Covenant College Chapel....

Excerpts of interest from Covenant College's Fall 2005 chapel schedule:


25 Dr. Niel Nielson, President, Covenant College (First normal chapel of the year. No special designation for chapel or speaker.)

26 Convocation - Dr. Reg McLelland, Professor of Philosophy, Covenant College (The first special type of chapel--a "convocation," perhaps because more academic in focus?)

29 Assembly with Congressman Zach Wamp, U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, D.C. (Second special type of chapel--"assembly." Address is by a political leader, and thus, I suspect, the reason it's called an "assembly"--differentiating it from a normal chapel session.)

30 Student Development Assembly (Again, an "assembly" marking less-spiritual content, I suspect.)

31 Rev. Randy Nabors, Covenant College Trustee, New City Fellowship, Chattanooga, TN (Typical chapel. No special designation.)

Now, having dealt with types of chapels and nomenclature, the following sessions were interesting:


12 Camille Hallstrom, Associate Professor of Communication, Covenant College (Woman drama professor, no special designation for chapel session. Apparently a regular chapel with a regular speaker.)


10 Dr. Richard Mouw, President, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, CA

11 Dr. Richard Mouw, President, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, CA (Two regular sessions by Richard Mouw.)

24 Angel Richard, Outreach and Women's Ministries, Seven Rivers Presbyterian Church, Lecanto, FL - presented by the Kaleo Center (The second woman to address a regular chapel session.)

26 Testimonies from Student and Staff Participants in the Hurricane Relief Trip to Moss Point, MS, over Fall Break (Third distinct type of chapel session--speakers are giving "testimonies rather than typical chapel fare)

31 Reformation Day Lectures - Dr. Gerald Bray, Beeson Divinity School, Birmingham, AL (A fourth type of chapel address: "Lecture")


14 Dr. Kathleen Nielson, Professor and Author, Covenant College (Third woman to speak at a regular chapel session.)

16 All Praise Sing led by James Ward (A "Praise Sing," the fifth distinct type of chapel session....)

Note the care with which Covenant labels chapel sessions, clearly distinguishing at least five types of chapel sessions--testimonies, lectures, assemblies, sings, and convocations--from regular sessions. Yet none of the appellations denoting content different from normal chapel fare is applied to the three addresses by women.

Look folks, when Kathleen Nielson is herself speaking at a regular Covenant College chapel session--not an "assembly," not a "convocation," not giving a "testimony," leading a "sing," or giving a "lecture," but speaking on the same footing as her ordained husband in precisely the same setting--I suspect we have a pretty clear indication of the direction the Nielsons intend to steer the PCA's college in matters of manhood and womanhood.



The features of the chapel program come from what is now a venerable playbook for ecclesiastical evolution in America. Here are the elementary stages of this evolution:

1. Commit the theological training of the church to specialists (seminaries; ecclesiastical colleges) and send your members and future leaders to be trained in these institutions.

2. Local leadership must get busy with doing ministry and advancing the gospel; experts should get busy doing what experts do best: training the next generation of leaders.

3. When the experts diverge from standards, don't worry. That's what experts are for ... to push the envelope, advance in faith and practice. Those in positions of local congregational authority and those who fill the pews should keep on keeping on, and let the experts do the same.

4. As the experts wander further off the reservation, they champion three things: (a) the generosity of spirit all Christians should have toward one another, and (b) the critical need for pastors and parishioners to remain engaged in their own *local* work of ministry, (c) the integrity of those who appear to be off the reservation, but who are not.

5. Eventually, those who are training the next generation of leadership will find themselves with a mild and pleasingly intoxicating messiah complex concerning their church and its future. Those on the local scene, meanwhile, have their hands full with ... well, local things.

6. Points Nos. 4 and 5 above proceed for a few decades, and two things result: (a) the "old guard" are near to retirement, and in any event they are sufficiently old and tired that a "rescue the church" crusade appears too difficult to understake. Who wants to end his ministerial career with a donnybrook? And (b) the new generation of leaders are moving into pulpits and other institutional positions of power.

The spiritual evolution of every American Christian institution -- especially denominational structures -- has followed these six points over the past 250 years. What is dismaying to me -- who stands outside Presbyterian experience -- is to watch this procees run its course in my own lifetime with the PCA.

Those who will make the decisions of this church are sitting in classrooms today. In another decade, those who are trained by PCA educational institutions will sit in sessions and presbyteries througout the land. As far as the relationship of men and women in home, church, and society is concerned, what flag will they hoist in the name of the PCA? The answer is as obvious as anyone could wish, if they would only look at how this playbook has played out in other
ecclesiastical climes.

I took the liberty of adding the Five Aspects link at the bottom of Bill Mouser's comment above, because I believe his work is one all our readers should know of, and use:


I am a 22 year old candidate in the Western Carolina presbytery and will be heading off to Covenant Seminary in July. The issues of gender and sexuality are certainly issues I believe to be important, and I am trying to better understand your concern about the events at Covenant College.

As an ordained teaching elder in the PCA, your teaching authority is over a local body of believers. In my reading of Paul, and please correct me if I am wrong, it seems (I use the word "seems" to confer my posture of humble submission to an elder in my denomination) that he forbids this authority to be extended to women. In other words, women are forbidden from exercising teaching authority from an eldership role in a local church.

Now, while Covenant College is a denominational institution (I did not go there myself), I was not under the impression that their chapel services qualify as a "church." They seem to be missing two (if not all three) of Calvin's marks of a true church. For instance, they do not administer sacraments (at least, not to my knowledge) or practice discipline (since there is no Session presiding over the body). In other words, the students there are not required to submit themselves to the leaders of chapel service in any way.

Thus, could any speaker at a chapel service (regardless of status or sex) really be considered to exercise teaching authority over the assembled body? If so, then how far does this sort of authority extend? For instance, should women be prevented from teaching [men] in any circumstance, be it a counseling course or a theology course?

I hope that none of my questions seem inflammatory or disrespectful. If they do, I sincerely apologize. I hold God's Word and the Church in highest esteem, and hope to serve them both well in my life. I am genuinely seeking better understanding of these issues, and I submit myself to the teaching elders of my denomination. Thank you.

Covenant is a great institution, and I was proud to attend there.

Chapel at Covenant College is not worship. There are indeed special designations, but usually the special designations come not because it has a different purpose, but because the speakers come from outside the college.

Chapel is merely an extension of one of the primary purposes of Covenant as a Christian academic institution. Speakers encourage and assist us in thinking Christianly about our academic disciplines. Professors bring this to the classrooms, chapel brings it to the whole student body at once.

As an alumnae with ties to the drama program, I can say that professor Hallstrom has a particularly well-thought-out approach to thinking (and acting) Christianly in the field of the theatre and entertainment industry. Regarding this field in particular, Christians have many misapprehensions, and her perspective is valuable to anyone who goes to a play, thinks of acting, wants to choose the next movie to watch this weekend - and yet without the chapel session, none but her drama students would hear this valuable perspective.

She is not a minister, she is not "exercising authority" or teaching in the church. Instead, she is a professional in her field, bringing her Christian faith and scholarship to many who it will benefit.

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