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

Campus Ministry Removes Affiliates

Hoya Staff Writer Friday, August 25, 2006

Citing a desire to centralize the administration of Protestant campus ministry groups, Georgetown abruptly severed its ties with all of its affiliated ministry organizations last week, barring several long-established religious groups from campus. The move will not affect organizations composed solely of students, but it will prevent many ministry groups run or directed by outsider groups, like local churches, from conducting any activities on campus. Such groups include InterVarsity, the Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship and Crossroad Campus Christian Fellowship. “As a result of our new direction for the upcoming academic year, we have decided to not renew any covenant agreements with any of the Affiliated Ministries,” Rev. Constance C. Wheeler, a university Protestant chaplain, said in a letter to affiliated officers dated Aug. 14. “While we realize this comes as a great disappointment, please know we are moving forward with this decision only after much dialogue with the Lord.” The decision came as a surprise to many student and adult members of the affiliated groups, who defended their organizations as important members of the university’s educational and religious mission. Chi Alpha co-leader Jay Lim (COL ’07) said that he was shocked by the decision and characterized the university’s stance as too rigid. “The manner in which they pursued this was that they weren’t going to allow any other voices other than their own,” Lim said. “It’s not just what they did, it’s the manner in which they pursued [it].” The new policy barring ministry affiliates was announced during a brief meeting that administrators held with the groups last Thursday. According to several affiliate members who attended the meeting, administrators announced the exclusion of the groups without permitting any discussion or feedback. Hannah Coyne (COL ’07), another Chi Alpha co-leader, called the move “incredibly unprofessional and incredibly disrespectful to the students at Georgetown.”We found our home here,” Coyne said. “I know some students who may not even have come back this year if they had not been part of this group and felt support and love.” Officials in the offices of Fr. Philip Boroughs, S.J., vice president for mission and ministry, and Fr. Timothy Godfrey, S.J., director of campus ministry, referred questions to the Office of Communications. Phone calls yesterday afternoon to Rev. Wheeler, who wrote the letter informing the groups of the new policies, were not returned. University spokesman Erik Smulson said that the decision to sever ties with the affiliate groups was part of a broad restructuring effort in the Office of Campus Ministry, which has altered its organizational structure in the hopes of creating a strong Protestant ministry within the campus. Many of the organizations affected by the new policy are Protestant. “With this restructuring has come a desire in the Protestant Chaplaincy to build the ministry from within Georgetown and its Protestant student leaders rather than rely on outside groups or fellowships,” Smulson said. “Hopefully this restructuring of the Chaplaincy will provide a more consistent and focused effort to work with the Protestant students to ensure that their spiritual needs are being met.” InterVarsity member Joyce Gray (SFS ’07) said the group had an informal meeting Wednesday to plan how to respond to the university’s decision. Members were initially discouraged but will try to find ways to continue their mission on campus, she said. “It was definitely one of those moments where your mouth drops to the floor,” Gray said. “I was on InterVarsity leadership last year, and we had already started talking about our vision for the 2006-2007 academic year, including plans to reach out to the Georgetown community, to form a more supportive network of Christians . as well as be more involved in service projects in D.C.” Other InterVarsity officials said the group had decided to move all of its activities off campus in order to comply with the new policies. Some adult leaders and coordinators whose groups were affected by the policy shift have also expressed doubts about the plan. Tim Ratp, an adult leader of the Crossroad Campus Christian Fellowship based at Agape Mission Church in Elkridge, d., said that while he respected the university’s decision, he was disappointed by the move. “They sat us down and gave us a letter that was already signed,” Ratp said of the Thursday meeting with administrators. The administrators’ “rationale was, [they] have no idea what we’re doing, and therefore [they don’t] want us on the campus.” University officials refused a request that they attend some of the affiliates’ meetings in order to learn more about their activities, Ratp said. He said his relationship with the university had been difficult since assuming leadership of the group for the fall, but he said he was willing to work with the university to find a compromise if it was willing. “We had a difficult time trying to get to know them and understand them,” he said of the Campus Ministry administration. “We thought they were just busy, but we found out from other groups that they were just like that.” The conflict has already prompted some complaints and letters to high-ranking administrators. Alyson Thoner (COL ’05), who participated in the affiliate programs as a student and wrote a letter to Boroughs and University President John J. DeGioia protesting the recent decision, said that the university faced a possible “backlash” from alumni and students. “A lot of us alumni are kind of worked up about it. . We’re all sort of miffed,” Thoner said, adding that the university’s own Protestant ministry fails to “encompass the full range of the diversity of the Protestant faith at Georgetown.” In any event, students and leaders across the religious spectrum expressed confidence that, even with the new policies, they would be able to continue their individual methods of worship either on- or off-campus. “This is our community of faith,” Coyne, the Chi Alpha co-leader, said. “We’re still a community, whether we have a title or not.”

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