new rules for Christian schools (and a note)

Christianity Today published an article yesterday that would be news enough for our field as it is, without a nice closing sentence I wanted to bring to our attention.

But first, the news: Basically, the Department of Education is poised to require separate state-level accreditation for colleges around the country, leaving many concerned that Christian schools (and other private schools) will – at the very least – face additional bureaucracy, and very possibly will be challenged on their approach to curriculum, requirements, and other aspects of those schools.

Naomi Schaefer Riley writes that while the DOE released a very small exemption,

in order to qualify for that exemption, schools must meet the DOE’s new definition of a religious school. According to the DOE, “an institution is considered a religious institution if it is owned, controlled, operated, and maintained by a religious organization lawfully operating as a nonprofit religious corporation and awards only religious degrees or religious certificates…” This definition excludes colleges from Georgetown to Notre Dame and from Baylor to Wheaton.

While I recognize that most of us don’t directly serve Christian colleges, this still matters to our field.

But as I said, there’s another something worth noting in the article. In the very final paragraph, Riley notes a potential fatal flaw in the Department of Education’s reasoning:

Hartle [senior vice president of the American Council on Education] suggests that the fundamental problem with the regulations is that they fail to recognize how different American colleges and universities are from one another. “The more you try to fit all institutions of higher learning into a single box, the harder it gets to preserve the great diversity that is such a hallmark and strength of our system.”

I simply appreciated that thought, because it echoes something that’s really important for us to grasp: Approaching college campuses (for the sake of ministry, in our case) should be done in a context-specific way. And understanding college ministry, improving our field, making things better – it will require fighting the tendency to “fail to recognize how different American colleges and universities are from each other.”

It’s one of the cool things about our field of ministry – so many diverse tribes, so much to explore!


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