Vanderbilt squeeze

"Vanderbilt squeeze" Continued...

Issue: "School choice," Aug. 25, 2012

Most of the Christian groups "moving off campus" aren't really going anywhere. Ministry for many of them won't look much different this year than it did last year. Without official recognition, the groups can't apply for student fee funding, reserve school facilities for meetings, advertise events on the school's website, or participate in the student organization fair at the beginning of the school year.

But only a few groups held meetings in classrooms and lecture halls. Vanderbilt Catholic and Baptist Collegiate Ministries even own buildings on campus, giving them a regular meeting place. The school said it doesn't intend to keep groups from gathering in public places like the student center for Bible study or prayer meetings. The groups seem confident they can share information about their ministry the old-fashioned way-word of mouth.

One group, Reformed University Fellowship (RUF), chose to affirm the nondiscrimination policy and retain its official status. Chaplain Stacy Croft, an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America, said the policy won't hinder him from preaching the gospel. RUF doesn't rely as heavily on student leaders and Croft has a hand in choosing those who lead Bible studies and small group meetings.

Some Christian leaders said the controversy had forced formerly apathetic or marginal members to become bolder about declaring their beliefs. Tish Warren said before Vanderbilt accused them of discrimination, many Christians on campus didn't think much about doctrine. Suddenly, the Nicene Creed was relevant on a college campus.

Last spring, 90 students attended a GCF-hosted panel on the role of creeds in Christian belief. Listening to them talk about creedal orthodoxy filled Warren with hope for Vanderbilt Christians: "Christians over the years have literally died for the notion of creedal orthodoxy. ... Christianity isn't just a void that we can pour whatever cultural hopes and dreams into, but there's actually a structure to our faith that we hold to, regardless of the trends of whatever is popular culturally, or not."

Leigh Jones
Leigh Jones

Leigh lives in Houston with her husband and daughter. She is the managing editor of WORLD's website.


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