Reflections on the Assembly, the Faith, and the College

As I write this installment of the newsletter I am sitting in the business session of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The business sessions are not all that lively . . . until they suddenly get very heated. We are currently receiving a report on immigration and undocumented people in our congregations. Next, we will consider protection of children in Palestine. Tomorrow we will talk about the continued efforts of our church in antiracism and pro-reconciliation. We will spend hours over the week talking about living out faith in our community.

On campus most of the community has some understanding that Lynchburg is a church-related school, but few recognize how truly “Disciples” our university is. Rev. Jose Morales’ sermon Sunday night reminded the congregation of about 4,000 that Disciples were founded on the pursuit of unit . . . the hard kind of unity that involves deep discussion and the sometimes-painful pursuit of living together with diverse views. He reminded us that Disciples thrive when we are working for justice for all people. Rev. William Barber spoke prophetically during the Monday business session, reminding us that welcoming immigrants is important, but we must also learn to welcome brown immigrants.

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is a relatively small denomination which boasts sixteen colleges and universities and a strong commitment to higher education. As the “original frontier religion,” the first denomination founded on American soil, Disciples have a root in American individualism. Disciples congregations make decisions for themselves, and each member is responsible for their own study, prayer and life of service This individual Responsibility prompts the need to be educated and therefore higher education is vital. The emphasis on justice means that both the communion table and our educational institutions are open to anyone and everyone.

At Lynchburg, this means that we teach religious studies classes that shape the individual’s ability to interpret scripture. It also means that as a Christian school we welcome and allow space for students of all faiths. It means that we encourage dialogue. I also think this undergirds the campus commitment to service and justice. One of the distinctions of LC is our commitment to service and we feature our students’ 70,000+ community service hours each year. We boast about our connection to our community. Our relationship to the church includes some annual funding and significant contributions to our endowment funding.

The Disciples biennial family gathering, which we sometimes call our Assembly, concludes today with a celebration of our new General Minister and President. Twelve years ago Disciples were the first to call a woman as our head of communion; this week we have called our first woman of color, Rev. Terri Hord Owens.

So, the next time someone asks you if LC is a church-related school, you can proudly declare that LC is a Disciples of Christ school and add that that this is the reason why we welcome everyone, why we are committed to dialogue between those of different cultures, and the reason we are such a good neighbor to the Lynchburg community.

Blessings from Indianapolis, Stephanie

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