We talked about the importance of avoiding a common practice of Bible "verse hunting" where we look for specific verses to attach to our practices and instead asked that we consider the entire story of the Bible and align our work with it. The danger with verse hunting is that we often do not articulate the contexts within which those verses emanate and can often limit their meaning or even provide opportunities for others that contradict them. Similarly, it is not enough to start class with prayer if we do not use a Biblical perspective to look at and even critique our disciplines or course content. We do not want to treat faith like a neighbor to our disciplines in which case as one participant asked "if we removed those neighbors (the prayer before class or verses at the beginning of the syllabus) how would the rest of the course and its content be different from a similar availed in a non-Christian institution?" In response to this very important question we discussed the need to have a "sociology of our disciplines"-the critical analyses of the history and assumptions of the disciplines since they are culturally constructed. Disciplines are ways of seeing and analyzing the world (they do not create it) and are shaped by certain questions that were and have been asked by specific people located in specific places at specific time periods.
So what makes a university Christian? It is its ability to faithfully address these issues along with its hiring and training practices, focus on faith formation inside and outside of the classroom, the continuous focus on disciplines as tools that are shaped for the specific purposes of revealing/analyzing/affirming the created world, and offering leadership that seeks to glorify God by deeply loving His created world. In a phrase it is "faith-shaped learning and service."
As all 27 of us shook hands and hugged on the last day, we went back to our institutions refreshed and with some suggestions to share with our leaders and colleagues as well as our own individual action plans that we will "test out" in the coming semester(s) and report back to the same team when we meet again in early May 2014.
For me it was such a privilege to spend such focused time with colleagues interested in similar issues in higher education and to learn of all the great work they are undertaking despite the challenges. I am looking forward to staying in touch and then regathering in May 2014.