(Tim) Back in 1993, I wrote an article on a conflict over the policy of Westminster School in Atlanta that required board members of this private Christian school to be confessing Christians. The New York Times had done an article on the controversy and I took the piece as a jumping-off point to say a few things about home, public, and Christian schools. Since then, Mary Lee and I have educated our five children (as well as several other children who lived with us through the years) in each of those ways--home, public, and Christian school. This is the final year we have a child at home and Taylor, our youngest, is finishing high school at the school my wife Mary Lee, with a couple others, founded and served as principal--Lighthouse Christian Academy.
It's been years since we've had a child at LCA. When it put up a building, we watched its former commitments decline. It seemed bent on becoming the sort of Christian school that, from the beginning, we'd worked hard to avoid. But this is the ho-hum way of all institutions, Christian or otherwise, and there have been some encouraging changes at LCA the past couple of years--hence Taylor's presence there this year.
But as I point out in the article below, the best antidote to school decline is the founding of a new school. It worked with Yale as a reform of Harvard, Princeton as a reform of Yale, and it's still working with schools like New St. Andrews being a reform of Wheaton, Westmont, Gordon, and Covenant.
Tired and timid souls always laugh at the upstarts...
When Dad and Mud joined a small group to found Philadelphia's Delaware County Christian School back in the 1950s, it too was a laughable thing. (Pic at right is DCCS's front door. Speaking of the fear of the Lord, you can tell the plaque is old. I remember it from my childhood although I took this pic this summer.)
When the Log College was started by Pastor William Tennent, Presbyterian muckety-mucks laughed at it, dissing it by naming it Tennent's "Log College." It was 20x20 and made of logs. It's safe to say no one knew the capital it would bring to Princeton a few years later. (Of course, all the web pages are quite eager to deny the Log College had anything but the most limited influence over Princeton's founding, but why are they so very intent on making this point? Methinks these ladies do protest too much. But I digress...)
Today, some laugh at Toledo's Reformed Evangelical Pastors College and Bloomington's ClearNote Pastors College (run cursor over pic on first page to see 2010 grads). We've had about fifteen graduates, now, and here at ClearNote we hope to matriculate at least five men this coming year. But hey, time will tell how God sees these works.
Meanwhile, emulating Doug Wilson in this as so much else, we're not sitting still. Several men this year have brought to fruition the work of the past three years founding a school that meets here in Church of the Good Shepherd called Bloomington Christian Schoolhouse. At this point it's a one-room classroom that meets two days of the week led by Schoolmaster Andrew Henry and two women who assist Andrew. BCS at this point is a cooperative venture strengthening the homeschooling ventures of each family the other three days of the week. It serves eleven children of a variety of ages and we're all looking forward to seeing what God does with this work, too.
Further, men of our church are investigating the possibility of founding something like New St. Andrews here in Bloomington. And we can't say this work is humble because it hasn't even started yet.
But think about it: Christ the Word, Church of the Good Shepherd, and ClearNote Church of Indy have been planted and, following years of hard work, sacrifice, and prayer, combined have three congregations united in corporate worship each week. We have two pastors colleges that have now seen three men ordained in ClearNote Fellowship, Great Lake Presbytery, and another small Reformed denomination, with another five or so pursuing ordination, currently. We've planted one church and will soon be working on others. We have college ministries led by men on the campuses of Toledo and Indiana University with seventy-five students attending each week. CGS here in Bloomington has a new building and Christ the Word just put in the foundation for its new building this past week.
All of this has been done by God in the past fourteen (CGS) and nine (CTW) years.
So, dear brothers and sisters, live by faith. Vow a marriage. Make love and be fruitful. Plant a tree. Plant a church. Plant a Christian school. Plant a college. Plant a seminary. Pray and give and work; be fruitful and sit back and watch God add His blessing. He is so very, very good.
Now, back to that article I wrote in 1993.
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To Teach Our Children Well
Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness... (2 Timothy 3:12-16)
The National Edition of The New York Times carried a half-page article reporting on a siege laid recently against the prestigious Westminster School of Atlanta by an eclectic assortment of comrades-at-arms. Some in the Atlanta community have been joined by schools such as Harvard, Duke, and Georgetown to bring pressure on Westminster. The issue? Westminster, a nondenominational Christian prep school headed for many years by Donn Gaebelein, son of Stony Brook’s founder and evangelical luminary, the late Frank Gaebelein, requires its teachers and trustees to be Christians.
