Lead Stories

Letter from Georgetown's Campus Ministry

Religion | Campus Ministry director responds to group's decision not to renew its covenant with Protestant Affiliated Ministries

Dear Professor Plowman:
Thank you for your communication regarding the Affiliated Ministries. The recent decision by Campus Ministry not to renew this year's covenant agreements with Protestant Affiliated Ministries has generated both confusion and concern. In order to address the ongoing questions that have arisen, it is important to clarify a few points, to describe how we plan to move forward and to provide some background for the current situation.
First, Campus Ministry's decision does not restrict the rights of students to participate either on or off campus in the religious organizations of their choice. Students retain the right to invite religious organizations on campus for prayer and fellowship. However, at this time, these formerly affiliated groups do not function under the auspices of Campus Ministry.
Second, in order to explore how we can move forward, next week Reverend Philip Boroughs, S.J., Vice President for Mission and Ministry, will announce the formation of a University Advisory Committee to review the current resources and structures of our Protestant Chaplaincy to meet the needs of our Protestant community. This committee will be comprised of University faculty, Campus Ministers, students and off-campus leaders who will assist Campus Ministry in addressing our current situation and in designing a future model for ministry in keeping with Georgetown values.
Third, Campus Ministry chaplains will continue to meet with interested students and others affected by this decision to listen to their concerns and identify current needs. Several listening sessions with specific groups already have occurred. In addition, Campus Ministry has reorganized its staff and is revising its programming to address students' needs.
To understand the context for the current situation, some background is helpful. The mission of Campus Ministry at Georgetown University has two goals. The first is to foster and promote the Catholic and Jesuit identity of the University, and in keeping with that mission, to create an environment that respects the different religious traditions that are represented in our University community. The Campus Ministry Staff is composed of Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Jewish, and Muslim chaplains who offer worship services, programming, retreats, and other events to support our students' growth in their respective traditions.
The second goal of Campus Ministry is to foster engagement between and among the many religious traditions embraced by members of our community as part of Georgetown's commitment to promote ecumenical and interreligious understanding. Following the directives of the Society of Jesus and the call of the Second Vatican Council to recognize God's presence in diverse religious traditions, Campus Ministry sees the development of interfaith dialogue as one way of preparing students to live in a complex global community. Pope John Paul II reminded us that through dialogue we deepen our religious commitment and gain "a clearer sense of the oneness of the human family." Clearly, achieving the delicate balance needed to support the integrity of individual traditions on our campus while promoting a community of interreligious engagement is a worthy and sometimes challenging goal.
Campus Ministry has attended to the needs of our Protestant students through worship services, events, Bible studies, and retreats offered by our Protestant Chaplaincy. In addition, because of the diverse theological and liturgical needs of our students, we have entered into partnership with a variety of Christian churches and national organizations that have come to campus and offered similar programming and fellowship. These partnerships were known as Affiliated Ministries and were confirmed by the annual signing of a covenant agreement.
Over the years, the programming and worship services offered by these Affiliated Ministries have assisted our students in their spiritual growth and development. But it has also been the case that Campus Ministry has experienced ongoing difficulties in communication and cooperation with these outside organizations. The result has been fragmentation between student groups and the inability to gather our Protestant students on occasion for ecumenical worship and dialogue while acknowledging distinct theological differences. This past year it became increasingly clear that the structure of our relationship with Affiliated Ministries was ineffective in promoting dialogue regarding our values. Consequently, the decision was made not to renew the covenants this year.
We recognize the pain this decision has caused. Hopefully, we can use this time of review and evaluation to envision a more effective structure for serving our Protestant students in keeping with our University values.

Thank you for your interest and concern.
Reverend Timothy S. Godfrey, S.J.
Director of Campus Ministry

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