mtg.
- Academic Justice by Alec Hill, President of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA (5/28/2014)
- Campus Access Concerns — an InterVarsity Christian Fellowship introductory page with links to a wealth of material.
What a joy and humbling privilege to come alongside, encourage and equip the next generation of Christian scholars as they seek to be a redeeming influence in the academy, church, and the world during such a time as this. To God be the glory!
About the author:
Tom enjoys daily conversations regarding living out the Biblical Story with his wife Theresa and their four girls, around the block, at Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church (where he teaches adult electives and co-leads a small group), among healthcare professionals as the Northeast Regional Director for the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA), and in higher ed as a volunteer with the Emerging Scholars Network (ESN). For a number of years, the Christian Medical Society / CMDA at Penn State College of Medicine was the hub of his ministry with CMDA. Note: Tom served with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship / USA for 20+ years, including 6+ years as the Associate Director of ESN. He has written for the ESN blog from its launch in August 2008. He has studied Biology (B.S.), Higher Education (M.A.), Spiritual Direction (Certificate), Spiritual Formation (M.A.R.), Ministry to Emerging Generations (D.Min.). To God be the glory!