Author Archives: presidentblog

The Brain Kitchen: A Recipe to Address Childhood Trauma

The creativity and commitment of our IWU faculty never cease to amaze me.  Here’s a story Alan Miller wrote for me about the brainchild of Dr. Amanda Drury.

When Amanda Drury walked into Frances Slocum, the IWU professor immediately noticed the hand-written notes from children posted on the entryway wall. The notes, expressing the children’s dreams, were products of a Martin Luther King Jr. Day project.

Here is a sampling:

  • I wish I could learn the whole Spanish dictionary. I’ve already started!
  •  My dream is to be a smart girl, and my job is to be a scientist.
  •  I want the whole world to be made of ice cream.
  • I dream that people who cuss won’t have to.
  • I want to grow up to be a good kid.
  • I would like to get a tarantula for my 10th birthday.
  • I wish poor people were not poor.
  • I wish my Mom and Dad would stop fighting.
  • I have a dream that I could move to third grade, so I could be smart.

“I can’t do anything about many of these dreams—I can’t buy a child a tarantula for his birthday, but some of these dreams we could actually work toward,” said Drury, who teaches in IWU’s theology and ministry division. It was with those dreams in mind that The Brain Kitchen was born.

“The Brain Kitchen is an afterschool program with two primary components: there is the homework piece, and there is the cooking piece. A child coming to The Brain Kitchen would meet up with a mentor to help complete school work, and then he would be brought into the kitchen where he would learn how to make soup and bread. And by making soup, I’m talking about buying a chicken and using every single part of it, including boiling the bones to make broth.

“The children would work on the soup incrementally during the week, so that on Fridays they would go home with a vat of soup and three loaves of bread. One loaf they save, one they eat and one they give away. This meets a particular need within the community in that many children are provided with government breakfasts and lunches, but weekend food can be a bit more tricky,” Drury said.

The IWU community became more intricately involved this past spring when the Muncie-based Ball Brothers Foundation awarded the school $17,400 to transform The Brain Kitchen into a “trauma-informed space”.

This trauma-informed approach to education addresses the effect of trauma on children and learning.  It is estimated that one-half to two-thirds of children experience trauma, which is defined as negative events, which surpass the child’s ordinary coping skills.

In layman’s terms, the grant will be used to establish a community teaching kitchen with homework space to serve low-income children in the Marion community. “We are starting with a small group of students, between 10-15, and we hope to expand significantly as we get a sense of the kind of permanent space that we need,” Drury said. The Brain Kitchen is currently meeting in a small house owned by College Wesleyan Church while the program looks for a larger, more permanent space.

Drury has recruited IWU colleagues to help develop the project and oversee the Ball grant. Wendy Puffer, who teaches in the art department and is overseeing the new Design for Social Impact major, is looking at ways to create an environment that is conducive to learning. Katti Sneed, who heads the IWU social work program, is writing trauma-related curriculum that will be used to train volunteers. Missy Khosla, who has a doctorate in occupational therapy, is looking for ways to imbed brain-development exercises into the program.

“We have a lot of pieces working together now to create The Brain Kitchen,” Drury said. “Our hope is that these children will get something more than just homework help. We want their brains to actually look different after participating in this program. We want them to return home on the weekend with the confidence that they have a meal to share. And we want this to be done in a way that every single child knows he or she is loved by Jesus, because no one should hear about the love of God on an empty stomach.”

How Much Money is Enough? What Does the Bible Say?

America is the wealthiest nation in the history of the world. Even Americans living at the federal poverty level are wealthier than 85 percent of the people in the world.  So why don’t we feel rich? Why are we unhappy and discontented?

How much is enough?

My good friend Ron Blue has been helping people answer those kinds of questions for more than 40 years by sharing financial principles that are affirmed by the authority of scripture and tested in the marketplace.

Ron has a unique way of teaching Biblical principles in clear, pithy, memorable ways.

In 2012, Ron partnered with us here at Indiana Wesleyan University to establish the Ron Blue Institute for Financial Planning ( ), which focuses on applying biblical principles to all areas of the financial decision making process.

Ron Blue and the staff of the Ron Blue Institute have just released a six-week Bible study titled God Owns It All, which tackles the money question: How much is enough? The study includes a kit for leaders with step-by-step plans for six group sessions, individual Bible study books and videos.

