Category Archives: Faith in public life

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)

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)

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.

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.

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM/CIVIL RIGHTS TESTIMONY

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.

Religious Freedom Testimony

As Christians, we live in a fallen world and deciding how best to navigate that reality and live out our convictions, is one of our greatest challenges.  That task is made harder by an administrative state that continues to push into every dimension of our lives.

Yesterday I took part in testimony at the Indiana Senate regarding a bill that would seek to safeguard the religious freedom of institutions like ours.  Let me explain why I testified.

IWU, like all religious institutions in our state, faces a constantly increasing gauntlet of regulations and administrative actions from local governments, from the state, and from the federal government.  The bill discussed yesterday in the Indiana Senate is an early version and may change (hopefully it will be amended to have even greater protections for religious freedom). The reason it may be helpful is that it seeks to provide strong and reasonable religious freedom protections for the Christian schools, social service agencies, adoption agencies, churches, and universities of our state.

As it stands, the bill gives religious organizations assurances about how to proceed in a world where the courts and private litigation have created considerable risk.  In many instances, when a state legislates and includes exemptions and a court later imposes a new civil right, the state that legislated has more protections than its sister states who waited–precisely because it included protections for religion in its positive law.

It is not inconceivable that the courts will force a sexual orientation nondiscrimination regime on our state.  But the very real possibility that they might means that there is prudential value in setting the terms of that legislation.

Religious exemptions in state laws also give faith communities protections that municipalities have not given.  Nearly 40% of Hoosiers live under a checkerboard of local ordinances that already give civil rights protections to members of the LGBT community without granting religious freedom protections.  The bill put forward in the Senate would bring those ordinances into line with any state protections, including religious freedom protections.

My understanding from the hearing is that this measure would give unprecedented protection to small businesses open to the public to refuse to do wedding services when doing so violates a religious conviction.  No other state has done that in its public accommodations law.   This law would have protected our IWU alumna who was sued because her conscience would not let her provide photography for a gay union ceremony.  Where conflicts do arise the bill would provide protections against frivolous or unfounded accusations of discrimination.

The bill would align Indiana law with federal law by allowing religious organizations to contract with the state without having to abandon or deny their sincerely held religious convictions.  This is a crucial provision for any religious institution that contracts with the state, including private Christian schools whose students benefit from school vouchers.

As president of a Christian university owned by a church that holds very traditional views on sexuality and marriage I find that we are increasingly under pressure from legal, regulatory, and administrative actions that threaten our identity and  our values.

We serve a diverse student body with respect and good will.  We serve all of our students with the love Christ as we provide a high quality university education. There does not appear to be any perfect way to create the legal space we need to remain true to the values and convictions that shape our identity while respecting those who disagree with us.  Nevertheless, I believe it is imperative for us to do whatever we can today to provide safeguards for the religious freedoms that we have enjoyed for generations.

MLK and Our Potential for Greatness

These are days when it can be hard to remember our better selves.  Awash as we are in daily reminders of mean spirits, vulgar and base pursuits, and the depths of inhumanity of which we are capable, we struggle to remember the dreams that have ennobled our personal and societal aspirations.

Can we ever be great people?  Can our nation ever make any legitimate claim to moral greatness?  How would a great people address the many forces that seem to pull us apart, to entomb us in a casket of anger, hatred, and despair?

While reflecting on these questions recently I came across a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. that shed some light in the shadows.

“Everyone has the power for greatness, not for fame but greatness, because greatness is determined by service.”

As he so often did, Martin Luther King, Jr. once again both calls us to greatness, and reminds us that it is within our grasp.

If we are willing to take the Christ-like way of serving.

On this day when we celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., my prayer is that we will rediscover the greatness that comes from serving others.

Dr. Ravi Zacharias chosen as IWU World Changer

Indiana Wesleyan University has chosen author and Christian apologist Dr. Ravi Zacharias as the 2016 inductee into the IWU Society of World Changers.

