Cornerstone University is reviewing its Personnel Lifestyle Statement. The point of the review is to assure the university is positioned to fulfill its mission “to enable individuals to apply unchanging biblical principles in a rapidly changing world.”
In fall, 2004, I appointed a Personnel Lifestyle Statement Team comprised of five faculty and staff members, charging this team with reviewing the statement and recommending possible revisions in wording that would ground the statement in the university’s biblical worldview philosophy. This Team has modeled spiritual maturity, provided theological, philosophic, practical, and experiential insight, and conducted its work with the highest standards of professionalism.
The Team (with the input of colleagues provided electronically or in open forums) has taken four slightly disjunctive current statements (the discovery that the university was working with four existing similar-but-not-identical statements is reason enough to develop one new statement) and used them as a starting point to craft a new, beautifully written draft. The new draft calls upon each university trustee and employee to live a life of personal holiness and Christian cultural contribution to the glory of God.
In January, 2006, the Team discussed the new lifestyle statement draft with the university’s Board of Trustees. No vote on the draft was solicited or balloted at that time. The Team is now moving to the next step in its very thorough process.
Throughout spring, 2006, the Team will lead university personnel in evaluating the current policy listing three historic prohibitions: use of alcohol or tobacco and participation in gambling. These prohibitions are being reviewed for several reasons:
a) To determine whether the mission of the university requires additional agreed upon limits to employee Christian liberty;
b) To determine whether these prohibitions should be maintained but placed within personnel handbooks rather than the lifestyle statement—and if they are maintained to develop current rationale for the importance of such prohibitions;
c) To determine whether these prohibitions should be discontinued.
Once this review is complete, the Team will make its recommendations to the president and I in turn will report to the Board of Trustees. The current review is a conversation. Whether the Board of Trustees will ultimately add, alter, or discontinue these policies is still an open question. The university is genuinely seeking to understand what is best for its mission.
For all of its 65 year existence, the university has asked trustees and faculty and staff members to sign the school’s doctrinal statement (since 1999 called “The Cornerstone Confession”) and to agree to abide by a lifestyle statement listing community covenants wherein individuals agreed to abstain from certain behaviors. Trustees and professors have always signed the doctrinal statement annually, while staff members signed it at the point of hiring. In the past few years, staff members have also signed doctrinal statement annually. This university practice of annually reaffirming commitment to “The Cornerstone Confession” will continue.
While I do not think that use of alcohol or tobacco in moderation is intrinsically evil, in other words a sin, I do believe these commodities are dangerous to many and deadly for some. I am also on record via my book, Gambling: Don’t Bet On It, contending that gambling violates at least five doctrines of Scripture and is, thus, intrinsically evil. Not every Christian agrees with my perspective of alcohol/tobacco or of gambling.
I also believe that it is entirely appropriate for a Christian institution of higher learning to determine what “preferences” it wishes to embrace as organizational policy—beyond its doctrinal convictions. Historically, such preferences have run the gamut of virtually every conceivable issue from length of hair to music styles to movies to art to dance to fashions, and on and on. While institutions can act prudishly or legalistically in applying their preferences, the mere existence of such preferences does not ipso facto mean an institution is acting improperly. Institutions that establish preferences can simply be distinctive, and this can be a very good thing.
The same may be said for those Christian institutions of higher learning that have jettisoned certain preferences. This act is not in itself a signal the university is losing its faith. It may simply mean the university is being a careful steward of its responsibility to help students understand how to live “In the World” while being “Not of the World,” even as it encourages students to go “Into the World” as Christ’s ambassadors.
If you wish to read more on this subject, see my book, Christian Liberty: Living for God in a Changing Culture. God gave us a limited but very important short-list of moral absolutes, any of which we ignore at our peril. Beyond these few moral absolutes, God gave us the doctrine of Christian liberty.
**No changes in the university’s student policies on these matters (i.e., No use of alcohol or tobacco; no participation in gambling) and no change in campus or university event practices (i.e., Alcohol and tobacco-free and gambling-free) are being considered.
© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006
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