The study is designed to:

  • Help people gain a sense of fulfillment and contentment with their finances.
  • Discover financial principles that are affirmed by Scripture.
  • Equip participants to approach money management and financial planning with freedom, generosity, contentment and confidence.
  • Help group members understand financial management as a part of discipleship.

When we started the Institute our dream was to provide the world with easy access to Ron Blue’s memorable articulation of Biblical principles.  The God Owns it All Bible study is part of the realization of that dream.  I commend it to your attention.

Before you order, you can download a sample session by going to

A Christ-Centered Community’s Response

These have been days of great sorrow, anger, and confusion as we have had to face yet again the terrible effects of racial injustice and conflict.  Words seem cheap at moments like these.  But what we say does matter.  What we do matters even more.

When I cannot understand these terrible events, when my heart is flooded with grief and my thoughts are consumed with anger and blame, I have found that I find direction by affirming the bedrock values and commitments that anchor my life.

So what are those bedrock values and commitments for our university?

At the heart of Indiana Wesleyan University is our love for and commitment to Jesus Christ.  Here is what we say about ourselves.

IWU is a Christ-centered academic community committed to changing the world . . .

 IWU is a truly great Christian university serving the world.

 IWU is unapologetically Christ-centered.

 How should a Jesus-centered academic community be present in a nation threatening to tear itself apart over racial conflict and moral confusion?

We must be a community of compassion. Our immediate impulse is often to ask why, to seek an explanation, to defend, to criticize.  But in times of great tragedy and injustice the first response of the people of Jesus should simply be one of compassion for those who suffer.

If this is true, let us say without equivocation that we care deeply for the well-being of our colleagues, friends, and neighbors who are black Americans and who suffer from the awful legacy of racial injustice.

We care deeply for our law enforcement officers who are usually the first to deal with the aftermath of suffering.

We would be horrified if one of our students was shot dead during a traffic stop, if one of our faculty colleagues was killed during a police encounter.  We would be devastated if one of our campus security officers was shot dead as they sought to protect and serve us.  As a Christ-centered community, perhaps our first duty is to affirm that we cannot accept an America so broken by racial injustice, misunderstanding, and conflict.

We must be a community of redemption.  If we cannot accept an America so broken by racial conflict, then we must seek to heal it.  We must drink deeply at the well of hope that the God of redemption can redeem what to us seems hopeless.

We ourselves are being redeemed – bought back from the precipice of our misguided ways by the love and grace of Jesus.  Our words, policies, and actions toward our black neighbors have at times been anything but exemplary of the love and grace of Christ.  We have experienced grace and forgiveness.

A redeemed people must be redeeming people.  We, in turn, must look for ways to pull our relationships and our communities back from the abyss of perpetuated injustice, misunderstanding, and conflict.

We must be a community of self-sacrifice.  Jesus is the ultimate example of self-giving, self-sacrificing love.  He did not seek his own.  He emptied himself of his privilege and power.  He entered a world of hurt, confusion, misunderstanding, and injustice.  And so must we.  As Timothy Keller and John Inazu have written, “There is no principled legal or theological argument that looks only to the good of Christians over the interests of others.”  We must seek the good of all, and we must seek it in the good news of God’s will for our lives and our communities.

We must be a community of engagement.  Jesus did not withdraw from the messy and painful reality of life in first century Palestine.  He touched those whom others would never touch.  He ate with those whom others shunned.  He rescued those condemned by others.  In fact, there were no “others” with Jesus.  And so there must be none with us.  We dare not hold ourselves aloof from the pain of our neighbors, from our own pain.  We must engage in the struggles for dignity, for wholeness and holiness, for justice, for well-being.

So let me finish by telling you about two ways that I hope we will engage in coming weeks.

First, I have asked President Alex Huskey, President of Ivy Tech in Marion, and Dr. Brad Lindsay, Superintendent of Marion Community Schools to join IWU in hosting a Marion Summit on Community Safety and Well-Being.  They have agreed.  We will announce the dates for this Summit very soon.

Our local paper has reported more shootings and injuries in our Marion community than ever before. Other communities are being torn apart by shootings of police officers, and by shootings of unarmed black men.  We all have a huge interest in living in a community that is safe.  We need to do all we can to ensure that we don’t suffer the fate of other communities.  I believe together we can make this a topic of discussion and action among ourselves our community members who are stakeholders. We have wonderful resources in our leaders, and by facilitating conversation, knowledge, and possibly action items, we can take a pro-active position for Marion and Grant County.

