BOILING SPRINGS – Gardner-Webb University President William Downs led a panel discussion recently on three topics of Christian higher education: competing for students while staying true to values, reaching across denominational lines and ushering in a new era of growth.
“Younger generations are leading us away from denominationalism,” said William Willimon, professor of the practice of Christian ministry at Duke Divinity School in Durham. “It can be a frightening thing, but it can be an invigorating time when people maybe have an opportunity to recover some of the core of the Christian faith. It’s actually about Jesus; it’s not about the denomination label.”
James Howell, senior pastor of Myers Park United Methodist Church in Charlotte, pointed out that faith-based institutions must face the future with agility. '
“What’s in the tradition that will enable us to adapt and move into the future, not just clinging on to what’s old …what’s old probably wasn’t so good and we need to learn and grow,” Howell said.
Tracy Jessup, a GWU alum who serves as vice president for Christian Life and Service, talked about the importance of Christian higher education.
“One of the things that was so important to me is that a Christian higher education gave me the opportunity to own my faith,” he reflected. “I grew up in a very loving Christian home. I’m the son of a pastor, but I really didn’t understand why I believe what I believe until I came to Gardner-Webb and was able to unpack that and to do so in a nurturing, safe environment that allowed for questions and questions that were not off limits. To recognize that we are going to be serious about our inquiry into truth and if we truly believe that God is the source of all truth, then we should not be scared to ask any questions that might arise in the classroom or outside the classroom.”
Click here to watch the entire Webb Connections event, “A Revival in Christian Higher Education: Building A Bigger Tent.”