The Faculty Senate recently conducted a survey at the request of the Board of Trustees regarding faulty church membership requirements. The survey results showed a majority of faculty members are in favor of hiring outside of the Church of Christ.
The board has not changed the policy, but members will continue to contemplate and study the issue.
We think there are several factors that should be considered in this decision, which are presented below.
The changing nature of the students
The Church of Christ prides itself on its stance against denominationalism and division. The Church of Christ has no official governing body that dictates each congregation, or a convention that cradles the denomination’s beliefs and theologies. As a result, universities affiliated with the Church of Christ have acted as a holder of the Church of Christ theological views.
For decades, ACU has been a leader and an incubator of Church of Christ ideals and traditions as they’ve molded ministers, pastors and all students to continue to serve the Church of Christ. It’s probable that the current hiring policy was originally put into place to protect students from the “sin of denominationalism” or the issues that occur in other denominations.
But the students who arrive from both Church of Christ and non-Church of Christ backgrounds at ACU do not seem bothered by the differences of each others’ denominations. What the hiring discussion uncovers is a discourse between carrying on heritage of the Church of Christ and trying to reflect the composition of the student body. If this institution is centered on our belief in Christ and not in a church denomination, just as our demographics and our mission statement suggest, then we can move forward with a new hiring policy that allows ACU to hire the best, the brightest and those who are committed to the core of the Gospel.
Improvements in quality and diversity
By eliminating a professor candidate solely based on denomination, the issue to hire non-COC faculty goes beyond questioning religious principles, limiting students’ potential in the classroom.
ACU already drafts the highest caliber of educators. However, add “Church of Christ membership” to the prerequisites and the pool of eligible professors drastically dwindles.
We believe expanding faculty eligibility gives students access to the best education by awarding a position to the absolute most-qualified teacher.
Allowing non-Church of Christ candidates to be included in the hiring would only expand and elevate the quality of ACU education and, in turn, expand and elevate student’s learning.
ACU has provided its students with an outstanding education due to outstanding educators. However, the teacher talent and student potential will always be limited should ACU stick by its Church of Christ constrictions. ACU has a duty to act as an institute of “higher learning” by providing students with the highest quality possible.
Following the Christian Tradition
The Church of Christ has a tradition of rejecting tradition, and ACU was built on Church of Christ traditions, including the church membership of the people we hire.
The Church of Christ is a non-denominational church, yet ACU has a denominational hiring policy. This is in keeping with our Church of Christ traditions.
But what about the Christian tradition?
The Church of Christ was born from the Stone-Campbell Movement. The purpose of the movement was to unify Christians in a single church body. Members identified themselves not as Protestants, but as Christians, plain and simple.
Our hiring policy should reflect the desire to become unified believers. By changing it, we’re not doing away with ACU tradition, we would be altering it to be more inclusive.
We would not be giving up on our heritage by adjusting the hiring policy. Hiring faculty members who don’t attend a Church of Christ would be a new step, but we are still sticking with our Christian tradition.
Membership and spirituality
Does a church membership directly correlate to spiritual maturity? Is the Church of Christ more important or more holy than the Baptist Church, or the Methodist Church? By choosing to hire only from a small pool of Church of Christ members, it would seem as though ACU is saying just that.
Although it is understood that hiring from such a select group of individuals helps insure that the university is filled with good Christian role models for students, we believe the policy hurts more than it helps, for both students and faculty. A person’s denomination, or lack of denomination, doesn’t dictate where they stand on the “spirituality scale.”
The hiring policy has obligated professors of the past and present to change their memberships to the Church of Christ solely to work at ACU. Although no one is forced by the university to make this switch, they are being required to choose between the job that they want and the faith that they have.
In any other business or profession, it could be argued that a person’s job should not interfere with their personal life or choices. And yet, because this is a private Christian university, it is an exception to this rule.
There are wonderful Christian professors in the Church of Christ, but there are wonderful professors in other denominations, as well. Limiting our hiring pool limits our opportunities for growth.
Faculty should represent the student body
The most important factor to consider when evaluating the possible revision of ACU’s hiring policy is the effect on students. ACU is first and foremost an educational institution and its primary goal should be to provide a high quality educational experience for its students. The university exists to serve the students and its faculty make up should reflect the religious diversity of the student body.
Currently, over 50 percent of ACU’s student body is not affiliated with the Church of Christ. Because faculty members are limited to Church of Christ membership, students attending churches of other denominations are denied the opportunity to form invaluable relationships with their professors outside the classroom.
ACU’s administration exhibits extreme disconnect with students by refusing to hire professors outside of an extremely religious background. Expanding ACU’s hiring to outside the Church of Christ would be a necessary step to ensure that the student body is accurately represented among faculty members.
The Church of Christ is an important part of ACU’s heritage but the alumni ACU produces are a far more important piece of this heritage. This is a debate that should not be decided by potential profit or the opinions of alumni, but by considering the makeup of the student body and the negative impact the current hiring policy has on these students.
Theology in the classroom
ACU is set apart from other universities because it works to make Christian theology relevant in the classroom. You won’t find a professor quoting scripture in a business class at Texas Tech. As students, we value the opportunity to rely on our professors to give us spiritual guidance practical for our majors. We understand the importance of protecting this unique aspect of ACU, but does a professor’s denomination affect his or her ability to be a positive role model in the classroom?
Hiring outside of the Church of Christ will not only maintain the status quo but will improve ACU’s ability to provide spiritual growth in the classroom. Our time at college is not about trying to preserve our beliefs – it’s about reaching beyond our comfort zones and challenging what we believe to build stronger foundations. Choosing to solely hire professors who are members of the Church of Christ limits opportunities for students to learn from professors from different backgrounds with different viewpoints of Christianity.