By Norm Miller
CLEVELAND, Ga. (TMCNews) “A Christian education is not going into the classroom and praying before a class. A Christian education is not going to chapel and simply worshipping,” said Emir Caner -- president of Truett-McConnell College (TMC), Cleveland, Ga. -- during the school’s faculty and staff orientation Aug. 16.
“A Christian education believes that there is a revealed religion by a revelational, incarnational God, who brought his Son down so that our minds would be transformed,” he said, adding that Christians should be the “best we can be in our profession, but more importantly we would be all we can be as Christians with our character, with our emulation, and with our witness.”
Caner’s remarks were inspired by an article in Touchstone Magazine -- “Course Corrections: Whither the Evangelical Colleges?” -- written by Allen C. Guelzo, history professor at Gettysburg College. Guelzo surveyed some of the most notable of the 110 member institutions of the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities.
Caner said Guelzo cites at least three major problems in Christian education today: financial erosion, poor recruitment standards and shallow commitment to confessional beliefs.
The fiscal condition of evangelical colleges was trending downward years before the crash of 2008, Caner said. Regarding recruitment and confessional commitment, he said, “There seems to be no filter on who we will accept in Christian education. And there’s a surprisingly loose belief in the tenets of faith for every institution for its faculty and for its administration.”
Expressing gratitude for the support of Georgia’s Southern Baptists, and addressing two of Guelzo’s observations, Caner said that TMC “will be who God has called us to be because it’s not by convenience, it’s by conviction. Nobody buys us, or rents us, or leases us. We are who we are because the Lord Jesus Christ has given us a passionate conviction for his Word.”
Caner said he is “thankful” that he can tell prospective students, trustees, and alumni to “go to any member of our faculty and you’ll see the heart of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Though Caner mentioned the heart of Jesus, TMC’s Vice President for Academic Services Brad Reynolds noted the hand of God, saying, “I truly believe that this will be the best year yet. … With the new buildings going up, our new faculty, and the students who are coming in -- I believe these things are evidence of the hand of God on this institution.”
Reynolds noted the college’s expanding academic program that includes a new degree in psychology. Targeted for fall 2012 are a biology degree and a middle-school education degree. Planned for fall 2013 is a degree in nursing.
Citing also TMC’s minor in Great Commission Studies required of every new student, Reynolds said, “With all these degrees, we want to foster a Christian worldview. That, coupled with the mission of Truett-McConnell, means we want to make disciples of our students and help them to know how to make disciples. We want to prepare them whether they’re going into middle-school education, whether they’re going into nursing, whether they’re going into psychology, or any of the other degrees we have, we want to prepare them to be missionaries wherever they are.”
TMC’s emphasis on discipleship permeates all areas of a student’s life, said Chris Eppling, vice president of student services. “We want our students to understand that Christ is their life. Christ isn’t what they do only on Sunday morning, Christ isn’t what they do only on Wednesday night, Christ isn’t what they do only at a Bible study -- Christ is their life. We want everything we do to push that. We’re going to re-envision how our discipleship works through our campus, and will work through our dorms to make them faith communities.”
In a follow-up interview, Caner told TMCNews that Guelzo’s article ought to be a “wake-up call” for evangelical colleges across the US, and that there should be “no doubt about Truett-McConnell’s confessional commitment and our mission to inculcate in students that same confession and commitment.”
“Perhaps God will use a college out in the foothills of the north Georgia mountains to begin a movement back to himself,” Caner said. “Then maybe there will be other colleges that will say, ‘Scripture, and theological fidelity demand that we must be confessionally identified as well.’”
TMC's Sr. Staff Writer Vicky Kaniaru contributed to this story.