I want to work with Mrs. Audrey Hahn to ask how our Regional Education centers can do similar things in the other cities throughout Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana where IWU serves.

Second, within our own community, we are going to continue to educate ourselves on how to live together well as a diverse community.  In October we are going to invite Dr. Lorna Hernandez Jarvis and Dr. Deirdre Johnston from Hope University to bring their Intergroup Dialogue and Diversity Education Institute to IWU to train over 30 of us in the unique skills needed for effective intergroup dialog.  They will help us learn how to reframe conflict as an opportunity for Christian ministry.

Last week I was privileged to attend the Annual Ecumenical Service of Indianapolis Black Expo.  It was held at the great Light of the World Church in Indianapolis.  Pastor Jeffrey A. Johnson of Eastern Star Church spoke powerfully about the experience and hope of black Americans.  It was a deeply moving experience to be present among a body of fellow believers as they faced their reality, celebrated their strength, comforted themselves in their grief, confessed their anger to one another and to God, and challenged themselves to persevere and overcome all that threatens their wellbeing.  My own heart was stirred and strengthened.

When we read about and consume images of violence and grief we can be left without hope, twisted by anger, frustrated by our inability to change.  When I sat in the presence of my brothers and sisters as they worshipped in the midst of their pain and anger, these wonderful neighbors, friends, and colleagues proved themselves to be stronger than their pain and grief.  I was challenged and strengthened to work for the good of the communities we serve.

Together we are stronger than the sinful legacy of injustice.

O Christ, in whom the fullness of God dwells,

You are deep within our lives and all life,

You are deep within this place and every place.

In this place and this time and in the depths of our own souls

We draw from the inner well of your love

That we too might be filled with the fullness of God

And that you might do within us and our world

Far more than we could ever ask or imagine. (J. Philip Newell)

Spiritual Journey Draws High School Students to IWU Campus

Indiana Wesleyan University will welcome more than 22,000 visitors to its Marion campus this summer, but none on a more important mission than 21 high school students who will spend two weeks exploring spiritual matters and discerning if they feel a vocational call to ministry.

The students will form the inaugural class of Examen, a summer program funded by a $599,111 grant IWU received in January from Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment Inc. The students will live on the IWU campus from June 18-July 2.

The students, most of them high school juniors and seniors, were drawn from throughout the country after the program first was announced in December at an international youth conference, sponsored by The Wesleyan Church.

Forty percent of the participants are racially diverse and are split almost evenly between boys and girls. “All of these students have expressed an interest in discerning whether they might be called to full-time ministry,” said Dr. Amanda Drury.

Drury, an Associate Professor of Practical Theology at IWU, wrote the grant proposal and will serve as director of the program. She earned a bachelor’s degree from IWU in 2004 and now has master’s and doctoral degrees from Princeton Theological Seminary.

The initiative seeks to encourage young people to explore theological traditions, ask questions about the moral dimensions of contemporary issues and examine how their faith calls them to lives of service. The students also will earn three hours of college credit in biblical studies.

“My hopes for Examen are twofold: first, that we would be able to create an environment where women and men can explore whether they might be called into ministry. And second, that we would be able to model to these teenagers what healthy self-care looks like,” Drury said.

Drury and other IWU faculty members will lead the high school students through the study of scripture and pivotal theological texts.

“The students also will enter into daily times of discernment via the Ignatius Examen,” Drury said. The term refers to the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola, a set of Christian meditations, prayers and mental exercises, written by Saint Ignatius of Loyola, a 16th-century Spanish priest and theologian.

In addition, the program will include service projects and hands-on ministry, examine the moral and ethical dimensions of contemporary issues and discuss religious practices, including prayer, contemplation and worship.

“While Lilly Endowment is funding the program for four years, we already are addressing questions of sustainability so that the program can continue well into the future,” Drury said.

Lilly Endowment, as part of its High School Youth Theology Institutes initiative, is giving $44.5 million in grants to a select group of private, four-year colleges and universities around the nation. The grants are part of the Endowment’s commitment to identify and cultivate a cadre of theologically minded youth who will become leaders in the church and society.

