Some of my experiences at Greenville College...
Note: In the continuing saga of Professor Gerald Eichhoefer's termination at Greenville College, here is another document recording other aspects of the story not previously told. It's particularly interesting to me to see the intense hostility those seeking to undermine the faith of their students at Greenville College had to reformed doctrine.
Men with responsibilities related to educational institutions, whether as a board member of a Christian college, department head, administrator, pastor recommending colleges to members of his church, or parents directing their children to consider this or that school, need to read this and the other Eighhoefer documents. They are an excellent introduction to the state of Christian education today, although I'll grant that the Greenville case demonstrates tactics more obvious than most. Wheaton, Gordon, Westmont, Taylor, etc. would be ever so much more sophisticated in how they did it, but the trends are the same regardless of the average SAT scores of the school's students. (For example, how many years did the faculty and administration of Wheaton College tolerate Professor Gilbert Bilezikian's soul-destroying work within Wheaton's Bible department, and exactly why was Bilezikian granted Professor Emeritus status?)
A short time ago, I sat at a dinner table with a board member of one of the top few evangelical colleges and a student who had just graduated from that school, and I listened as this recent graduate described how the school's Bible department was filled with what she called "egalitarians," and how as a result of their influence she had been leaning in that direction, but was now swinging back to what she called the "complementarianism" her parents had raised her to believe.
She said it matter-of-factly, not realizing my history of work in this issue, and then she concluded, "When I left (the school), I'd lost a lot of my theological foundations, but now that I'm (away from the school), I'm getting them back."
The board member demonstrated no alarm or inquisitiveness at all. It seemed entirely ho-hum to him. Why?
I'm not sure, but my guess is that he sees such placing of stumbling blocks in the pathways of his institution's students as the raison d'etre of higher education--including (and maybe especially) evangelical higher education.
Read on and weep, dear brothers and sisters, for the children who have been lost to our Precious Faith and Lord because of false shepherds with Ph.D.s and our own cowardice in allowing them to carry out their work unopposed. But praise God for men such as Jerry Eichhoeffer.
And remember my Dad's dictum after graduating from Wheaton College, then working on secular campuses for sixteen years with Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship: "You never know who the enemy is at a Christian college, but on a secular campus it's always clear."
Some of my Experiences at Greenville College
by Dr. Gerald W. Eichhoefer
In 1998, thirty years after I graduated from Greenville College, I returned with my wife and daughters to teach Computer Science. I was warmly received and supported by my Science Division colleagues as I began work on a new Computer Science curriculum and my family began to adjust to our new home. In my previous job I had a joint appointment in Computer Science and Philosophy and I looked forward to a congenial relationship with the Greenville philosophy professors even though my main focus at Greenville was Computer Science. I have a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Rice University and a bit of graduate work in Theology.
The Templeton Seminar - Fall 1998/Spring 1999
I approached a Greenville Philosophy professor and asked him to introduce me to the St. Louis philosophical community and was surprised and puzzled when he refused...
Up to that point I had never even had a long conversation with him and I had hoped that our common interests might lead to friendship. A few weeks later I began to plan to meet an obligation I had to the John Templeton Foundation to teach one more section of my philosophy course, Science, Religion and Explanation, which had won a Templeton Prize a few years earlier.
I was totally flabbergasted when the Religion and Philosophy Department immediately demanded that the "philosophy" designation be removed and the course redesignated "science division." I had been under the impression that my courtesy request to the department had been granted.
There was quite a flurry of activity as the Dean of Instruction and the Chair of the Social Sciences Division met with the Philosophy Chair and tried to convince him that my course should be classified as "philosophy." One of the reasons given was that I was not qualified to teach a philosophy course at Greenville because I did not meet the goals and mission of the department. There was certainly no professional reason for disqualifying me - the department had once used my introductory philosophy text, Enduring Issues in Philosophy, in one of its courses. The only explanation that made any sense was one given to me by a senior member of the community who told me that I had a reputation of being "too evangelical" and the department had decided to isolate me as much as possible. I later learned that this extended to speaking in Chapel and I was never allowed to do so in my seven years at the College, despite numerous requests on my part.
The Secret Meeting - Spring 1999
The following Spring of 1999 I pulled out the old, worn copy of the Greenville College Catalogue that I remembered reading with so much excitement as a high school student and new Christian when I decided to come to Greenville. I compared it with the new catalogue and noted that the new catalogue omitted things that I considered important. I decided to hear the Religion and Philosophy Department's side of the story and sent emails to members of that department and several administrators. I suggested that we again call ourselves "evangelical" in the catalogue and asked how that designation had slipped through the cracks. I got a rather negative response from Religion and Philosophy professors who argued that the inclusion of an evangelical identity statement was "sectarian." I also received a rather intriguing invitation from a professor in another department who invited me to meet with him in his office. At the meeting he was gracious and said some very positive things about members of the Religion and Philosophy Department, who were his good friends. He then suggested that I get to know and understand them before I began advocating that the College move back towards an evangelical theological identity.
