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“For I Am With You”

Today’s post is a cross post from Caryn Riswold, who blogs at Feminismxianity at Patheos.com.  Riswold was a Postdoctoral Lilly Fellow  from 2000 – 2002.  She is currently Associate Professor of Religion and Chair of Gender and Women’s Studies at Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois.   

What if the fundamental problem that we need to work to overcome, that embedded flaw at the core of being human, isn’t mortality? Consider all the ways that we struggle mightily to overcome our mortality – to extend life, transcend our physical limitations, care for others’ most basic physical needs for food and shelter.  Sometimes these are all good and necessary things.

But is this the central human problem?  Mortality? What if, actually, it’s isolation?

What if we reconsider our work and being in the world around the fundamental problem of human isolation?  That what we need more than anything is for someone to be with us.  Not someone to do something for us.  That what we need to do for others in need is be with them.  Be present with them.

To continue reading, visit Feminismxianity.

Academic and Religious Freedom in tension at Shorter University

Another excellent article on church-related higher education/religion and higher education by Libby A. Nelson over at Inside Higher Ed that chronicles the difficulties (I don’t see another word for it) Shorter University in Rome, GA, has undergone over the past ten years.  Like a number Southern Baptist institutions, Shorter attempted to sever its ties, in this case, with the Georgia Baptist Association between 2002 and 2005, as the convention claimed prerogative in appointing members to Shorter’s Board of Trustees. The convention continued to appoint trustees, and in October, 2011, Shorter President Donald Dowless inaugurated a requirement that faculty (including tenured faculty) and staff sign statements of faith and behavior to obtain or retain employment.  The article exposes deep tensions between freedom of religious practice and academic freedom as well as the ways these tensions have legal, regulatory, and accreditation ramifications.  An informative and thought-provoking article.

Posted by Joe Creech

Jesus and Football: not just for Tebow

While Mary Beth posts on Lutheran identity, I’ll note a couple stories about Football, Jesus, and College.  This story appeared yesterday in the New York Times about Liberty University’s aspirations to be like Notre Dame…at least in football.  Interesting read on football culture and evangelicalism; my own research has found southern evangelicals at the turn of the twentieth century criticizing football (along with boxing) for its violence.  Meanwhile, a few states south of Lynchburg, there was a much tweeted story of the baptism of a football player at the end of practice at Clemson University.  I can’t help but ponder what this means for “Secularization of the Academy” narratives; at least on the football field, religious practice seems alive and well.

Posted by Joe Creech

Religious Identity and Church-Related Colleges and Universities

Last week,  an article by Libby Nelson, “Preserving a Lutheran Mission,” appeared in Inside Higher Ed about a handful of Lutheran colleges that recently hired non-Lutheran presidents.  Four colleges – Carthage Collage, Newberry College, Pacific Lutheran University, and Wittenberg University – all recently installed presidents who are not Lutherans, but they are not alone.  The 26 colleges who espouse an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America identity, according to this article, have had non-Lutheran presidents for years.  This sparked a question about religious identity of these schools.  According to Nelson:

As more leaders at religiously affiliated colleges come from outside that affiliation, they’re likely to confront their own versions of the question [Paul] Pribbenow [of Ausburg College] researched: What is a Lutheran education, and how can it remain relevant?

The concern is that if the leadership of the institution does not consist of members of the church, then the college or university might distance itself from its religious identity.  A similar question might be asked of a Catholic college run by a religious order, like the Jesuits.  If a non-Jesuit become president, will the Jesuit identity wane?   Recently, Loyola Marymount University hired its first non-Jesuit and lay president, David W. Burcham.  The reception of President Burcham since his installation in 2010 has been overwhelmingly positive, and at the time, his hire was accompanied by statements of support from the archbishop of Los Angeles, Cardinal Roger Mahony, and incoming Archbishop Jose Gomez, who will succeed Mahony. R. Chad Dreier, chairman of the school’s Board of Trustees.

In the case of the four new presidents of Lutheran colleges, that they are not Lutheran has inspired them to explore the Lutheran mission of their institutions.  They participated in an orientation to gain better insight into the mission with Paul Pribbenow,  the president of Augsburg College, and this experience has given them a better understanding of what Pribbenow identifies as the “five key characteristics of a Lutheran college: a sense of vocation, or calling; a tradition of ‘critical and humble inquiry’; engagement with other religious traditions; a commitment to service; and reformation — being open to change.”  In some cases, this has inspired leadership to re-emphasize the institution’s faith-based identity.

As demographics shift and as in the case of Carthage College in Wisconsin where only 30 percent of the student population identify as Lutheran (40 percent are Catholic and 30 percent are other religions), how does a Lutheran school distinguish itself and continue to be an alternative to prospective students?  What has drawn non-Lutherans to Carthage College?  The same can be said for any other religious affiliated college or university.  How and why do schools maintain their religious identity?

Posted by Mary Beth Fraser Connolly

Sex, Gender and Christianity: New Book from 2010 Lilly Fellows Summer Seminar

Sex, Gender, and Christianity

The following post comes from Priscilla Pope-Levison, co-editor of the new publication, Sex, Gender, and Christianity.  Pope-Levison is Professor of Theology at Seattle Pacific University.

The laughter from our deck kicked off a robust Lilly Fellows Summer Seminar on Gender and Christianity at Seattle Pacific University during the summer of 2010. Along with daily discussions of sex, gender, and Christianity, we enjoyed happy hours, a weekend on historic Whidbey Island, a trek to Mt. Rainier, sweets and treats at Pike Place Market, and a sunset celebration at the beach. Sex, Gender, and Christianity is the culmination of the hearty esprit-du-corps that emerged throughout this life-changing month.

This book is perfect for the college classroom. Written by seasoned teachers from disciplines typically as distinct as health sciences and religion, literature and marriage counseling, Sex, Gender, and Christianity puts in your hands great articles that provide perfect jumping-off points for rich discussions about topics that matter to students. Where else will you find a book about sex and gender that has quotations from Chaucer, Twitter, Shakespeare, Christian romance novels, the Jewish vow of ‘onah, Sylvia Plath, and Sex and the City—a book whose index on the letter “V” ranges from vampires to the Vatican? This book even contains a brief companion video to generate discussion in small groups and classes.

Sex, Gender, and Christianity creates an atmosphere—sometimes playful, sometimes serious, always rich with intelligent inquiry and historical perspective—that will enliven classrooms, staff meetings, cohorts and cadres that meet on college and university campuses. By using this book, you will offer faculty, staff, students, and administrators an unprecedented opportunity to discuss sex, gender, and Christianity in a shared space—a safe space that allows for honest and transforming conversation.

For an examination copy of Sex, Gender and Christianity, contact James Stock (541) 344-1528, ext 103 or James@wipfandstock.com

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