Montreat College is a community of faith and learning

Paul J. Maurer
Guest commentary

We at Montreat College are blessed to be a part of a wonderful and diverse academic community dedicated to educating the next generation of leaders. Sadly, there has been a lot of misinformation and mischaracterization concerning Montreat College in the media in recent weeks. I am writing today in the hope that I can clear up some confusion and concern about who we are and what we believe.

Montreat College is an independent, Christ-centered, liberal arts institution that educates students through intellectual inquiry, spiritual formation, and preparation for calling and career. Our identity as a Christ-centered institution and our Christian mission have been constants for over 100 years.

We are committed to our campus community and to the larger local community in which our college is located. As a Christian institution, we take seriously Jesus’ admonition to love our neighbor, serve our community, and to care for the poor and the marginalized. We affirm the intrinsic value of all persons because they are all created in God’s image, no matter their religion, gender, race, nationality, or sexual orientation.

We understand that people can and do have differing opinions about prevailing societal issues. We do not expect the college’s values to be shared by everyone outside our campus community. We seek to model Christ’s love through caring and compassionate response when we disagree. Respect for those with whom we disagree is essential to life in a pluralistic society. We believe in principled and respectful pluralism, and we believe it is more essential than ever in our society.

We are committed to rigorous intellectual inquiry, and we challenge our students to engage with the full range of historical and global thought. We push our students intellectually. It’s part of our institutional DNA. We also believe it is essential that, in order to deliver the kind of biblically based, Christ-centered education that we promise to our students and their parents, college faculty and employees affirm and support the biblical values that are the foundation of that education.

Every company and organization has standards for its employees. Most require employees to affirm and support those standards, often through employee manuals or handbooks. This is particularly true of faith-based organizations, for whom it is standard practice to ask their employees to agree to a set of theological beliefs as a condition of employment.

Since October 2014, Montreat College has engaged in a transparent, careful, and deliberative process to review and refine its core documents — Mission Statement, Vision Statement, Statement of Faith, and Community Life Covenant - in order to clarify the college’s longstanding Christian identity. In early 2016, the college held 13 listening sessions, totaling over 30 hours, in which the college listened and responded to the questions and concerns of faculty, staff, and alumni. Substantive changes were made in response to the listening sessions and are reflected in the final versions of the core documents, which we invite you to view here:

A vast majority of Montreat College faculty and staff have embraced both the core documents process and outcome. Following the listening sessions, an anonymous survey was sent to all those who attended. 95 percent of the respondents expressed support for the core documents, and just one employee answered that they would not be able to affirm and support them. A total of three faculty members — one of our 39 full-time faculty and two of our 142 adjunct faculty — have informed the college that they will be leaving due to the core documents. While we are saddened by the loss of any faculty, we believe the overwhelming support for the core documents is a testament to the transparent and collaborative nature of the process.

The core documents process was not influenced by a recent $100,000 gift from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA), as has been insinuated in the media. Montreat College has enjoyed a close, 80-year relationship with the Graham family and the BGEA (Billy and Ruth Graham were married in Montreat’s Graham Chapel and have lived in Montreat for 70 years), and our relationship has often included charitable gifts. This relationship is nothing new. And it is something we continue to cherish.

The college also remains committed to being an open enrollment institution that accepts students regardless of their religion, gender, race, nationality, or sexual orientation. We celebrate the diversity of our students, and we appreciate the opportunity to serve students from many different backgrounds. This diversity is part of what makes Montreat College a distinctive and special place.

Our Christian identity enhances our ability to serve and educate our students. Our core documents are rooted in biblical values that have been central to the historic Christian faith for more than 2,000 years and central to Montreat College throughout its 101-year history. They do not represent a change in the college’s core beliefs, but are rather an affirmation of what the college — and orthodox Christianity in general — have always believed.

Our vision for the future expressed in our strategic plan and core documents has generated tremendous energy and unprecedented interest from leaders and organizations eager to employ Montreat College graduates. We are on an exciting trajectory and anticipate a third consecutive year of record enrollment.

This is who we are and who we hope to be. And as we embark on our second century as a Christian institution of higher learning, we look forward to another 100 years of living in community with you.

Dr. Paul J. Maurer is president of Montreat College.