He explained that these professors were good people who had been working very hard for several years to move Greenville College away from Evangelicalism. To illustrate how important the project was to his friends and how much effort they had expended, he said that they had gone so far as to create St. Paul's Free Methodist Church as a non-evangelical alternative to the College Free Methodist Church, which was evangelical. He and I discussed this in more detail and I was given a general idea of the "project." He was very enthusiastic and very concerned that I not jump in and cause problems without first understanding how important the project was. He especially wanted me to appreciate the sincerity and high quality of the people involved and suggested that I talk to some of the professors involved and get to know and understand them. I agreed, an appointment was made and I briefly met with one professor at his office.
Our purpose was to set a time and agenda for a longer discussion. We had a brief discussion identifying important issues and I was pleased by how easily we communicated. This was the first professional level philosophical or theological discussion I had engaged in since arriving on campus and I was optimistic that we could communicate if we had the will to do so. As I was leaving he told me that nothing he said in his office could be spoken "outside of the room" because "I don't want anything I say to come back and face me in faculty meeting." I could not, in good conscience, agree to this and there were no further conversations. I was simply unable to reconcile his rule with the process of free, open and honest discussion necessary for a liberal arts environment to prosper. Furthermore, he is an ordained Free Methodist Elder and what he requested smacked of a secret society. When I studied to obtain my Lay Preacher's license I learned that the one of the meanings of "Free" in "Free Methodist" meant "freedom from secret societies." I was not about to join one.
General Education Council Meetings - Spring 2000
By Spring 2000 I was the Science Division representative to the General Education Council which was responsible for creating Greenville's new Integrated General Education Program. The Council was discussing a proposal for the Religion and Philosophy department's COR 102 course, Christian Thought and Life. Every student that attends Greenville College is required to take COR 102 or its upper division version, COR 301. One part of the proposal seemed ambiguous and I distributed a brief note to committee members at the start of our discussion suggesting that we clarify the purpose of COR 102 Chicago field trip by affirming: "The purpose of visits to non-Christian communities of faith is not joint worship, but observation and dialogue. These experiences should be contextualized according to an evangelical persuasion." My motive was only to clarify what seemed unclear to me in the proposal, not to criticize the trip itself - I was simply doing my job as a member of the Council.
A Religion and Philosophy professor stood up in anger and threw the page I had given him in front of me across the table and yelled: "This is so apologetic and so evangelical!" This was rather frightening and I remained seated and avoided sustained eye contact until he calmed down. The consequent conversation indicated that my note had hit a nerve because these professors actually intended for Greenville College students to worship at temples and mosques. The discussion spilled over into the next Council meeting which began with the presentation of a one page memo to the General Education Council from the Religion and Philosophy Department:
TO: General Education Council FROM: Religion & Philosophy Department RE: Dr. Eichhoefer's Memo on COR 101
After considerable discussion, the perspective of the philosophy and religion department concerning some of the issues raised (both directly and indirectly) by Dr. Eichhoefer's memo includes the following:
1. We must remember that even though the course has been approved by the Gen Ed Council and AAC, the course will be modified somewhat during the Summer retreat session. Each professor will develop a syllabus in keeping with the objectives of the course. N.B. the course learning activities, evaluation, and ordering of materials will vary from course to course as the instructor sees fit.
2. We would like to invite faculty along on trips to Chicago in the future. It may be instructive for faculty to learn about Christian Theology, the Wesleyan method, and precisely what we do on the trip. This will avoid misperception and basing opinions on rumor and hearsay.
3. The language in Dr. Eichhoefer's memo is problematic for the following reasons:(i) We are not primarily an evangelical college, but a Wesleyan college and to include this language departs from our historical perspective orientation by elevating one perspective over the others.
(ii) The language of the memo is not tied to our mission statement, our educational philosophy, our theological assumptions or our educational outcomes. (e.g. to limit the purpose of the trip to just "observation and dialogue" is not consistent with our self-description in the college catalogue- "We prize ... respect for persons as they have been variously created by God... We embrace.. the wholeness of life and our obligations to affirm all that is true, good and beautiful." (p. 3-4 Greenville College Catalogue) That is, we are not called merely to watch these people but to value, respect and affirm them in various ways (Christian charity calls us to do this).
(iii) It assumes a narrow understanding of "worship" - that we must prevent the students from ascribing "worth" to something that others, that are not like us, are doing. N.B. that not all of our students are Christian.
(iv) The language about "contextualizing" is superfluous as we have already addressed this by introducing the students to the method of the Wesleyan quadrilateral."
I would have liked to discuss the possible implications of Paul Tillich's concept of worship for Greenville College students and how it relates the College's mission statement. I would also have liked to discuss the relationship between teaching students to think critically and teaching them about the beliefs of their own traditions, but it quickly became apparent that this meeting was primarily about power.
It appears that these professors were convinced that they had the power to modify the course during their Summer Retreat, whatever the Council decides. Furthermore, they chose to identify me with rumors and hearsay rather than someone simply trying to understand what they meant. To their credit, they openly revealed some of their attitude towards evangelical Christianity and Greenville College's identity.
There was an intense ninety minute discussion of the memo which included me and three Religion and Philosophy professors with other council members present and observing. We eventually got down to discussion a few significant issues. In the end the Council informally let my recommendation stand and officially mandated joint worship is proscribed and students are free to worship or not worship as they choose.