“Young people today want to make a difference,” said Dr. Christopher L. Coble, vice president for religion at the Endowment. “These programs will connect them to faculty and religious leaders who will help them explore that longing by drawing more deeply on scripture and theology as they make decisions about their futures.”

Learn more about Examen!

Written by Alan Miller

Prayer for Orlando Victims


It is with heavy hearts that the IWU community expresses condolences to the family and friends of the victims of the Orlando shooting.

We join other faithful Christian communities in our strong and unequivocal condemnation of this reprehensible act of violence.  No matter what its motivation may have been, it was a tragic and senseless act that has no place in civilized society, and serves no redemptive purpose.

Our prayers go out to all who have been bereaved, injured, as well as those who have been driven closer to the dark precipice of despair by this manifestation of hate.  May all who need him find the love of Christ to be their comfort, and the love of family and friends to be their source of strength in their time of need.

“O Lord, be not far off; O my Strength, come quickly to help.” (Psalm 22:19)

IWU Alum Receives Milken Award: ‘Oscars of Teaching’

No IWU graduate has yet won an Oscar — not the movie actor kind at any rate.  But “the Oscars of teaching,” now that’s a different story.

In a moment, I’ll tell you more.

Not long ago someone just getting acquainted with IWU asked me, “Who are the most distinguished IWU alumni?”

IWU counts among its alumni corporate CEOs, college presidents, a Tuskegee airman, researchers, doctors, humanitarians, global executives, professional athletes, and legislators.  I shared some of these names with our visitor.

I can’t think of any more important and treasured IWU alumni, though, than the graduates of our teacher education programs. Let me tell you the story of Melody Coryell, one such alumna who just won a Milken Award — “the Oscar of teaching.”

Indiana Wesleyan University Transition to Teaching certificate formally paved the way to Melody Coryell’s successful career as a high school teacher, but she says the path to her job started in second grade when she was accepted into an educational program that opened a world of learning.

“That program in Kokomo, Indiana, taught me that education can change lives, and as an adult I’ve sought ways to offer the same kind of experience to students,” Coryell wrote in a biography posted on the website of Shortridge High School where she teaches English and coordinates the International Baccalaureate program.

A few months ago, Coryell was one of 40 educators nationwide who received $25,000 Milken Educator Awards, which Teacher magazine describes as “the Oscars of Teaching.”

Coryell received a Transition to Teaching certificate from IWU in 2003.  The accelerated program enables adults with a non-teaching degree to become licensed teachers.  More than 1,400 students have completed the TTT program since it was launched in 2002.

Before enrolling in the IWU program, Coryell received dual bachelor’s degrees in English and history from Ball State University. She also received a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Butler University in 2015.

“Melody Coryell developed a passion for education at a very young age. Today, she is changing the lives of teachers and students every day,” said Dr. Jane Foley, senior vice president of the Milken Educator Awards.

“At Shortridge High School, Melody opens students’ eyes and minds to the world of learning from the diverse thoughts of literary greats around the globe. Because of her instruction, students not only enjoy a rich education but also hold a deep understanding and respect for others that they will carry through life,” Foley said.

Coryell has taught at Shortridge since July 2014 after more than a decade as the International Baccalaureate coordinator and English teacher at Lawrence North High School in Indianapolis.

Foley said Coryell’s students are exposed to the diverse thinking of international authors and writers. Through her own experiences with international travel – having studied at Oxford University – she instills the importance of cultural awareness and understanding through dialogue and literature.

In addition to teaching and facilitating the International Baccalaureate program, Coryell is the mentorship coordinator through which she leads weekly professional development sessions for all faculty members at Shortridge. She also is a member of the senior school leadership team, coaches speech and debate, and organizes excursions and initiatives.

Making connections between school and parents is a top priority, Foley said. Coryell cultivates relationships through organizing conferences, meetings and other events.

IWU Recognizes Distinguished New Resource in Faith and Science Dialog

If a great Christian university makes any contribution to the world today it should surely be in bringing a Christ-centered perspective to the arts and sciences.  A great Christian university must stand shoulder to shoulder with the best universities in its intellectual exploration and teaching.

Our unique contribution must be to bring the critical perspective of faith to the assumptions, processes, and findings of scholarly inquiry.  Contrary to the prevailing narrative, learning is enriched when people of genuine, disciplined, irenic Christian faith engage deeply with the truth claims of the sciences.

