Tag: Christian universities

MLK Day reading: Black, white and Gray

MLK Day reading: Black, white and Gray

Civil rights attorney who once challenged Lipscomb University in court receives the Christian university’s highest honor.

First Place (part of three-story portfolio), Magazine News Religion Reporting, Religion News Association

Second Place, News Story, Associated Church Press

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Forty-five years ago, civil rights attorney and preacher Fred Gray filed a lawsuit that exposed deep divides between black and white members of Churches of Christ.

The 1967 lawsuit challenged the transfer of more than $400,000 in assets from the closed Nashville Christian Institute — a school that trained hundreds of future black church leaders — to David Lipscomb College, a higher education institution with a history of racism.

On a recent Friday night, that same Christian college — now known as Lipscomb University — presented Gray with an honorary doctorate of humane letters, the highest award the university bestows on an individual.

“It is not every day that you file a lawsuit against an institution and that institution later sees fit to honor you,” Gray, 81, told a crowd of 500 that witnessed the ceremony in Lipscomb’s Allen Arena.

Who, Gray asked, would have thought such an honor would be possible for an Alabama boy who grew up in a shotgun house with no running water?

For a boy who rode segregated buses and witnessed the frequent mistreatment of black people?

For a boy who, before he became a lawyer determined to “destroy everything segregated” he could find, performed manual labor in the yards of Lipscomb professors?

“If each of us would be really honest … we would say that we never thought this would be possible,” Gray said of the Lipscomb honor.

Read the full story.

This story originally appeared in the August 2012 edition of The Christian Chronicle.

Cold nights, warm hearts: Churches become homeless shelters

Cold nights, warm hearts: Churches become homeless shelters

From Idaho to Maryland, congregations open their doors to strangers in need of food and rest.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

Each Friday night, a van picks up 15 homeless men in downtown Nashville, Tenn., and takes them to the Woodson Chapel Church of Christ for food, Bible study and rest.

Four to six weeks per year, the Dalton Gardens Church of Christ in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, rolls out mattresses and welcomes homeless parents and children to sleep in Sunday school classrooms.

On cold nights when regular homeless shelters fill up quickly, the Levy Church of Christ in North Little Rock, Ark., sets up bunk beds and cots and opens its doors.

Any given night, roughly 550,000 men, women and children in the United States lack a home to call their own, according to an annual federal report released this week.

“I was a stranger and you invited me in,” Jesus says in Matthew 25, talking about loving “the least of these brothers and sisters of mine.”

Taking the Lord’s words to heart, a number of Churches of Christ across the nation regularly transform their buildings into temporary homeless shelters — often cooperating with nonprofits such as Room In The Inn and Family Promise, leaders told The Christian Chronicle.

Read the full story.

This story appears in the December 2016 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

Christian universities put on ‘shame list’

Christian universities put on ‘shame list’

Gay-rights organizations target federal funding and NCAA ties of schools with traditional biblical beliefs.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

Revoke Christian universities’ eligibility for federal student financial aid.

Strip their membership in the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

That’s what major gay-rights groups would like to do with higher education schools that espouse traditional biblical beliefs on sexuality and gender identity.

“Some voices are calling for Christian schools to be expelled from the NCAA, and others are calling for Pell Grants to be denied to students who attend our universities,” said Bruce McLarty, president of 6,000-student Harding University in Searcy, Ark. “These attacks seem to be coming from every direction these days.”

At Harding, students received $54 million in federal loans and grants last year — 45 percent of the university’s total budget of $120 million.

It would be a major loss if the government ever took away students’ access to federal funding.

“My hands shake as I write those numbers!” the Harding president said in an email. “The good news is that the largest part of that figure is from loan money, and that can be replaced even if at a higher cost (interest rate) to students.”

Read the full story.

Related story:

•  The challenges facing faith-based universities (reporting from Nashville, Tenn.)

These stories appear in the July 2016 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

‘We really want to be there for people who are victimized’

‘We really want to be there for people who are victimized’

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Lately, Kathy Hargis can’t turn on the television news without seeing another report of a sexual assault on a university campus.

From the case of a former Stanford University swimmer who attacked an unconscious woman near a dumpster to the furor over Baylor University’s mishandling of rape allegations against football players, the issue has jumped into the national spotlight.