Faculty Survey - Fall 2000
The following semester, on September 21, 2000, the Faculty Council distributed a survey to all faculty and staff with the following instructions: "In an effort to be more effective in our efforts as a Faculty Council and to aid Committees as they carry out their responsibilities, Faculty Council would appreciate a few minutes of your time to respond to the following request ... What are your 10 most pressing college related priorities?"
The results from the 30 faculty members who responded were summarized by small committee made up of two Faculty Council members. I was one of those members. We produced the Faculty/Staff Priorities Summary, which is now an official document of Faculty Council. The College Christian Identity section of the Summary contained the following quotations from longer relevant faculty responses:
1. Need explicitly Christ-centered College
2. Students need to accept Christ as savior
3. Evangelical/conservative faculty leave because they have no place here
4. Students graduate as cynics
5. Students enter as Christians and leave rejecting Christ as savior (Some of above are religion majors.)
6. Evangelical students recruited and then evangelical movement is criticized
7. Students confused about what we believe and why
8. Let's keep the "Christian" in "Christian College"
9. Evangelical students are recruited and criticized for being evangelical
10. Evangelical students and faculty are leaving because the Religion department openly criticizes them
11. Openness about religion department theological positions
Several faculty members devoted as much as an entire page criticizing the College's theological identity on the actual response forms. Even though the survey was anonymous, some of those who addressed the Christian identity issue chose to identify themselves, and this group included some of Greenville's most gifted campus leaders and teachers; professors who are known for their teaching excellence and their involvement in the lives of students. There is nothing sectarian about these responses. They reflect deep concern for theological honesty and integrity, student outcomes, and student retention.
The Christian Identity section was renamed several times in an attempt to mute its impact. Attempts were made to simply kill the entire Summary which was classified as "confidential" and nobody but Faculty Council members were officially allowed to see it for over six weeks. Several of us finally garnered enough votes on the Council to force the survey's release. Unfortunately, it was not distributed to the entire Faculty as originally planned, but those who wanted to see the survey results had to personally go to the Academic Dean's office and request it! Given the power of the Religion and Philosophy Department and their allies, openly going to the Dean's office to request the Summary was quite threatening for some Faculty.
So it was that the results of the Greenville Faculty's first "official" expression of their concerns about the schools theological identity were squelched. The fact that so many had spoken up and said basically the same thing was significant in itself. Memos primarily concerning me and my participation in the survey were exchanged between the Religion and Philosophy Chair, the Chair of Faculty Council, Dean Longman, and President Mannoia. I was not copied on any of these memos but I was told that the Religion and Philosophy Department professors were very upset with me.
The Faithful Change Faculty Meeting - Late Fall 2000
Later that semester the topic of the last faculty meeting of Fall 2000 was the Faithful Change Project, which provides the framework for inducing and measuring student "spiritual" development at Greenville College. The meeting discussed the results of the probing and intimate faith development interviews required for all Core 102 students. "Faith" development is measured according to a theory created by Psychologist and Theologian Dr. James Fowler. Greenville students are classified by their "stage of faith" which shows how far they have been "transformed" at Greenville College. Understanding Fowler's stages of faith is essential for understanding Greenville's theological identity. I discuss Fowler's stages in more detail in Loss of Faith at Greenville College. Here I am only interested in illustrating how Evangelicals are characterized by the theory, not the details or legitimacy of the theory.
A Religion and Philosophy professor illustrated how philosophy courses transform students using a dramatic monologue. He began: "These are some of the students in my philosophy classes." He then cocked his head to the side and made a funny "I am retarded" smiley face as he began talking in slurred, guttural, "retarded" voice and flapping his arms up and down. He said: "The Bible says that homosexuality is wrong, and if the Bible says it, that's good enough for me!!" There were howls of laughter from some of the Greenville faculty. He then said "Those are my 'F' students!" More laughter! He went on from there.
The meeting had a carnival atmosphere and faculty members later applauded one department because Greenville's majors in that department had moved much further along the "scale of relativism" than students at other CCCU schools and higher relativism put them at a higher "stage of faith." Someone pointed out that most of our students were still functioning at Fowler's level three, which is a low level that represents only adolescent faith. [Evangelicals are generally classified as level threes.]
Another Religion and Philosophy Department professor then informed us that the problem was not just with the students because most of the faculty was also at level three or below! There was more laughter.
This, he continued, presented a problem for us in our attempts to bring the students to a higher level. How could we bring our students to a higher level than most of the faculty? In the ensuing discussion the only hope that was offered was that students could be "launched" to higher levels by observing the mistakes made by people at lower levels, like the majority of our faculty. This brought more laughter from the Religion and Philosophy professors and some others.
The Evangelical Voice Newsletter - Spring 2001
The next semester, Spring 2001, I decided to directly challenge the picture of evangelical Christianity the Religion and Philosophy professors and their allies were painting. I created a newsletter I called the Greenville Evangelical Voice. In the first Voice I argued that Greenville College can be both evangelical and Wesleyan and that the Religion and Philosophy Department professors are wrong when they say that we must abandon evangelical Christianity to be truly Wesleyan. I further argued that we must include Baptists and other Evangelicals as full members of our community and not treat them as inherently sectarian second class Christians. I pointed out that it is sectarian to exclude these fellow believers, not sectarian to affirm them! Here are a few excerpts:
It has been suggested that Greenville College ought to cease calling itself "Evangelical" and only call itself "Wesleyan," because the term "Evangelical" purportedly denotes a Fundamentalist Calvinist theological position, and because Greenville College is neither Calvinist nor fundamentalist.
