Assembly Approves Covenant College Policy on Chapel Speakers
Colorado Springs, CO (June 11, 1997)--Last year's General Assembly heard an apology from Covenant College President Frank Brock because of the appearance of nude pictures of Christ as part of a "chapel program" and placed on display in the chapel lobby. Besides accepting Dr. Brock's apology, the 24th General Assembly directed the college board "to review the current policies and practices regarding visiting speakers and student chapels to further safeguard against recurrence of this kind of incident."
Today, the 25th Assembly approved the Statement of Policy adopted by the Covenant College Board of Trustees "as an acceptable response" to that directive.
As "Our Purpose and Claim," the document states: "Covenant College invites to its campus speakers who force or encourage us to think more biblically. Usually, invited speakers will do this on the basis of our common faith. Occasionally, however, it will be our disagreement in perspective or belief that will challenge us to encounter our biblical faith at more depth."
The following "Rationale" was given: "To faithfully pursue our academic calling, faculty and students must engage ideas and beliefs which may be either sincerely and intentionally adhered to or hypothetically offered. Pedagogically, we are bound to see these ideas as clearly as possible. This may allow adherents to speak for themselves, where possible. We must be judicious in such encounters, but encounters with people of opposing beliefs should not be avoided. We must 'test the spirits' of our times and seek to understand what is true (I John 4:1)."
One aspect of the "Explanations of Policy" was several "Givens." Among these were the following: "Faculty members have primary responsibility to engage in analysis and dialogue with outside speakers in timely and effective ways. Faculty will always respond on the basis of our biblical perspective, from within the Reformed tradition, and in answer to the very real challenges of our times." "The Bible is our final authority and--under the Spirit's interpreting action-is adequate to answer all objections. We need not shy away from any encounter." "Speakers brought to campus are invited guests and should be treated with due respect and civility by all. They should never be invited here merely for the sake of our disagreement, nor should they come under any false pretense or undue censure. It is always our hope to testify to them of Christ, especially where we disagree, to offer them and our students biblical truth winsomely." The Explanations continue with "Some qualifications", as follows: "Sometimes the challenge to think more biblically comes best from those with whom we disagree theologically, ideologically, or philosophically. However, in no case will 'foolish controversies' be promoted (Titus 3:9)." "No invitation to address the college constitutes automatic endorsement of any speaker's views, in whole or part. In fact, at times it is precisely our presumed disagreement that justifies the invitation of the speaker. Those who assume such endorsement by the college are mistaken." "The presence of any one speaker on any given occasion should not be considered in isolation from the teaching of the Bible and the college as a whole; rather, each speaker should be judged by the overall learning practices of the college. We ask those who want to evaluate the college on the basis of speakers to be willing to consider the entire spectrum of speakers who are invited." "The college distinguishes between meetings for worship and assembly. When we meet for worship, even though we are not a church, it is our endeavor that every aspect of such a meeting be orthodox. However, when meeting for assembly, it may well be the case that an invited speaker be recognizably heterodox or even non-Christian. This distinction between gatherings for worship or assembly must be maintained and should not be mistaken either within or without the college community, although these are scheduled daily and meet in the building commonly referred to as the 'chapel.' The chapel is actually the Dora Maclellan Brown Chapel and Fine Arts Building."
[How this policy statement would have prevented the presentation on campus last year of paintings, including nude pictures of Christ, is not immediately apparent--Ed.]