IWU just recognized a wonderful new scholarly resource in this work.  More on that in a moment.

Thursday I had the privilege of attending the annual IWU Celebration of Scholarship Luncheon where we celebrate the vibrant engagement of our IWU faculty and students with the arts and sciences.  It was a special treat celebrate with Dr. Joanne Barnes as she won this year’s Outstanding Scholarship awarded by her faculty peers.

At the luncheon IWU’s John Wesley Honors College awarded this year’s Aldersgate Prize for outstanding Christian scholarship, and hosted the award recipient for a stimulating keynote speech.

The 2015 Aldersgate Prize was awarded to Professor Peter Harrison for his book, The Territories of Science and Religion (Univ. Chicago Press, 2015).

 Formerly the Idreos Professor of Science and Religion at the University of Oxford, Harrison is currently the director of the University of Queensland’s Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities.

Here is how Dr. David Riggs, Executive Director of the John Wesley Honors College, describes Professor Harrison’s work.

“Selected from over seventy nominations for this year’s prize, The Territories of Science and Religion is a highly learned and penetrating refutation of prevailing notions that the conflict between science and religion is timeless and inevitable. Harrison’s analysis calls into question the very legitimacy of mapping the cultivation of knowledge according to categories known as “science” and “religion.” He demonstrates that this boundary making is a deeply modern invention that is neither self-evident nor coherent.  Beginning with antiquity, Harrison systematically traces the historical transitions of the concepts underlying the modern categories of “science” and “religion” from their status as complementary virtues to the polarized domains of knowledge familiar to us today. In the process of exposing the dubious foundations of the modern mythology of the conflict between “science” and “religion,” Harrison offers up a thought-provoking recovery of the alternative ways that the pre-modern western world conceived of the relationship between the study of nature and theological reflection on it.”

“The Aldersgate Prize selection committee believes The Territories of Science and Religion has the potential to alter the course of some of our most important cultural conversations. Harrison’s book is a highly accessible clarion call to think more reflectively and creatively about the “territories of science and religion.” And the text equips its readers to navigate these territories with fresh maps: maps that illuminate more clearly the essential intersections and boundaries and, accordingly, the most constructive paths forward.”

Christians in Public

These days Christians whose work calls them to engage in the public arena face conflict and potential penalty, not only from non-Christians but from our own brothers and sisters in Christ.  Engagement in the public square can be a dangerous proposition.

And yet, here at IWU we are dedicated to the mission of making the world a better place by engaging the world as faithful followers of Jesus Christ.

We refuse to withdraw.  We refuse to accommodate our witness to the winds of cultural change that do not accord with God’s Word.

Instead, we prepare ourselves to engage faithfully, irenically, graciously, with a heart to serve the greater good.

This commitment raises questions that we need to consider.

What does faithful engagement in the public square entail?  What does it feel like to do this?  

How do we engage faithfully when our culture no longer values our witness?  

How do we decide what constitutes faithful action when Christians do not agree with each other? 

How should we treat those with whom we sincerely disagree?

These aren’t idle questions.  In recent days we’ve been called upon to remove Dr. Ben Carson as a member of the IWU Society of World Changers because of a position that he took in the political arena with which some members of the IWU community strongly disagree.

Now, several members of our community have expressed grave concerns about our invitation for Indiana’s Governor Mike Pence to speak at an IWU commencement ceremony.  They strongly disagree with his and the Indiana Legislature’s decisions on several political issues of the day.

I value the authentic, respectful way in which these concerns have been expressed to me.  As president of a university as large and diverse in viewpoint as IWU, I am almost never in a position to make decisions that satisfy everyone.  But I do value and wish to give an honest hearing to all who raise such concerns with me.  I am intent on creating a culture at IWU that is both faithful to Biblical truth, and gracious with all who make up our community.  Listening carefully and respectfully is one of our strongest expressions of these commitments.

In both cases, these two men, and other women and men like them, are living their Christian lives in public.  Their work requires them to take positions and make decisions that bring intense scrutiny and criticism.  In our current polarized social and political climate, it can be hard to know how to relate to people whose decisions we view as wrongheaded and even harmful.

Is it possible to stay in relationship with them even if they are fellow believers?  

