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 Decision Draws Criticism

Hoya Staff Writer Friday, September 1, 2006

Dozens of students circulated petitions in Red Square on Wednesday criticizing the university’s recent decision to bar six Protestant ministries from campus, following a week of extensive media coverage and complaints from alumni and students. embers from three of the organizations manned tables and distributed letters declaring the expulsion of the groups, known as affiliated ministries, “inconsistent with the very ideals that Georgetown seeks to uphold.”The decision has brought a lot of us together. . Now we’re teamed up, we’re organizing together, we have a lot of coordinating toward the same goal,” said Javier Garcia (COL ’09), a member of the Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship who helped distribute petitions. “Everybody has been agreeing that this decision has been out of the ordinary. . To them it seems like it’s contradicting religious freedoms.” Administrators have faced a torrent of criticism from alumni and students – along with several days of unwanted media attention – since the eviction of the groups was first reported late last week. The Washington Post and The Washington Times have covered the story, which has also been featured in The Chronicle of Higher Education and several online Web logs. The affiliated ministries were groups run by outside organizations such as local churches and national evangelical groups that were allowed to preach and hold events on campus thanks to now-defunct agreements with the Office of Campus inistry. The approximately 300 student members of the affiliated groups, including InterVarsity, Crossroad Christian Fellowship and Chi Alpha, have stepped up their public awareness efforts in recent days, holding meetings to discuss ways to spread their message and planning a group prayer service in Red Square this evening. Campus inistry officials, meanwhile, have repeatedly assured students and alumni that the new policies are meant to bolster the university’s Protestant ministry within campus and make it less dependent on outside groups. Critics have accused Georgetown, which is Catholic, of quashing religious freedom by limiting the number of groups Protestant students may join. Fr. Timothy Godfrey, S.J., director of campus ministry, defended the decision to expel the groups during an interview yesterday, saying the move would help to create a more unified Protestant ministry on campus. “I don’t think we knew it was going to happen, in terms of the extent, [but] it doesn’t totally surprise me,” Godfrey said of the media coverage the dispute has received over the past week. “The interaction with the different affiliated ministries had been going over several years. This didn’t happen just now. It was something that had continued to be problematic.” Godfrey said that the new policies, which prevent the affiliated groups from using campus facilities or attending annual open house functions, did not mean that the ministries would be removed from campus, since students could still invite the groups back. Normal university procedures permit student groups to invite outside speakers and events to campus. “No one has said these students can’t participate in these groups,” Godfrey said. “The associated ministries are not barred from campus, because students have the right to gather, bring people in, in classroom space.” Godfrey also emphasized that he would continue to hold meetings and discussions with students and religious leaders in the hopes of creating a better structure for the university’s Protestant community. Matt Bjonerud (MSB ’07), an InterVarsity leader who helped coordinate the petition drive yesterday, said that the affiliated groups had banded together to help raise the visibility of their situation. Overall, the petition drive compiled about 400 signatures. “All of the groups that have been kicked off have been in communication with each other,” Bjonerud said. “We are here to simply let people know that we still see ourselves as a large component of the Georgetown community.” Like most of the groups, InterVarsity has not yet agreed on a long-term plan for its future. Bjonerud said members were still unsure whether they would continue to meet with their normal ministers off campus or begin inviting them to campus as a regular student-led group. “We’re respecting their decision,” he said. “We are going through options about what we’re going to do. . We haven’t decided that.” Oakes said that the group had consulted a lawyer, although it had no plans to file suit against the university. He said that InterVarsity’s efforts to press for reconciliation with the university this week have been slowed by administrators’ unwillingness to discuss the situation. “The impression I’ve got from administrators has not been open. . It’s in a very bureaucratic process,” Oakes said. “Honestly, we haven’t gotten any response from the university. And if they continue to hold off I think we will become more active in trying to get our voice heard.” In an interview with campus press on Wednesday, University President John J. DeGioia said that Campus Ministry had been attentive to the ministries’ concerns in rendering their decision. I think . that they are aware of the types of concerns that have been addressed and raised over the course of these last few days,” DeGioia said. Other affiliate organizations say they are being realistic in their plans, though they have been buoyed by the widespread media coverage and alumni support they have witnessed over the past several days. “We felt that the university wasn’t taking us seriously [last week],” Chi Alpha co-leader Jay Lim (COL ’07) said. “It’s looking better than a week ago, but we feel it’s our responsibility . to prepare for the worst, but hope, pray and work for the best.”

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