Monday, August 7, 2017

The Desk As Altar

Church of God Historian, Dr. Merle Strege has written an excellent analysis detailing Anderson University’s first century of Christian service to its Church of God sponsor, its local community where it carries a vital role, and to the cause of Christian Higher Education... After spending time with Merle at our annual June Historical Society, followed by personal conversation, I eagerly anticipated reading his historical critique. I completed that reading recently and I offer the following personal response to this well-written newest volume of Church of God historical literature.

I excerpt the author's own words:
"James Edwards retired as Anderson University laid plans to celebrate its centennial. A tiny denominational Bible school had evolved in ways unimagined by the boldest dreamers among its founders. Once comprised almost exclusively of students and faculty drawn from the Church of God, one hundred years later AU has become intentionally pluralistic.

“And yet its identity rests in ties to its sponsoring church. From a sectarian Bible school and young college, the institution has stepped into a wider religious world as it continues to mature into a complex university. Anderson University defies simple categorization. Unashamed of its Christian character, it prides itself in not imposing faith statements or creeds as a condition of employment; instead the institution asks applicants for a testimony of their Christian pilgrimage.

“Formally tied to the Church of God, AU celebrates the freedom of 'academic and Christian discovery.' The sponsoring church and its oldest university have undergone substantial growth and change over the course of Anderson's lifetime, but at the end of the day, university leaders insist on belonging to the church that has given Anderson University its distinctive shape”

…"At one hundred years of age, the stated mission of Anderson University is ' educate for a life of faith and service to church and society.' ... Since the days of Morrison and Olt, the development of such lives has been at Anderson's heart. The goal remains the gift and burden of each generation ... Signs abound that the latest faculty generation has taken up the task. In the words of one of its members, 'Our "unifying theme" is a life of faith and service ...set free by VERITAS, ...empowered ... by FIDELITAS, and naturally manifested through UTILITAS. Here I suggest is the common language AU must strive to protect, and our unifying theme.' John Morrison would smile" (pp 414-415).
Merle's fundamental unifying theme seems accurate in every sense of the word. Moreover, it reassures me as I look back across the span of and my personal relationship with the adolescent Movement, beginning as ABTS/AC and was but ten years old at my birth. Later, I would spend several decades serving that Family of Faith (Movement) in pastoring several of its newer (and some older) congregations from coast to coast, and I candidly admit Merle’s documented  insistence that TRUTH, FAITH, and SERVICE have been the net result of AU's century-long educational contribution to the mission of the Movement coincides with my experience. But also: he gives me insight and better understanding into issues I might otherwise question.
 I have had some very good and some very bad experiences with AC, both as a student and as a parent of students. I have one deeply serious issue with “my friend” Bob Reardon that came about during my years of being the parent of a student. That in my view still remains a problem John Pistole must correct and improve but that is outside the purview of this review. Some may not agree with the perceived liberalization and/or the academic freedom students have today. Not all will support the "progressive" view Dr. Strege puts forth. Some will reject various trends that differ in varying degree with our original manner of identifying ourselves as a Movement, et al. Still others would be more comfortable for AC/AU to be more dogmatic and less diplomatic while others would be more comfortable if our church/Movement was more sectarian, more doctrinal, and somewhat less experiential and pietistic. And that’s OKAY. 
SOME might even like Professor Strege to be less academic and more assertive about this or that issue, according to the interest of the particular person or congregation. At the end of day, however, I know of no one better able to gauge this assessment of our cooperative investment in Anderson University. Our investments of time, money, and energy have paid off in dividends both excellent and highly profitable (valuable).
I salute our friend and my fellow alum from WPC for this most recent of his several "significant historical assessments." Merle understands and can assess with considerable accuracy who we are as a people, what we have achieved through our efforts, and where we are headed in our future of uncertain times
This is asking that you
“Be blessed!” as you thoughtfully read your copy of THE DESK AS ALTAR / Strege/AU Press/2016

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