“Unfortunately, there have been way too many headlines,” said Hargis, associate vice president for risk management and compliance at Lipscomb University, a 125-year-old higher education institution associated with Churches of Christ.

Hargis coordinates the 4,700-student university’s adherence to federal Title IX regulations on prevention and reporting of sexual harassment and misconduct.

Just a few months ago, Lipscomb — where 983 females and 555 males lived on campus this past school year — organized a sexual assault awareness week that included a prayer walk and an opportunity for victims to share their stories.

“To be honest, I think Christian schools struggle with it. It’s not a popular topic to talk about,” Hargis told The Christian Chronicle in an interview at the Bennett Campus Center. “But I think it’s very needed … to really have an open discussion.”

Read the full story.

This story appears in the July 2016 edition of The Christian Chronicle.

Ministers and the student debt monster


Ministers and the student debt monster: Christian universities tout efforts to make theological training more affordable for preachers.

Second in a series

Abilene Christian University says it’s taking steps to crack down on the tens of thousands of dollars in debt accumulated by many ministry students.

The Texas university implemented a 50 percent tuition discount for Bible majors two years ago.

Now, the ACU Graduate School of Theology is launching an “affordability initiative” that officials say will lock in a fixed tuition rate for individual students and cut the total degree cost by more than 40 percent.

“We know that ministers serve in contexts where they may earn less than other professions, and we are committed to helping ministers graduate with less debt,” ACU Bible Dean Ken Cukrowski said in a statement. “Doing so helps reduce the burden of financial pressures and allows ministers to serve more effectively in churches and other ministry contexts.”

Other universities associated with Churches of Christ say they, too, are confronting the debt monster.

Related interview: Q&A: Steve McLeod on preachers, student loans and our ‘debt-ridden culture’ 

The main story appears in the May 2015 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

A search for preachers — reality TV style


A search for preachers — reality TV style (reporting from Malibu, Calif.): A video quest puts a modern twist on efforts to inspire a new generation of ministers. 

MALIBU, Calif. — “American Idol” for ministers?

“Survivor” with an emphasis on the Holy Spirit?

Welcome to the “Next Gen Preacher Search,” developed by Pepperdine University’s Youth Leadership Initiative.

The national contest invited students interested in preaching and teaching to submit five-minute videos for review and critique — and a potential opportunity to speak at a major event such as the Tulsa Workshop in Oklahoma or the Pepperdine Bible Lectures.

“I’m hoping idolatry is nowhere near, but we wanted to use an idea that young people would be kind of familiar with and something that would challenge them,” said Jeff Walling, the Youth Leadership Initiative’s director.

The ultimate goal: to inspire more young Christians to devote their lives to sharing God’s word.

“When we listen to folks in our Christian colleges, I hear them saying they have fewer and fewer students walking through the door saying, ‘I want to preach,’” said Walling, a frequent speaker at youth rallies and the former longtime preaching minister for the Providence Road Church of Christ in Charlotte, N.C.

No one was looking for a golden ticket to Hollywood, but 40 semifinalists were chosen to work with “mentor preachers” and fly to a recent two-day training event — either at Pepperdine or at Johnson University in Kissimmee, Fla.

This story appears in the March 2015 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

Preacher, lay your debt burden down


Preacher, lay your debt burden down (reporting from Florence, Ala.): Heritage Christian University sets a goal of graduating every student with no loans to repay.

First in a series

FLORENCE, Ala. — Lucas Suddreth thought he’d rely on federal student loans to pay for his ministry education.

Instead, Heritage Christian University gave him a full-tuition scholarship and helped arrange a part-time youth ministry position.

“I’m extremely blessed,” said Suddreth, 22, who lives with his wife, Rachel, in a house provided by the Mt. Zion Church of Christ. “There’s no way I could have done this by myself.”

Aspiring preachers face plenty of challenges, but tens of thousands of dollars in student debt shouldn’t be one of them, Heritage Christian officials contend.

“We have a goal to graduate every student debt free,” said Dennis Jones, president of Heritage Christian, a 115-student ministry training college founded as International Bible College in 1971.

This story appears in the February 2015 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.