This is my second of a number of posts I will draft which focuses on how Christian schools should rethink Christian education. Part one can be found here. This post looks at the hiring of faculty members beyond a school’s denomination. In Richard Riesen’s “Piety and Philosophy,” he notes that a Christian school should demonstrate the spiritual elements that define its mission, but warns that a school cannot be a church. It is this point that has long bothered me about a number of Christian schools, particularly those that only hire faculty members who share their particular denominational beliefs. Church of Christ and Baptist schools tend to be the worse regarding this.
When a school takes on this particular function, they are limiting students’ exposure to unique and diverse ideas. Furthermore, such a policy forces a school to resemble a church and not a school. Historically speaking, there has always been a conflict of interest between schools and church doctrines. Hence, this is why a number of universities such as a Wake Forest have severed ties with religious associations. Having attended Harding University, I have publicly desired that it would consider divorcing itself from the Churches of Christ in a way that Pepperdine University has. There is an inherent conflict with certain intellectual ideals needed to be espoused by schools which are at odd with a church. When faculty members bring “church” thinking into a school, there is a tendency to promote a worship like spirit in a school that limits the depth of discourse shared between teachers and students. Schools should commit to being a school. Spiritual components are good things regarding the intellectual growth of students, but when the spiritual takes the shape of a church, academic discourse becomes threatened. Thus, this question remains: How independent is a Christian school under the auspices of being an independent school? Christian schools really become a parochial school guided by denominational tendencies.
In my hometown of Montgomery, Alabama, East memorial Christian which is located just North of the city fired its highly successful football coach because his family did not attend the right denominational church, as noted here:
Scott Phillips turned around the athletic program at East Memorial Christian Academy, including winning a state football title. But when he took on the athletic director’s job at the Montgomery, Ala., school, he was obliged to “transition” to the school’s affiliated Baptist church. His family tried the charade for a year, attending Sunday services and then dashing to their preferred worship at Church of the Highlands. “I told them I missed my old church,” he said. “It wasn’t received well.” When the school wouldn’t bend, Phillips reluctantly resigned, and was unable to salvage even a coaching job. “I thought I did enough to prove I didn’t have to be a member to do my job effectively,” he said (source)