The Voice affirms that:
Greenville College is an Evangelical Wesleyan Christian liberal arts college, thoroughly Wesleyan and thoroughly Evangelical.
While affirming a Wesleyan form of Evangelicalism, Greenville College rejects, as sectarian, all marginalization of persons of Reformed/Calvinistic, Anabaptist or Charismatic beliefs.
Greenville College welcomes those from Calvinist, Armenian, Wesleyan, Anabaptist and Charismatic traditions to participate fully as members of the College community as students, administrators, staff and faculty, in all academic departments.
The first and second issues of the Voice devoted eight pages to this topic and I went on to address the issues of language and truth. By that time I had won my third Templeton Award in Science and Christianity and I took these two issues of the Voice with me to Oxford University to share with other Templeton winners, who were Methodist, Anglican, Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, and Russian Orthodox scholars. Without exception they responded favorably to my characterization of Christian Orthodoxy and my classifications.
Evangelical faculty members were generally supportive and wanted dialogue, but the Department of Religion and Philosophy faculty were openly hostile. I was called divisive and nave, and told that my papers were so poor that they were beneath comment or discussion. Sadly there was no open discussion of my papers on campus aside from this ridicule.
Meeting with Powerful College Leader - Summer 2001 I had a long conversation with a Powerful College leader before I left for a summer session of the John Templeton Oxford Seminars on Science and Christianity at Wycliffe Hall at Oxford University. I won the invitation to attend these seminars in an international competition after winning two earlier Templeton awards while teaching elsewhere. I was surprised when this leader told me that my understanding of truth was widely regarded on campus as unsophisticated and lacking in subtlety, an embarrassment to the College. He said he was particularly disappointed in my tendency to "get propositional." He was referring to my position that certain creedal statements should be taken plainly and factually, that is, as propositional truth. He took me by surprise again when he offered himself as an example of someone who possessed the subtle and sophisticated reasoning that I apparently lacked.
He explained how his subtle and sophisticated approach was useful - it got him an academic position he might not otherwise have been qualified for. It seems that he needed to sign an inerrancy oath. He told me that anyone who understands such things realizes that New Testament documents like the Gospel of Matthew need to be read as Midrash. At the suggestion of the religion professors at the school he signed the inerrancy oath with the understanding that he read the biblical documents as Midrash. He never explained to me how this worked. Based upon his criticism of my tendency to get "too propositional," however, I assume that he takes advantage of the fact that Midrashic literature essentially communicates meanings and significance rather than plain facts and actual events. This makes the attribution of factual errors beside the point. Midrash might then be considered "inerrant" in a subtle sort of way. Maybe he meant something else. I wonder whether the religion professors he talked to considered the inerrancy oath itself Midrash. That might also impress a subtle mind.
As I was leaving his office I mentioned that several Greenville Trustees had read my Evangelical Voice Newsletter and that they had soundly affirmed it. He became angry and demanded that I give him a list of trustee names so that he could contact them and compel them to "honor their oaths." I refused and left.
Theology Lesson for New Faculty - Fall 2002
Fall 2002 Dr. Longman invited any interested faculty to attend new faculty orientation workshops designed to familiarize newcomers with Greenville College's new theological identity. I attended one session which was led by two Religion and Philosophy Department professors who made presentations and asked for questions. In answer to a question about the theological status of the Free Methodist Church one professor gave a long and lucid answer which I summarize here:
The Free Methodist Church needs a new soul. Wesleyanism was essentially a movement within the Anglican Church, not an independent denomination. Wesleyan theological roots are Anglican and ultimately Catholic. The Free Methodist Church is a kind of corrupt hybrid between true Wesleyanism and various American influences like the Holiness Movement and Revivalism. Overall the Free Methodist Church is presently moving away from certain "excesses" of the Holiness Movement, with its emphasis on revivalism and sinless perfection. In a sense, the Free Methodist Church is moving away from some of the things which distinguished it from a more authentic form of Wesleyanism. This is good. Free Methodism as a whole, however, still holds to a corrupted form of Wesleyanism, and most Free Methodist leaders cannot be trusted with the future theological destiny of the Church as it seeks a new soul, a replacement for the Holiness Movement.
There are two contenders for the new soul of the Free Methodist Church; a return to a form of Anglicanism on the one hand, and the adoption of Evangelicalism on the other. Evangelicalism is, at heart, Fundamentalism and Calvinism, which are divisive, dogmatic and sectarian. True Wesleyanism is none of these things, and it possesses a deeper theological and experiential understanding of salvation and sanctification than Evangelicalism can begin to embrace.
Unfortunately, many Free Methodists have moved in the direction of Evangelicalism, which is essentially a move away from true Wesleyanism. The true destiny of the Free Methodist Church lies in a move in the direction of Anglicanism and Catholicism.
