Though this news story from South Carolina doesn’t seem to approve of the recent action of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church to remove Erskine College’s current board of trustees, I suspect it may be a healthy development. A big part of the reason for the secularization of higher education in America is that church denominations allowed themselves to be fooled into believing their schools were still Christian right up to the point when the faith identity was irretrievably lost.
The story quotes faculty members who worry that academic freedom is going to be lost and that academic excellence will go with it, but the concept is famously elastic depending on who it is who wants the academic freedom and how they plan to use it. Certainly, it would be foolish for a church to run a university happy with the thought that professors are being hired who don’t care much for — you know — the actual Christian mission.
I don’t know if the facts on the ground support my reading of events, but the sheer precedent the ARPC is setting seems like a good one. Denominations should pay a lot of attention to what they are supporting in their colleges and universities. At a minimum, they should expect to see the faith treated as a relevant and vital part of the enterprise rather than as an accessory.