Is civil discourse itself a form of compromise? 

Here are four principles that I believe should guide the relationships our IWU community takes with fellow Christians who are seeking to engage in faithful action in the world.

First, as a Christ-centered academic community, rooted and grounded in God’s Word, faithful to our own identity in Christ, we offer Godly hospitality to people who hold positions and beliefs different from our own.

Second, within our own IWU community and across the body of Christ, we recognize that faithful Christians hold genuinely different convictions and positions on many of the political questions of the day.  For every IWU person who may be uncomfortable having Governor Pence speak at our commencement ceremony, there will be several others who will look forward to hearing his testimony.  As a Christ-centered academic community, we listen to each other’s opinions, evaluate our own positions critically, and offer our thoughts to each other honestly and charitably.  In the end, we submit ourselves to the authority of God’s Word.

Third, as a learning community we remain open to learn from our brothers and sisters who are living their faith as servants of the public good, even though we may disagree with them on particular issues.

Fourth, in all these matters we hold ourselves accountable to act in ways that make Christ-centered civil discourse not only possible, but enjoyable and beneficial.  We do not use our convictions to bully, jeer, or berate those who differ from us.  Instead, we pray for Divine wisdom and the grace of God’s Spirit to help us win the hearts and minds of those we believe are in the wrong.  Our goal is not to rid ourselves of enemies.  Our goal is to gain brothers and sisters.

Let me say just a bit more about our invitation to Governor Pence.  Governor Pence and his wife are genuine followers of Christ who have visited IWU on numerous occasions.  I invited him to speak at IWU almost a year-and-a-half ago.  I have met with him twice in recent months, and have interacted closely with a number of people who work and attend Bible study with him.  I am asking him to speak about his journey of faith, and about the way he lives out his calling as a public servant who is a faithful follower of Jesus.

Serving in the public arena is difficult work.  Engaging requires us to make decisions and take positions that open us to criticism and attack by both the world and the church.  There are times when particular conversations, or conversation partners, may be difficult and even hurtful for us.  It is never our goal to create hurt or offense.  But it is our goal to learn and grow.

This is what we are called to do.  IWU is a Christ-centered academic community where we are all learning each day how better to follow Christ, to understand truth, and to prepare ourselves to help make the world a better place.

Excelsia College Dedicates New Campus in Sydney

Last week I had the privilege of participating in the grand opening of the new campus of Excelsia College, IWU’s sister institution in Sydney, Australia.

Australia occupies a place of strategic importance in Asia.  It is the third most popular higher education destination for international students after the United States and the United Kingdom.

Christian schooling in Australia is surging in popularity among Christian and non-Christian families as they look for values-based alternatives within their secular culture.

While Christian schools are growing, Australian Christians feel the need for strong Christian higher education institutions.  Our partnership with Excelsia College was born out of our common desire to create a global Christian learning community, with a strong presence in this most important region of the globe.

IWU - David Wright

IWU President, Dr. David Wright

Dr. John Collier, a well-known and respected Australian Christian educator, brought the keynote address for the grand opening of our new campus.  His speech was a thought-provoking reminder of the nature and critical importance of the mission on which we have embarked together.

Here are some excerpts:

“If [the] comprehensive propagation and integration of Christian faith is important, and I believe it is of critical importance, then the seminal work of Excelsia becomes clear.

This College is one of the only Tertiary providers operating in this domain. There has indeed been a real deficit in the country. Overseas, notably in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and The Netherlands, Christian Universities with the mission of comprehensive equipping of students for vocation and all of life have thrived. Ironically, in this country, and particularly here in Sydney, we have been theologically strong but institutionally weak. Indeed, to provide credibility and full access to the promotion of the Gospel through Higher Education, it is critical that this country have a Christian University which has the authority and capacity to spawn and nourish research degrees. Jesus needs a place in the Academy! These Christian researchers can then be charged with a vital task of taking forward our understanding of Christian faith and culture, and the role of Higher Education in forming these, in ways which are contextually Australian.

It is essential Christians enter this cultural dialogue at the highest level. Unless we do so we will be largely responsible for our own silence.

. . . .