This was consistent with what I had been told Spring 1999 about the Religion and Philosophy professors' creation of St. Paul's as part of their project to "move Greenville College away from Evangelicalism."
Everything began to fall into place and it was clear that the main problem for the Department of Religion and Philosophy was evangelical Free Methodists, not the Calvinist Baptists and Presbyterians they spent so much time attacking. It was also clear that their serious efforts to restrain my influence on campus paralleled their efforts to eliminate the influence that evangelical College Free Methodist Church's pastors had on Greenville College students by moving as many of them as possible to St. Paul's. This was especially important for Religion and Philosophy majors who must be protected from sustained exposure to a trained evangelical philosopher like me. The Baptists and Presbyterians were largely red herrings. It is also clear that the long term strategy includes moving the Free Methodist Church itself away from evangelical Christianity through the influence of Greenville's Philosophy and Religion major graduates. This is already happening.
The Loss of a Baptist Friend and Colleague
This is a good place to interject an event out of sequence. I was responsible for CORE 201, Foundations of Science, and I was thrilled when I found the first person willing to join the team and tackle the difficult task of interdisciplinary integration. He was a Science Division Ph.D. and a Baptist with an excellent mind and a heart for Jesus Christ. He exhibited leadership in the Science Division and campus-wide as a member of Faculty Council. Because Foundations of Science was required for every student who graduated from Greenville College, his participation in the course would have given him the greatest exposure to students of any Baptist professor on campus. I was shocked and dismayed when he informed me that he was leaving Greenville to teach elsewhere.
My colleague was quite open about the theological and spiritual concerns that contributed to his decision to leave. He claimed that Greenville presented him, a Baptist, with a stifling and oppressive atmosphere. He said that he was weary of the constant theological attacks on Calvinist theology and spirituality by members of the Religion and Philosophy Department. The most amazing thing he said [not to me, but to another faculty member] was that he felt that he could not freely even share his faith with his students at Greenville.
This was because he felt that his Baptist understanding of Christian faith and practice were repeatedly and even "officially" characterized as mistaken and substandard by our religion professors. Interestingly, the college's constituency contains more Baptist than Free Methodist families willing to send their children here. There are many more Baptist students at Greenville College than Free Methodist students.
He was not the only professor the science division lost due to Greenville's intolerance towards Evangelicals. Three years ago the Science Division searched for a highly qualified Ph.D. to teach classes and direct student research in one department. We interviewed candidates and chose a scientist with a Ph.D. from MIT, one of the most prestigious scientific institutions in the world. The candidate was highly qualified to teach and had a history of research with students. We spent considerable time and money wooing this talented scientist and strong evangelical Christian. He turned down the position offered him and mentioned a few "polite" reasons in writing.
None of these reasons seemed to make sense compared to the very strong reasons he had given for wanting to come here. What was going on? In addition to the "official" reasons the candidate privately shared a reason that was strong enough to prevent him from coming to Greenville College under any circumstances. He told us: "I will not come to a place where I will be attacked for my faith!"
The candidate said this because of something that happened during his interview process. I investigated and interviewed three members of the important committee that interviewed and discouraged him. One professor in particular attacked the candidate's evangelical theological positions. A member of the committee told me that this professor's questions were "inappropriate," but that the candidate "did a good job answering them." Another told me that the questions were "horrid" and that there was a terrible feeling in the room during the questioning. This committee member wept while telling me this. Another member told me that the questioning was "brutal" and that he had never seen "anything like it" before. The Greenville professor who treated the candidate so harshly was the same one who invited me to his office Spring 1999 and introduced me to the Religion and Philosophy Department's project. Apparently preventing scholars like this theologically conservative scientist from joining our faculty is a part of the project. Based upon recent events the Religion and Philosophy professors now appear to rate faculty candidates for positions outside their department for the candidates' "theological fit" at Greenville College. They then talk to members of search committees and make "recommendations."
Loss of Faith at Greenville College - Spring 2003
By spring 2003 I had had ample time to familiarize myself with James Fowler's Stages of Faith, President Mannoia's Christian Liberal Arts, and other documents relevant to Greenville's transformation process. Mary Chism, daughter of my college roommate, Professor Jack Chism, wrote an article in the Papyrus. She announced the loss of her Christian faith and religion Professor Rick McPeak responded. I took McPeak's response as an opportunity to try once more to start a campus discussion about Greenville's theological identity.
By then I understood the transformation process quite well and I was seriously alarmed by what was happening. I had heard so many stories of students in desperate circumstances due to the College's "transformation by disequilibration" program and Mary's description of her experience provided a classic case of disequilibration. Since both Mary's article and Professor McPeak's response were publicly circulated to all faculty and students in the Papyrus, I sent Loss of Faith at Greenville College: Response to Dr. Rick McPeak to all faculty and staff as an email attachment and suggested that students discuss the paper with parents and pastors.
The Loss of Faith at Greenville College paper circulated widely - far beyond my expectations. People sent copies to friends and they sent copies to their friends. Several thousand Evangelicals in the United States and Europe ultimately received copies. Off campus there was a tremendous amount of discussion and I received numerous emails and phone calls. I suddenly found myself surrounded by fellow travelers who found that my paper confirmed what they already deeply felt but were not quite able to put into words. My contacts included lay individuals, pastors and Para-church organizations. I cannot begin to tell of the stories I heard from students, parents and church leaders.
