In recent weeks, Belmont University has been called many things: bigoted, closed-minded and unloving. It has also been called righteous, wonderful and a defender of traditional Christian values.
I’m not going to talk about whether or not women’s soccer coach Lisa Howe should have “mutually agreed” to leave Belmont after she told her team that her same-sex partner was pregnant. Simply put, we do not know all of the facts regarding her departure.
Instead, I want to address what I see as an overly simplistic mindset when it comes to our faith. Some see their faith as an either/or proposition. By that I mean that it’s “either you agree with my beliefs 100 percent, or you are doomed to go to hell.” This kind of thinking ignores the broad, vibrant spectrum of Christian theology.
It is this spectrum that makes it difficult to cast a narrow ideological belief within a non-denominational Christian environment. As Christians, we all believe four basic things: the divinity of Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection, the trinity of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and the salvation of man through grace. All matters beyond that, however, are open to interpretation within the Christian church. For instance, do we believe that homosexuality is a sin? Do we believe in the ordination of women? Do we believe in predestination? As a non-denominational school, we must be open, fair and just to ideas from all sects of Christian belief. There is a saying in the reformed church, “ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda,” which means “the church reformed, always reforming.” That’s because God’s wisdom does not end with the book of Revelation. God continues to reveal God’s self to us, which is why we have such a great diversity in the church. To exclude some theologies from it is to amputate a part of the very body of Christ.
The Holy Spirit reveals to us new and wonderful parts of the heart of God every day. It is these revelations that have pushed Christians for hundreds of years in their quest to know God.
Over Christmas break, I had the privilege to hear the Rev. Aimee Wallis Buchanan speak at the 2011 College Conference in Montreat, North Carolina. She spoke on the topic of justice and diversity in the church and summed up the issue quite beautifully.
“Jesus’ story does not fit the confines of what we think reality is supposed to be. It is the story of what is beyond our limited grasp, and only possible for God … Diversity is in until it gets complicated, then it’s out. Inclusivity is in as long as it’s convenient, and as long as the majority stays in control, but when those they included want to use their own voice, and it might not be so agreeable; inclusivity is out. New ideas about faith and practice are in, until they make people change and then they are out.”
At Belmont, we are no longer a Southern Baptist university. We are now part of the broader Christian community, one filled with different ideas and beliefs about God. We cannot subscribe to a narrow theology of a particular denomination. Instead, we must be true to our non-denominational mission and include all beliefs about God and faith that fall within the four basic tenets of Christianity.
It’s when we are challenged in our beliefs that we grow. Students who explore their beliefs in a vibrant Christian community will have the conviction to go boldly into the world and proclaim what they believe through their words and actions; not surprisingly, that’s what Belmont’s mission statement says it aims to accomplish.
As a student, I ask that the university’s trustees, Dr. Fisher and all the other leaders of Belmont allow us to grow in our faith so that we may go out into the world sure of our beliefs and sure of God’s continuing revelations. This means that the university must release itself from the confines of its Southern Baptist heritage and allow itself to ask the tough questions. Yes, we may lose a few donors who are not comfortable with challenges to their beliefs, but we will gain something far more important than money: the ability to give students a faith that can withstand the trials of this world. Kevin Heim is a junior journalism major.