IWU - Excelsia College

Excelsia College Dedicates New Campus in Sydney, Australia

The call then to Excelsia is to do something different: as James K. Smith in Desiring the Kingdom notes, it will not be enough for a budding Christian University to produce professionals who do pretty much the same sorts of things that graduates of Ivy League and state universities do, … students equipped to take up vocations and careers that are largely the same as the graduates of the state university down the road (page 218).

No, Excelsia must be distinctively Christian. To be so, it must attack the dualism of much Christian thinking which restricts faith to liturgical and pietistic activities, which consign faith to everyday irrelevance. As David Wells has written in Above All Earthly Pow’rs, in modern societies, God has been excluded from public life, pushed to the margins of relevance, and made to live out his life, as it were, underground and out of sight. (page 27).

. . . .

It is the role of Excelsia to redeem this situation, to enter the fray of secular humanism for the Gospel, to chastise, prod, badger and educate Christians out of the reductionist theologies of dualism or pietistic withdrawal from the world.

. . . . 

IWU Excelsia College

Excelsia College students

Excelsia’s work is therefore vast and challenging. As David Wells says the Enlightenment has produced great dismay in its postmodern inheritors…the human spirit has been overtaken by the anonymity of today’s mass society, by mindless fads and fashions, by a world emptied out of significance and filled instead with banality (page 30).

. . . .

Hence I return to the idea that Excelsia must be distinctively different and powerfully Christian, in a situation where, as David Wells observes commenting on the Western World,

In our own private universes, we are free of external constraints, free of social custom, free of the past, free of values we ourselves have not selected and in that selection authenticated, and free of all beliefs which are incompatible with our internally constructed world of meaning. We have all become free in a most radical way, and in that radical posture we have become as light as a feather (page 238).

Dr. John Collier

Dr. John Collier, keynote speaker

So then we come to this new dawn for Excelsia, where it ceases being Bedouin, the saddles of the camel bags have been unpacked and everything is nicely stowed in the Temple. Excelsia College is called to a radical discipleship where we might appropriate the words of Paul and say that it is a time of a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17-18).

On then, Excelsia, to excelsius! But be careful! The path of Christian Universities is eventually littered with apostasy, and that is why on days like this I wear my Harvard tie, to remind us.

On then to the equipping and unleashing of students to be transformed for Christ as indeed the Academy itself is transformed, in turn benefiting the world.

Congratulations on this new beginning!”

Dr. John Collier
Head of School, St Andrew’s Cathedral School

My Testimony

Several people have asked if they could see my testimony at the Senate hearing.  Here is the text of my testimony.  Time was severely limited so I was not able to share all of this.  I have provided this written text to the Senate Committee.


January 27, 2016

Indiana Statehouse

It is a privilege to be able to contribute today to the deliberation that might lead to the creation of the laws that govern our common life.

My name is David Wright.  I serve as President of Indiana Wesleyan University, a private university owned by The Wesleyan Church, a denomination of about 800,000 adherents headquartered here in Indiana.  IWU is one of five colleges and universities owned by our Church in the United States and Canada.

IWU serves a student body of about 15,000 students at our main campus in Marion, at our 17 regional education centers in the Midwest, and in over 40 states and 26 foreign countries.  We have over 80,000 alumni and 1100 full-time employees.  We serve a student body that is highly diverse in race, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, faith, nationality, and political persuasion.

IWU is a Christ-centered university that pursues the best traditions of academic inquiry and teaching while remaining grounded in the rich intellectual and spiritual tradition of the historic Christian faith.  For 95 years our university has served the public good of our state and region by graduating exceptional citizens who serve as some of our region’s best teachers, nurses, counselors, business people, pastors, and scientists.

We do not exist for the purpose of proselytizing people to our denomination though we are happy when our students find their faith strengthened and made more meaningful in their lives as a result of studying with us.  Instead we exist to serve the public good.

Here is our mission:  Indiana Wesleyan University is a Christ-centered academic community committed to changing the world by developing students in character, scholarship, and leadership.

So I come today to offer you reflections on the current intersection of civil rights, public and private moral values, and religious freedom from the perspective of a deeply religious, conservative, yet irenic and hospitable university community.

First, I wish to call our legislators to safeguard the right of Indiana’s many religious institutions and social service providers to continue serving the public good while maintaining the deeply held religious convictions that give us our unique identities and out of which we serve the public good of our state and country.