They told me about how their own children and other children from their churches had lost their faith in ways similar to those I describe in the paper. I discovered that I was far from intellectually and spiritually alone in my concerns. I came into contact with scholars and representatives of organizations with trained professional staffs that provided me with additional information about the processes I had identified. It is safe to say that my paper was accepted as a reliable summary of Greenville's faith development process by thousands of people. It still is.
Unfortunately, my paper was not openly discussed on campus by faculty and administration. The purported reason given was that I had broken protocols by sharing the paper with students, even though I was responding to articles in the campus newspapers. Several attempts were made to discredit the paper, but they consisted of vague accusations of misrepresentation and faulty logic. As far as I know, no one has provided a reasoned response for discussion. The paper stands to this day.
An Ultimatum and Threats - Spring 2003
On April 2 Academic Vice President Karen Longman circulated an email which acknowledged that "it is evident that some degree of disagreement and misunderstanding about vital matters exists within our community (both at an individual level and within at least two groups of faculty)." She went on to discuss grievance procedures to be handled by Sub-committee on Faculty Personnel "for guidance on further steps that may be taken." She went on to recommend two venues for further discussion:
If you would like an opportunity for discussion about any dimension about the exchange of perspectives that has recently unfolded, I suggest either of the following approaches:1. Craig Boyd, head of the Philosophy/Religion Department, has indicated his willingness and desire to meet individually with anyone who has questions or concerns about either the theological position of the College or the educational offerings of the Philosophy/Religion Department.
2. President Mannoia continues to offer informal events for conversation at Joy House. The next gathering will be on the evening of April 22 at 7:00 p.m. This series offers an opportunity for informal interaction among faculty about topics and concerns like this one that may be of interest to you. Please RSVP to Tamie if you would like to participate in the evening dialogue on April 22.
The first option hardly satisfied the need for open dialogue, but the second sounded good. Unfortunately, Joy House discussions were widely boycotted by faculty members at that time [and still are by many] because President Mannoia had earlier yelled at and demeaned a female faculty member who challenged him, as he put it, "in my own home!" I was at that meeting and I agreed with my colleagues that civil discussion of controversial issues is not possible there.
One week after Dr. Longman's memo the Religion and Philosophy department Chair visited my office and quickly delivered this letter to me:
April 9, 2003
This is what I want to see happen if you want to avoid having formal charges filed against you with the professional concerns committee. I will give you until the end of this week (Friday, April 11, 2003) to address the issues on the following list. You should know that I am following the procedure in the Faculty handbook for grievances and that I am sending a copy of this to Dr. Karen Longman and Dr. V. James Mannoia Jr.
1. You need to issue a formal apology for making misleading and false statements about religion and philosophy department members. The apology must be sent via email to all students, faculty, staff and board members. Furthermore, the apology must do the following:i. specifically renounce the idea that faculty in the religion and philosophy department "manipulate" students
ii. acknowledge that there is no evidence whatsoever that there are "legions" of students who are in a similar situation as Mary Chism
iii. acknowledge the fact that Mary Chism's apparent loss of faith can in no way be linked to what is taught in the philosophy and religion department
iv. acknowledge that it was wrong and unprofessional to send email to students and faculty without fires bringing the issues to the members of the philosophy and religion department
v. acknowledge that there is no evidence that the faculty in the religion and philosophy department deny the resurrection of Jesus Christ
vi. express regret for undermining the legitimate authority of the religion and philosophy and religion department as we deal with students in the classroom, their parents, and a host of other constituents
2. You need to promise that you will never engage in this type of unchristian and uncharitable behavior in the future and while you may not agree with us on various topics, you must affirm us as we have often publicly affirmed you in our own classes.
The apology needs to meet the satisfaction of the members of the philosophy and religion department. I hope to hear from you soon on this.
I met with the professor later and offered to discuss the individual points of the ultimatum as I considered some response. He literally stopped me in mid sentence and said that he was not interested in criticizing individual points, but only in my public response to the entire document in terms of either a public apology or a refusal to apologize. I was later told that the entire Religion and Philosophy department has read and approved the ultimatum. No discussion of content would be tolerated. Given the serious nature of the threat I asked for a one week extension to prepare an appropriate response before a grievance was filed against me.
I did some soul searching and decided that I could not apologize for statements I had not made or for actions that were necessary given the history of repeated suppression of open discussion I had encountered at Greenville College. Nevertheless, I felt that I needed to respond in a timely manner in an attempt to prevent action against me. My response to the ultimatum featured a brief summary and rejoinder written by a colleague, not by me. My colleague concluded:
My thoughts about the controversy: Jerry has received some praise for the content of his statement. He has also received some criticism of his delivery, and some personal attack--some expression of which was quite vicious.
I think that the best way to treat his statement is in the way he has asked: dialog. The attacks on his purported motives and character only distract from the issue he has raised. He raises very important matters, which concern us all. We gain nothing from putting down the person who criticizes how we educate young people. We progress best by debating the message, not by putting the messenger on trial.