Zacharias, an Indian-born American citizen, is a renowned evangelical speaker and author. For four decades, he has spoken at scores of universities and international prayer gatherings. His venues have ranged from the White House to the Lenin Military Academy in Moscow, and he is an advisor to key leaders in American government. Zacharias has appeared on CNN, Fox and other international broadcasts. He is the author of numerous Christian books including the Gold Medallion winner “Can Man Live Without God,” and his weekly radio program, “Let My People Think,” airs on nearly 2,200 outlets worldwide.

Zacharias is also the founder and president of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM). Passionate about theology and evangelism, Zacharias founded the Atlanta-based organization with the mission to reach and challenge those who shape the ideas of culture with the credibility of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

“Dr. Ravi Zacharias is one of the world’s most respected voices for Christianity”, said IWU President Dr. David Wright. “We are thrilled to honor Dr. Zacharias, whose name adds great distinction to the Society of World Changers.”

Zacharias’ induction will take place at the 13th annual Society of World Changers Convocation on March 30, 2016 at 10 a.m. in the Chapel Auditorium.

IWU established the Society of World Changers in 2003 to recognize role models who have exemplified the concept of being a world changer and whose lives can serve as an inspiration to future generations. Previous inductees include television producer and author Robert Briner, neurosurgeon Dr. Benjamin Carson, author Frank Peretti, Hobby Lobby CEO David Green, founder of Joni and Friends Joni Eareckson Tada, gospel musicians Bill and Gloria Gaither, and former U.S. Senator Elizabeth Dole. The most recent inductee is John Maxwell, New York Times bestselling author, successful businessman and speaker.

Is Faith Under Attack?

I recently accepted an invitation to serve as a panelist for a community forum in Indianapolis that promises to address some difficult issues that have been central to our state’s recent debates about civil rights and religious freedom.

Questions such as: “Does religious freedom necessarily conflict with LGBT rights?” “How should people of faith handle rapid social change?” And, “Can the church help a diverse society find ways to live in harmony?”

The forum is titled “Is Faith Under Attack: A Conversation about Civil Rights and Religious Liberty.” It is the second in a series of forums related to the #RightsForAll campaign, which is being sponsored by The Indianapolis Star and the Desmond Tutu Center for Peace, Reconciliation, and Global Justice, which is based at Butler University.

My fellow panelists will be Dr. Kevin R. Baird, field director of the Indiana Pastors Alliance; Dr. Matthew Boulton, president of Christian Theological Seminary; and Rev. Andrew Hunt III, senior pastor of New Life Community Church. Tim Swarens, the opinion editor and columnist for The Star, will be the moderator.

The forum will be from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, December 2, at Shelton Auditorium, Christian Theological Seminary, 1000 W. 42nd Street, Indianapolis.

The event is free but guests need to register because seating is limited to 400 people and tickets are expected to “sell out” quickly. You can register here.

There also will be a live webcast of the forum on The Indianapolis Star website.

Fulfilled Alumni Dream Left Me Speechless

The phone call brought back hazy memories from our shared college days.  I hadn’t known Francis Mustapha well in those days.  But I knew he had an interesting story coming from Sierra Leone in the 1970s to attend Marion College.

We hadn’t spoken much over the years so when he asked to meet with me I wasn’t sure what to expect.  The story he unfolded for me, and the pictures he showed me, left me speechless.

IWU - Madina Village School

Bobbie Mustapha conducts a workshop for teachers at Madina Village School.

Francis and his wife, Bobbie, graduated from IWU in the 1970s and both taught school for 30-plus years – mostly in the Fort Wayne public schools. During his career, Francis received several national and state honors for teaching – including the prestigious Milken National Educator Award.

In September 2013, the Mustaphas fulfilled a life-long dream of opening a school in the village of Madina, Sierra Leone, where Francis was reared. At least once a year, Francis and Bobbie travel there to help get the school year off to a good start.