We believe that the quality of life and the economic competitiveness of our state are greatly enriched through the many services provided by Indiana’s rich network of faith-based organizations – including hospitals, child service providers, community development organizations, and universities.  The right of these organizations to maintain their unique identities has long been recognized through religious protections afforded by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and Executive Order 13279, which amends Section 204 of Executive Order 11246.  We believe that any law passed by our state legislature must align Indiana’s religious protections with those long established constitutional protections also upheld in federal law.

Second, I wish to commend those of you who, under exceedingly difficult and contentious circumstances, are seeking ways to wisely balance the civil rights of all of Indiana’s citizens, while also safeguarding the religious freedoms we enjoy as Americans.

We are in the midst of a time when our social fabric is stretched close to the breaking point over these intensely contested questions of sexual orientation and gender identity. As a university president I am afforded an unusual perspective as I listen to the concerns of our students, faculty, trustees, donors, and friends.

I am struck with how often fear and anger are the subtexts of the conversations.  Fear and anger are present on all sides of these debates.  Unfortunately, when we are fearful and angry we easily forget our better selves.  Our debates become centered on the question: How can I be sure to win?  We use the metaphor of warfare to describe our interchanges with our fellow citizens.

If we are intent on following the metaphor of warfare to its conclusion, this means we will be locked in combat until one side dominates or destroys the other by force.

But I ask you, how can we embrace a trajectory of warfare that leads us to seek the destruction of our enemies when our enemies are our neighbors?

Should we not at least entertain the question: How might neighbors who hold strong and divergent convictions create a framework in which to live together peacefully?

With that in mind, please allow me to be transparent about both the convictions and the desires of our community.

We do not believe that gender and sexuality are self-defined human constructs.  Instead, we believe that human beings are created in the image of God.  God took great delight in creating human beings as men and women.  We may choose different ways to live with our gender and sexuality, but we are not and never will be anything other than women and men intended by God to live in fruitful and enjoyable partnership with each other.  We believe that we will find our greatest personal satisfaction, and social well-being, when we accept and live according to our God-given identities and relationships.  It is our sincerely held belief, a belief that we have held generation after generation after generation that encouraging one another to view our gender and sexuality as fluid and self-defined constructs will ultimately lead us to experience confusion, isolation, and unhappiness.  We cannot be in favor of any legislation that would require us to capitulate, abandon, or be silent about these things we hold to be true.

In America, it is our right to hold these convictions, to speak about them, and to participate in public life while holding such sincerely held beliefs.  Indeed, we believe that any society that takes away its citizens’ right to the religious freedom that informs these convictions ultimately will remove all other rights as well.

By the same token, our religious convictions also call upon us to honor the dignity and worth of our fellow citizens who, for their own good reasons, disagree with and choose to live in ways contrary to our convictions.  In fact, in this intensely conflicted debate about sexual orientation and gender identity, most of us who hold the religious convictions I have described know, care for, serve, and associate with persons who are either uncertain about their sexual orientation or have come to the settled conviction that their personal happiness lies in the pursuit of a life different from the one we would choose.

What do we want for these friends and neighbors of ours?  We are not at war with them.  We are in conflict with their understanding of the pathway to personal and social well-being.  But we do not view them as enemies to be ridiculed, bullied, punished, or persecuted. They are the neighbors whom Jesus has called us to love as we love ourselves.

They are men and women just like us who are doing their best to find their pathway to well-being and happiness.   Our love for them means we cannot affirm a pathway that we sincerely believe is mistaken, but neither do we want them to be denied the basic human rights that are their due as fellow citizens.

We believe all of us who live together as law-abiding citizens of this state must enjoy the basic protections of the law.  To deny one person the protections of law is ultimately to lay the groundwork for denying all persons the protection of law.

In summary, then, we believe that our laws must honor the fundamental rights of freedom of religion, of conscience, and of peaceful coexistence granted us in the constitutions of our state and our nation.  If we abandon or curtail the right to sincerely held religious convictions, peaceably pursued among fellow citizens, we will in time deny all other rights as well.

We commend you for attempting to find wise ways to protect the legal interests of all Hoosiers.  Above all, we call upon you, in the midst of this intense moment of social conflict, to safeguard the right of Indiana’s many people of faith, and of Indiana’s many excellent religious institutions and social service providers, to continue serving the public good while maintaining their deeply and sincerely held religious convictions.

Thank you.