On April 21st Dr. Longman angrily responded when I publicly responded to the demands of the Religion and Philosophy Department:
... it was both surprising and disturbing to receive a second e-mail just prior to Easter Break, sent by you again to all employees and students. You began this e-mail by describing it "as a matter of the utmost urgency" and expressing your concern "if formal charges are filed against me by one or more members of the religion department." You then distributed to the entire community a copy of the private letter that had been hand-delivered to you by Craig Boyd, head of the Philosophy/Religion Department. In fact, the "charges" to which you refer were not legal charges but his indicated intent to file an internal grievance (according to Faculty Handbook policy) if the conditions stated in his letter were not met
Dr. Longman continued:
... I have had many conversations with a variety of people (faculty, students and administrators) since your first e-mail was sent on March 19. Almost all of them feel that your method of communication (broad e-mail message) and the tone of your 12-page essay were not helpful to the "ends" you seek. I am placing a copy of this letter in your Personnel File with the request that you send no further broadcast (e-mail) communication beyond the faculty on this topic. I also suggest that you identify precisely what topics you would like to see discussed, then work within the appropriate channels for such conversations to occur (e.g., through the Sub-committee on Faculty Personnel, a Joy House discussion, Faculty Forum, etc.).
My Apology and Future "Dialogue"- Spring 2003The remainder of the semester was filled with meetings, charges and counter charges. I made suggestions for dialogue that were ignored. My evangelical colleagues and I came to the conclusion that the wide distribution of the Loss of Faith at Greenville College document was now an impediment to campus discussion of the important issues I had raised and that an apology from me for the broad distribution of my essay would open the door for the Campus wide discussion. Such an apology, I believed, would serve as a sign of my trust that the Administration and my Religion and Philosophy colleagues would participate in campus wide dialogue and allow us to solve our problems without recourse to off campus help and direction. Dr. Longman's letter certainly April 21st letter certainly left the impression that the Administration was opening up to the idea of genuine dialogue.
At the May 16, 2003 Faculty meeting I consequently apologized for the wide distribution of my paper without apologizing for the content of the paper. With only one "Nay" vote the Faculty voted to accept my apology. Dr. Karen Longman responded to my apology in her September 10th, 2003 memo, Opportunities to Continue the Dialogue:
GC Faculty - Those of you who attended the May 16, 2003 Faculty Meeting will recall Dr. Eichhoefer's apology to the faculty for the wide distribution of his March 19, 2003 e-mail. His apology was gracefully accepted. At that time, faculty also covenanted, "among ourselves to continue this discussion about spiritual formation and pedagogy".
The Dialogues - Fall 2003
The Fall 2003 "Dialogues" consisted of a Faculty Forum on Tuesday, October 21 to discuss the topic: "What are our desired "outcomes" in terms of spiritual maturity in the lives of GC graduates five and ten years after graduation -- both in terms of core beliefs and the way our graduates live out their faith?" A second opportunity would consist of:
a visit from the co-directors of the "Faithful Change" project (Dr. Art Nonneman and Gay Holcomb, both serving at Asbury College) to come to Greenville to help us understand more about the "stages of faith" research developed by Dr. James Fowler. On Thursday, November 13, we will be holding a Faculty Development Workshop in Studio A from 3:30 - 5:00 p.m. to provide background on Dr. Fowler's work and the role that his model plays in the Faithful Change project.
This session will provide an overview of Dr. Fowler's "stages of faith" model and pro vide opportunity to dialogue about some of tie questions that were being raised at GC last spring (e.g., Does Dr. Fowler's work suggest that "lower" stages are inferior? Should our goal be to help GC students mature to "higher" stages by the time they graduate? If so, how can or does that occur?).
The October 21st Faculty Forum lasted two hours. The President spent a significant portion of the time venting his anger against me. There were also a few good anecdotal stories of student faith development and a few interesting suggestions. There was no significant follow up. The November 13th Faithful Change presentation was much better and the ninety minute presentation was so good and I asked Dr. Nonneman to send me a copy of his PowerPoint presentation, which he later did.
What he said was so similar to my understanding that I could have used his notes to explain my concerns. The Administration showed its hand, however, when I was not invited to the Faculty meal and open discussion following the presentation. Unbeknownst to the Administration, however, an associate arranged a long breakfast meeting for me with the Asbury team the next morning where we covered a lot of ground and began a discussion that we continued via email. Let me put it this way - the Asbury College theological environment is not identical to that of Greenville College. I believe the Asbury College leadership is genuinely evangelical and was sensitive to the theological concerns that I raised quite independently of me. Karen Longman had previously circulated a letter from the Asbury team containing a harsh attack upon me. Neither the team nor I ever brought the letter up. It seemed strangely irrelevant once we started talking as colleagues. Unfortunately, my fruitful discussion with the Asbury team was not matched any continuing open discussion at Greenville College.
Encounter Over Student Satisfaction Inventory Data - Fall 2003
In order to highlight its SSI (Student Satisfaction Inventory) scores in Advising the College placed an entire SSI table on its website. I downloaded the table and found the following pieces of data, which I have reformatted to eliminate several empty columns:
[To view table, click here.]
