While I don’t intend to answer every letter that objects to the Chapel policy, I do think Dave Roland’s letter raises interesting questions that deserve a response.
Mr. Roland correctly points out that Chapel is a spiritual discipline and spiritual disciplines are entered into voluntarily. That is absolutely right by my understanding. What he misunderstands is that every student who enrolls at ACU voluntarily covenants with the school to practice this discipline-which is to be a contributing participant in the community of worship here. All we are asking students (and faculty) to do is to be faithful to the covenant they have entered into. No one is required to go to a university with a daily chapel expectation; it is a choice every student makes.
Imagine if I had gone to a hermit’s community where silence is maintained and disrupted their community by constantly chattering because I didn’t think silence was helpful, and after all, it’s only a discipline if you enter into it voluntarily. I think they would say, “You came here voluntarily, but you made covenant with us to practice this discipline. You are free to leave but you are not free to destroy the community’s character by coming and practicing only what disciplines you decide on.”
Imagine the following conversation between Mr. Roland and one of his Vanderbilt professors.
Mr. Roland: I have read the assignments for the class and one of them I find unhelpful. I won’t be doing that one.
Professor: That is your choice. Of course there will be a penalty.
Mr. Roland: Of course. I have thought about that and I have decided what the appropriate penalty is. If you disagree with me about the penalty, I will have to boycott your class.
I’m sure this conversation would never take place.
We do not all have to agree on this matter-universities thrive on discussion. But what we are saying is we think that ACU at its heart is a worshipping community and none of us, student or faculty, can covenant to be part of that and then break that fundamental covenant and continue on as if it’s no big deal. That will destroy this community’s character as surely as talk destroys a contemplative one.
Mr. Roland has served us well by raising the important question of how best to maintain the commitment into which we all entered to be a community of worship and I thank him. For those who disagree with me (and there are many) I hope you will at least acknowledge that this letter comes from one who will gladly lay down his life for the spiritual enrichment of his students. I may be wrong, but my heart is always on your side. I want to close by thanking the students for their exemplary behavior and participation this semester.
There is no greater joy than worshipping with you!
Chapel Program Committee
Department of Bible,
Missions and Ministry