A Radical Suggestion for Christian Educational Institutions
During my forty years teaching religious studies and theology at four universities, three of them specifically Christian, I have been much involved with accreditation. If you are not familiar with “accreditation” I will briefly explain here.
A college, university, professional school in the United States normally seeks and acquires accreditation from at least one leading accrediting society or association. These are not government entities, but normally they are influenced by the U.S. Department of Education. The purpose of accreditation by one of these associations or societies is twofold: 1) so that graduates can go on for higher education, degrees beyond the one they acquired at the institution, and 2) so that students can get subsidized financial aid and professors can get grants from major foundations and the government. Not having accreditation can hurt an institution of higher education and its students.
Over the years I have been intimately involved with accreditation of institutions I have taught at four times, serving on the accreditation committees seeking initial accreditation or renewal of accreditation. I have found these experience the most frustrating of all experiences in my professional career as a university professor.
In brief, some accrediting associations and societies are becoming increasingly intrusive, imposing their own agendas on the institutions they do or won’t accredit. Almost all of the accreditation societies and associations, at least the ones I have worked with, CLAIM that their job is not to govern the institutions but to make sure they do what they say they do.
That is, in my experience, no longer the case. My last experience on an accreditation committee, seeking renewal of accreditation, was the worst. In fact, it left emotional scars in me. It made me so angry.
Our institution’s initial accreditation went extremely well. In fact, the site visitation team from the accreditation society finished by saying our seminary was “a work of God.” Ten years later, the same seminary accrediting society seemed to me to come to us hostile (different site visitation team). Some of us faculty members were subjected to harsh lecturing and even brow-beating for not having in place “strategic plans” I was never told we needed to have.
The Bible asks what has light to do with darkness? One seminary accrediting association is made up of seminaries of all kinds.
I concluded after that harsh experience that the time has come for real Christian institutions of higher education in America to form their own accreditation society or association. Perhaps one could be based on the already existing “International Council for Evangelical Theological Education” which accredits one thousand schools in 113 countries. There is also the Association for Biblical Higher Education.
I see the day fast approaching when institutions of higher education that take their Christianity seriously will have to leave the older, traditional, pluralistic accrediting societies and associations or else compromise their Christian principles. Secularism and liberal theology are poisonous to Christian higher education. We evangelical (and other) Christian institutions of higher education need to depart from organizations that have the ability and desire to force us into their own mold.
If you are at all interested in Christian higher education in America, you need to familiarize yourself with the phenomenon of accreditation—who accredit, how they accredit, what they require for accreditation, etc. And especially, if possible, what expectations they have that might conflict with the Christian identity of your institutions of higher education.
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