Some of the columns contain negative numbers followed by little stars. Those numbers indicate "significance levels of .001" for data which suggest that Greenville College's scores in important spiritual identity areas are lower than the CCCU (Council of Christian Colleges and Universities) average. It appears that filling the missing columns with data will tell more of the same story. This appears to me to be powerful and significant data - the sort of thing that could lead to a significant faculty discussion. On December 4th 2003 I send a letter to my peers suggesting that we begin a serious discussion by considering this data. I first provided some background on the SSI survey:
The prestigious SSI is an exceptionally reliable tool for identifying college strengths and weaknesses. Greenville College uses it to measure student responses to the school. The SSI provides a comprehensive picture of how students, considered as consumers, rate Greenville College. It does this by comparing how much importance students attribute to areas of campus life to how students rate college performance in these same areas. It is a kind of super-sophisticated Consumer Reports for colleges. The SSI contains some CCCU questions specifically for Christian colleges. We can compare Greenville's results with those of other CCCU colleges.
The SSI let's us do two things. First, we can compare Greenville's actual performance with student values and expectations in specific areas. This tells us whether the college is what students were told to expect. Second, we can compare Greenville's student satisfaction scores with those of other Christian colleges. This tells us how good a job we are doing compared to other Christian colleges.
I then identified the questions I thought we needed to consider and explained my choices:
Five of the Christian college questions are of special interest:
#74: Being on campus contributes to my spiritual growth.
#75: My understanding of God is strengthened by class/campus.
#76: Fac/Admin/Staff help me process faith issues.
#78: Campus provides adequate opportunities for ministry.
#79: Spiritually campus is a good fit for me.
These questions cover most of the reasons parents and students have for choosing Christian colleges over secular ones. These address the issues that motivate donors to give money to Christian colleges. Given the data I have, if the SSI numbers are translated into grades, Greenville College gets mostly 'F's' and a few 'D's., These are consumer satisfaction scores, and they suggest that we would quickly go belly up if we relied on an informed knowledge of our actual Christian identity to recruit students.
I finished my discussion proposal with some relevant background and a few suggestions:
When Dr. ******* came to campus and addressed identity issues last year she referenced data which indicate that there is a radical mismatch between the theological identity of the college and that of incoming students. She pointed this out in no uncertain terms and suggested that we need either a new identity or new constituencies. She also revealed that the mismatch was greatest for minority students.
The data can easily be interpreted to show that we are theologically misrepresenting Greenville College to the students we are recruiting. This would have serious moral and spiritual implications for us. Such an interpretation would also make it impossible for us to say that we are disequilibrating students on the basis of their informed consent. I suggest that we get an updated copy of the SSI results and have an adult conversation. What do you think? What other data should we look at as well?
Dr. Longman responded to my letter arguing that I had not made my case. She also made some positive suggestions and I responded to her letter:Dr. Longman has generously offered to give us "the opportunity to hear from individuals who have access to relevant data and can help us accurately interpret it." She even says that we can help formulate the questions these experts will attempt to answer. This is wonderful and we should take full advantage of these opportunities. We will, however, need more than predigested data if we as a faculty are going to be full participants in this discussion. Many of us have considerable statistical sophistication along with our unique insights and perspectives. We need access to the actual complete SSI spreadsheets [not just CCCU questions] and supporting documentation for each of the years the survey had CCCU questions. The spreadsheets need to be in electronic format so that we can play with the data and produce our own graphs and correlations. The details of the changes in administration of the survey are also important. The survey used to be given in Chapel and now it is given in selected classes. Which classes and why? Why did we stop using Chapel?
As many readers with statistical training will have already picked up, I said some things that I should not have said in my letters. For example, I equated Greenville's scores with D's and F's, which is overly simplistic. Furthermore, I said "The data can easily be interpreted to show that we are theologically misrepresenting Greenville College to the students we are recruiting." That was a tremendous conceptual leap that I did not justify - it was my first intuitive reading of the data, not a conclusion that could easily be proved. I made other worse mistakes.
A faculty colleague took me to task and wrote a response concluding:I am not saying we shouldn't track our SSI results or that we should summarily dismiss them. Rather, I am trying to counter the notion that examining a few individual SSI items, over a limited period of time, with limited knowledge of the representativeness of the samples, and uncertainty about using the overall CCCU mean as a benchmark is a legitimate means for concluding that we have bad news on our hands regarding our "theological identity." The promulgation of such a preposterous notion needs to be seriously reconsidered.I thoroughly agree with this conclusion and never intended for my comments and metaphors to stand as conclusions of statistical inferences even though I now see why they were interpreted as such. Live and learn! I actually suggested that the format of the faculty discussions include presentations of position papers by our faculty statistical experts with responses and follow up sessions.
My colleague's criticism of my proposal looked like it was at last going to lead to a serious faculty discussion since both I and my chief critic agreed upon the necessary high standards for discussion. The Mannoia Administration instead changed the policy regarding all SSI data denying access to faculty members even though they had had access in the past. A workshop for the faculty with an outside expert to discuss our data was quietly cancelled.
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(For the rest of the story--Jerry's Loss of Christian Faith at Greenville College paper, as well as an account of what happened after Jerry released these papers--read this. Also, here's the latest copy of Gerald Eichhoefer's C.V. Download file)
Dr. Jerry Eichhoefer
Greenville, IL 62246