The Hon. Thomas W. Ross, Sr.
c/o Kay E. Thomasson
Office of the President
Davidson, NC 28035-7145
Dear Mr. Ross and members of the Board of Trustees:
I am in receipt of a letter of December 1, 2004, and its enclosures, from Kevin R. Hanna, President, Davidson College Alumni Association, in regard to a series of recommendations being considered by the Board of Trustees. I am writing to urge the Board to vote against all of these.
There are at least three severe problems here. One is changing the requirements for being a Trustee. A second is the argument that it is consistent with our Christian faith to do so. And a third is the creation of a chair in the religion department as an attempt to smooth over the first two.
First, then, I am appalled that Davidson College would consider lessening the requirements for being a Trustee. The Presbyterian Church has already given away more schools in this country than money could buy. Why do we want to give away another?
Second, and this is my greatest concern, I am appalled that an attempt would be made to appeal to the Christian faith for justification for such an abandonment of the Christian faith. The suggestion that these recommendations represent continuing support of Davidson‚s faith heritage and connection with the Presbyterian Church is disingenuous. This is horrible.
There is, for instance, a severe problem contained in the letter of September 27, 2004, from the Members of the Ad Hoc Committee to The Davidson College Board of Trustees. At the top of the second page, the suggestion is made that since our minds are limited we need to be reforming our Statement of Purpose. But that is not the motivation for reform in our heritage. The motivation for reform is the realization that we might be more obedient to God. Moreover, the will of God is understood to be made known in the Word of God. Thus, reform is not willy-nilly change. Reform is not “Let’s do something different.” And reform is certainly not an attempt to conform to the politically correct ideologies of the day. Reform is, instead, always “according to the word of God.”
Thus the questions arise: Where in our Christian and Reformed heritage is there any indication or encouragement that we should be yoked with unbelievers? Where in our heritage is there any justification given that we should squander our heritage? Where in our tradition is there any suggestion that we should throw away what our fathers and mothers have given us? How in the world could it possibly be faithful, helpful, or obedient to bring non-Christians into the leadership and decision making structure of what is supposed to be a Christian institution?
I submit to you that the recommendation to remove the requirement for Trustees to be Christian cannot possibly in any way be supported by an appeal to the Bible, to the Christian faith in general, or to the Reformed tradition in particular. That simply cannot be. The motivations for such changes come from outside our faith. They are alien to our tradition. They are necessarily destructive to our heritage. I urge you not to be taken in by them, no matter how smoothly and soothingly they might be presented.
As for the Statement of Purpose, the recommendation to move from a present pledge of faith (“Davidson commits itself to a Christian tradition that recognizes God as the source of all truth”) to an historical observation (“The religious tradition that has shaped Davidson recognizes God as the source of all truth”) can hardly be considered an advance in faithfulness or veracity. It smacks of sleight of hand. It is clearly a move away from the Christian faith. It would be better to be honest about that! But the attempt to depict such a move precisely as faithful is especially outrageous.
As for the proposed revision to the Trustee By-laws, the attempt to allow non-Christians onto the Board of Trustees is nothing less than an abdication of your responsibilities and a giving away of the school. Students, graduates, and friends of Davidson College should realize that it is a Christian college. If they do not like that, they can befriend other colleges. There is no reason for this college to cease being what it is in order to appeal to people from outside its heritage.
We need to be entirely clear about this. To bring non-Christians, however fine they are otherwise, into the governing and decision making life of the institution, would be by definition to bring the college under alien influences and therefore to abandon its Christian heritage. There is no other possible outcome of such a move.
Third, I am appalled that a recommendation to establish a chair of Reformed theology should be brought forward as a part of this group of recommendations, ostensibly to pacify Presbyterian Christians concerned about the first two. That is patronizing and disgusting. Even if such a chair might otherwise be useful, it would be forever tainted as a part of this deal. The school cannot be kept Christian by a religion department. We need for the Trustees to be Christian.
Most of you have no reason to know me. Let me say that I am a graduate of Davidson College. I am also a student of Christianity and the Reformed tradition, having a Ph.D. in historical theology from The University of Chicago. I am also a minister of the gospel, in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). I urge you to reject all of these recommendations.
James C. Goodloe IV, pastor
Grace Covenant Church
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