For many, 2016 has been the “year of impossibilities.” The Brexit decision, the course of the entire U.S. presidential election, the Cubs winning the World Series – these are just a few things that most would never have imagined a year or two ago.
In my personal life, I’ve seen a number of so-called impossibilities come to pass. Some were hard – challenges I never imagined nor ever wanted to face. Others were amazing – opportunities and blessings that I do not deserve but that God has, for some reason, given to me anyway.
To be honest, this issue is a bit of both – every issue of Advance is a bit of both. Our team always approaches each issue with a sense of direction and a lot of prayer for clear guidance, but issue after issue, I’m surprised by the impossibilities that happen to make everything come together in just the way God orchestrates.
One example is a piece we started working on more than a year ago at the CCCU’s first Diversity Conference. There, a team from three CCCU institutions presented their research on white allies for racial justice at CCCU institutions. What started as a chance meeting has resulted in the first of two articles that we pray help provide insight and guidance to those who are passionate about promoting racial justice on their campuses, as well as to those who are interested in learning more but may not know where to begin (“A Call to Listen, Respond and Connect”).
That article was not the only one a long time in the making. For the last two years, Scholarship and Christianity in Oxford (SCIO), the CCCU’s UK subsidiary, has brought together 25 scholars from campuses around the globe as part of the Bridging the Two Cultures of Science and the Humanities project. Theologians, historians, philosophers, and social and natural scientists studied together and researched their own projects, all with the goal of diving into the complex and oftentimes controversial conversations surrounding science and religion (“Closing the Gap Between Science and Religion”). I interviewed Samford University professor Steve Donaldson, a participant who also happens to be one of the authors of a new book for Christian students, parents and anyone conflicted about what it means to pursue science as a Christian (“Crossing the Divide”).
The cover of this issue describes the thread that connects every feature story: bridging divides. But bridging our divides is not the same thing as erasing our differences. As impossible as it sounds, society will be at its best when we navigate and address conflicting views instead of suppressing them. This is what John Inazu, an associate professor of law and political science at Washington University in St. Louis and a friend of the CCCU, argues in his new book Confident Pluralism: Surviving and Thriving through Deep Difference. In an interview with the CCCU’s Shapri LoMaglio, he says, “[We have to] recognize that we’re going to have vast disagreement, and that’s okay.” (“Can There Be Harmony in Our Divison?”)
The religious colleges and universities in California got a first-hand experience of what navigating those differences looks like within state government, thanks to a senate bill that threatened their religious freedom (“The California Impact and What’s Next for CCCU Schools”). Jon Wallace, president of Azusa Pacific University, and Jennifer Walsh, policy expert and dean of APU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, offer some insight about what they and other CCCU leaders learned (“Capitol Lessons”), while Kevin Mannoia, APU’s chaplain and the former president of the National Association of Evangelicals, dives into how a slight relational shift between university and church leaders made all the difference (“Changing the Dynamic”). We know there will be more challenges like this coming; that’s why the CCCU’s advocacy experts have also compiled a list of steps that can help your university improve your state and local advocacy (“12 Steps to Improving State and Local Advocacy”).
We’re also pleased to launch a new regularly occurring feature to highlight the benefits Christian higher education brings to society. Based off of the ideas and research of Steve Garber, the founder and principal of The Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation & Culture, we will explore how CCCU institutions promote flourishing in their communities – what Garber calls “common grace for common good.” This issue, the theme for the section is philanthropy. Garber himself starts with an essay about the way organizations like the Murdock Trust promote the common good (“Flourishing Through Philanthropy”). William M.B. Fleming Jr., the president of Palm Beach Atlantic University, describes how millennials approach philanthropic giving, even when their dollars may be few (“The New Givers”).
Finally, this issue's Last Word reminds us that in the midst of terrifying impossibility, Jesus is the great I Am (“From Fear to Faith”). "I Am is the most secure name in the universe," Dr. Richard Foth writes. As we continue through this year of impossibility, that security, and the rest it provides, is just what we need.
Morgan C. Feddes is the CCCU's communications specialist and managing editor of Advance and eAdvance.