Here is a report on their most recent trip to the Madina Village School:

“Our trip was the shortest ever, but in three and a half weeks we were able to experience the school full of children and to hold in-service training for teachers on topics such as using Big Books, writing in the reading program, efficiency of time in the classroom and even the first basic lesson in how to use a computer.

“To do the computer session of the workshop we had to string power cords from a generator and had lights in one room of the building for the very first time. It brought great satisfaction for us two ‘techno-idiots’ to have had 20 staff members on nine computers for the evening without anything breaking down!

“Someday we hope to have solar panels on the roof to power some technology for the school. That is a project still in the dreaming stage.”

How much do the people in the small village appreciate the Mustaphas? Read on.

IWU - Mustapha

Francis and Bobbie Mustapha greet children at Madina Village School in Sierra Leone.

“The school held a surprise assembly welcoming us back. It was especially moving for Bobbie, who was presented with a special handmade gown and given a new name, Munjei (pronounced moon-jay), which means ‘our mother.’ The children all began using that name immediately, so now it feels like having 300 sons and daughters.”

Improved technology is not Sierra Leone’s most critical need, however.

“A nation is hanging in the balance,” Francis wrote. “There is a battle raging for the very soul of the Nation of Sierra Leone and many countries in Africa for that matter. We cannot lose the battle. It has to be fought on all fronts.”

As we navigate our way through the technology-dependent world in which we live, it is heartwarming to celebrate the accomplishments of Indiana Wesleyan University alumni toiling in areas of the world that are devoid of even basic technology.

We thank God for alumni such as Francis and Bobbie Mustapha who are serving on the frontlines.

Senate Bill Protects Longstanding Practices Of Religious Organizations in Indiana

Since 2006, Indiana Wesleyan University has had the opportunity to help retrain almost 100 Hoosiers whose jobs have been sent overseas. The $1.4 million in financial aid for those adult students came from the federal Trade Adjustment Act and was administered by an agency of Indiana government.

A year ago our students began to be denied access to these funds despite the fact we are a faith-based university that is legally permitted to make religion a preference in our hiring.  We turned to our legislators to see if we could find a long-term solution.

The result was Senate Bill 127, which was approved by the Indiana Senate earlier this week and now moves to the Indiana House of Representative.  This Bill would safeguard our longstanding practice in Indiana of allowing religious organizations to contract with the state to provide services for the public good.

This morning I sat down with a reporter from Indianapolis television station Fox59 to express our support for this legislation and to explain the reasons we believe it is important to us and to our state.

Indiana has long been blessed with a rich network of religious organizations that serve the public good.  In our case, Indiana Wesleyan University serves Christian students, but we also serve people of other faiths and of no faith.  All are welcome at IWU.  While we hope that all will encounter the love of Christ and gain an appreciation for Judeo-Christian values while they study with us, we seek to treat all who come to us with respect and care regardless of their faith.Indiana Wesleyan University - Chapel

We are grateful for the efforts of Senator Travis Holdman and Representative Kevin Mahan to safeguard in law the longstanding practice that has enriched the life and competitiveness of our state.

Not surprisingly, media attention often follows closely on the heels of controversial legislation. That is especially true when the issue is alleged discrimination by a religious institution that has a significant presence throughout Indiana.

Despite the concerns raised by the bill’s opponents, it is important to recognize that this bill does nothing more than permit a longstanding practice to continue.  It provides an umbrella of coverage for religious organizations across a broad spectrum, such as hospitals and child service providers, to continue serving the public good.

Further, the hiring practices that are at the root of the concerns expressed by some have long been protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and by Executive Order 13279.  Our right to prefer religion in our hiring practices has been tested in numerous court cases over the years and has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.   It is not as though we can do this outside of any guidelines or controls; we are still subject to all other laws that prohibit discrimination in hiring.  We must act as good citizens.

In summary, we support this legislation because it protects the right of religious organizations to contract with the state to provide services for the common good.  We believe this is good for all the citizens of Indiana.