As the Times sums up the argument, “No one questions Westminster’s right to hire only Christians. But the dispute is generated by the issues of whether the policy is a form of discrimination and whether it will reduce diversity among students and teachers, which could work against academic excellence.”
The actual “form of discrimination” to be guarded against here is not on the part of Westminster; it’s on the part of institutions such as Harvard and Duke who, in correspondence with Westminster, have made only thinly-veiled threats against Westminster’s graduates raising for them and their parents the specter of lowered chances for admission to the nation’s premier research institutions. As Harvard put it in a letter, Westminster’s students might not have the “ability to thrive in a school situation in which diversity and complexity are valued.”
Here Harvard and Duke display publicly an intolerance of Christian academic institutions which have as their mission to inculcate Christian truths and commitments in children, most especially through the hiring of teachers who themselves embody the life and witness of Jesus Christ, God’s Word of Truth.
Representative of the group opposing the embattled policy is Pat Finley, father of one of Westminster’s graduates, who complains, “Einstein couldn’t have taught math there; Jesus couldn’t have taught there. For them to take this ridiculous medieval attitude is inconceivable in this day and age.”
Theoretically the Times ran the story because of its newsworthiness. But buried in the story was the acknowledgment that Jack Harrison, a Westminster trustee who resigned over the policy, is president of the New York Times Regional Newspaper Group in Atlanta.
The line between editorials and news draws ever more faint in the press. It might be helpful for the Times and other newspapers to follow television’s model of combining ‘documentary’ and ‘drama’ into ‘docudrama,’ by implementing a new category of story combining ‘analysis’ and ‘news’ called ‘analynews.’
Analynews could provide editors the freedom to address readers directly rather than having to search for the woman on the street to make a statement. If there happened to be someone like Mr. Finley at the scene prepared to say what, in the Times’ estimation, needed to be said, so much the better. But in cases where there was no Mr. Finley the Times would be free to give someone like Mr. Harrison direct access to their readers. The efficiencies of time and effort would be great. Think also of the immediate increase in sophistication enlightened arguments would demonstrate when editors, publishers, writers, or presidents of news groups were free to address their readers directly, and without having to use the rather limited space of the Op-Ed page.
But getting back to the matter at hand, for the life of me I can’t figure out where Christians are supposed to go for the education of their children, unless they’re simply to take them back home?
For a week and a half, recently, the Times ran stories on the battle over Children of the Rainbow, a new diversity curriculum being implemented in New York City’s public schools starting at elementary school level. The battle pitted parents against professional educators and got quite nasty when City Schools Chancellor Joseph Fernandez suspended a Queens’ school board because of their refusal to allow the curriculum to be taught to their children. As the Times reported it, the suspended board objected to professional educators “forcing views on homosexuality on the district under the guise of multicultural education (which are an) endorsement of sodomy.”
After clucking disapproval of the “obstinate Queens school board members who have refused to teach tolerance” the Times provided its readers helpful information about the recalcitrant neighborhood under the headline, “New York School Fight Highlights Role of Catholic Church.”
So it seems it’s come to this: if Christians send their children to schools that live off their taxes, they must allow those children to be taught that sodomy is natural and sodomites are “Nice people just like Mummy and Daddy.” But if they decide to exercise their “right” to pay for their children’s education twice by starting a private Christian school, they’ll face a public war to destroy the school’s spiritual integrity, and thereby, its reason to exist.
It reminds me of an observation made by C.S. Lewis in his address, Membership: “In our own age the idea that religion belongs to our private life... is dangerous. (W)hen the modern world says to us aloud, ‘You may be religious when you are alone,’ it adds under its breath, ‘and I will see to it that you never are alone.’ To make Christianity a private affair while banishing all privacy is to relegate it to the rainbow’s end or the Greek Calends.... Like a good chess player (the enemy) is always trying to maneuver you into a position where you can save your castle only by losing your bishop.”
Let’s hope and pray that the men of Westminster have guts. But then again, as with Harvard and Yale and Princeton, maybe it’s time for Christians to let go of past success and start over? Maybe Jesus Christ would be better served by Christians abandoning the money and status their fathers’ and mothers’ labor produced and, unfettered by this world’s wealth, start over again.
Shortly before his untimely death in 1758, Jonathan Edwards accepted the presidency of Princeton, a school founded to restore to the academic venture the evangelical vigor and faith its predecessors, Harvard and Yale, had only recently left behind.