Church-College Discussion in Georgetown

Jan 17, 2012

A conference will attract 60 to 70 Christian college professors, pastors and students to Georgetown College next week to discuss tensions between churches and Christian institutions of higher education, organizer Roger Ward said.  “Christian Life and Witness: From the Academy to the Church” will feature Oxford University professor Paul Fiddes and Yale University professor Nicholas Wolterstorff in the two-day event, which starts Monday, Jan. 23, and continues through Tuesday, Jan. 24.

The event also marks the launch of the Georgetown College Center for Christian Discernment and Academic Initiatives, which the college launched last May as an outgrowth of a 2001 Lilly Endowment Inc. grant. Philosophy professor Ward is director of the center.

The center is designed to promote events that encourage students to maintain Christian faithfulness, hospitality and leadership development, among other goals, in the face of non-Christian expectations they will likely encounter when they leave college, Ward said.

Ward noted that many major colleges and universities – including Harvard and Yale – originally were founded as religious institutions. Over time, however, they became secular in their focus. Those movements away from their religious origins, as well as the changing nature of higher education at Christian schools, created an air of suspicion on the part of churches that had built the colleges.

“This conference will discuss how Christian higher education can help its constituents engage in questions of (Christian) intellectual development and cultural engagement,” Ward said.

Wolterstorff will deliver the conference’s keynote address, “Church and Academy in the Reformed Tradition: Mutual Service,” at a 7 p.m. banquet on Monday. Fiddes will deliver the Founders Day address at 11 a.m. Tuesday.

The conference opens at 4 p.m. Monday with a panel on secular pressures that students face after they leave a Christian college, Ward said.

The day continues with presentations by Craig Clarkson of Baylor University, Emmanuel Itapson of Eastern University, Sheila Klopfer and Jonathan Sands Wise of Georgetown College, Drayan Whitfield of Mercer University, and Brad Creed, Tom Woolley and Steve Donaldson of Samford University.

Sessions on Jan. 24 will begin with presentations by Eileen Campbell-Reed of Luther Seminary, Justin Barnard of Union University and Dalen Jackson and Mark Medley of Baptist Seminary of Kentucky at 8:30.

Three panel discussions complete the day:

– 9:30 a.m., “Academic Witness to the Church,” with Steve Harmon of Gardner-Webb University, Philip Thompson of Sioux Falls Seminary and Christopher Hall of Eastern University;
– 2 p.m., “Engaging Students in the World of Service and Ministry,” with Elizabeth Newman, Baptist Theological Seminary of Richmond, Va., Rick Ostrander of Cornerstone University and Keith Graber Miller of Goshen College; and
– 3 p.m., “Pastors and the College,” with Alan Reddit of Georgetown Baptist Church, Rebecca Caswell-Speight, Broadway Baptist Church of Louisville, Elise Johnstone of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church of Georgetown, David Weatherspoon of Franklin College and Cheryl King, former president of Kentucky Wesleyan University.

Most events will be held in the Thomas & King Conference Center, although the Founders Day address will be in the John L. Hill Chapel and the last two panel discussions will be in the Hall of Fame Room in the Cralle Student Center.

The conference is open to the public.