Metroplex minister Rick Atchley will speak to faculty at a luncheon on Monday where he will field questions concerning ACU’s relationship with Churches of Christ.
Atchley, minister at The Hills Church of Christ in North Richland Hills and former minister at Southern Hills Church of Christ in Abilene, said he was invited to speak at the luncheon by Dr. Robert Rhodes, provost of the university. Rhodes said Atchley will be the first of several speakers to discuss the topic with the university community.
“I think it’s healthy to be having conversations and to be hearing from others outside of us,” Rhodes said. “I want us to be able to hear from someone who has spent a career working with the Churches of Christ, and Rick is a great example of that.”
Atchley, who will speak at Opening Chapel, is expected to give a 20-minute presentation and then answer questions from luncheon attendees. Rhodes said he expects questions to be about the perception of ACU from the outside and how ACU would be best positioned to serve Churches of Christ in Texas and beyond. Atchley preaches at what is considered the largest Church of Christ in the country, with more than 6000 members.
The university leadership plans to host several other discussions this semester concerning ACU’s relationship with the Church of Christ.
“They are in constant conversation about their relationship with Churches of Christ as their number of Church of Christ students go down,” Atchley said.
Rhodes said all of ACU’s sister schools are seeing a steady decrease in Church of Christ student enrollment. Last year, about 45 percent of students affiliated with Churches of Christ enrolled, according to the Office of Institutional Effectiveness.
“Not only is there a change in number of graduating Church of Christ students, but there is a change in preference,” Rhodes said. “Families are looking at things differently.”
The university articles of incorporation require trustees to be members of the Church of Christ, and board policy requires faculty and senior administrators also to be Church of Christ members. That policy relating to faculty is at the center of campus conversations. Rhodes said this semester is designed to be able to have that conversation with no determined outcome.
“I personally don’t think we are ready for policy change. We need to have more conversation, a strategic approach that is informed by people like Rick,” Rhodes said.
Atchley said he has not been asked to specifically speak into the question of ACU’s policy on requiring faculty and staff to be members of the Church of Christ.
“Rick is not coming to talk to us about that, but he is coming to talk about who we are serving in general so that we can start talking more about that,” Rhodes said.
In the past year, the university has hired two faculty members who are not members of the Church of Christ. Rhodes said both, one in the School of Nursing and one in the School of Social Work, required approval by the Board of Trustees.
“These are two clinical areas that are in high demand nationally,” Rhodes said.
This fall, ACU will continue to invite guests with outside perspectives. The president of Baylor University, Judge Kenneth Starr, and the provost of Pepperdine University, Dr. Darryl Tippens, will be on campus in October to share their experience in “mission fit” hiring.
“We’re not trying to be like anybody,” said Rhodes. “We have our own mission, but we can learn from everybody.”