Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Ministry Misguided

Friday, September 1, 2006

The Georgetown administration’s recent decision to strictly prohibit affiliated ministries from operating on campus has precipitated a firestorm of criticism from both inside and outside the university community. Hundreds of Hoyas who count themselves as members of these ministries, which include national organizations such as Chi Alpha and the InterVarsity Christian fellowship, suddenly find their organizations banned from campus. The university’s response thus far has been tight-lipped and brusque. In a letter sent to the ministries on Aug. 14, 2006, the only explanation given for the decision was that Campus Ministry was seeking to head in a “new direction for the upcoming academic year.” Georgetown’s administration has certainly made efforts of late to increase the presence of the on-campus Protestant ministry program including hiring full-time and part-time chaplains and a program coordinator to replace three part-time chaplains. And while the administration’s ultimate goal of strengthening and consolidating its on-campus Protestant inistry is admirable, the means by which it is attempting to achieve this goal – namely by silencing outside voices – is deplorable. As a private institution, Georgetown is certainly within its rights to take such actions, but it is regrettable that the university has taken this step. One monolithic Protestant ministry, no matter how well-staffed, will inevitably be ill-equipped to fill the many religious niches previously filled by off-campus ministries. Inviting the leaders of off-campus ministries to integrate with the university – or at the very least to offer their insight into how a reformed on-campus ministry could be structured – would be a much more productive and fairer course of action for the university to take. This would allow for the groups to be brought under the oversight of Campus inistry and for the most important elements of the affiliated groups to carry over into a campus-based ministry. And while the administration has repeatedly declared that its goal in banning these groups is to allow protestant ministries to flourish on-campus rather than to simply control them, our community must ask itself if the administration be trusted to hold true to this commitment. In April of 1999, former University Chaplain Adam Bunnell eliminated Campus Ministry’s two full-time chaplain positions, citing budget constraints. Will such constraints occur in the future, and if so, will on-campus ministries be affected again? Such questions are worth considering in the light of the recent ban of affiliated ministries. Already, student members of the banned groups have begun their campaigns to reverse the university’s decision. Letter-writing campaigns, flyer campaigns and petitioning in Red Square are well under way, and a prayer service in Red Square is scheduled to take place today. The university’s very abrupt pronouncement – which came without consultation of the affiliated groups – raises questions about the true nature of the administration’s aims. A fair judgment on the fate of off-campus ministries at Georgetown demands a thorough consideration of their roles and actions on-campus, as well as their contribution to students’ well-being. Anything less is a disservice to the diverse religious and intellectual discourse on which Georgetown University prides itself.

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