Editor's note: This is a response to a letter to the editor that ran in the April 13 edition of The Pendulum.
It is always good to see alumni invested in campus religious life. In this spirit, and in response to the letter published on 4/13/16 from alumni, I would like to clarify information about Elon’s religious and spiritual life.
Elon’s chaplain's office seeks to support the spiritual lives of all members of the Elon community, including Christians from a wide range of denominations and theological backgrounds. To support our Christian students, faculty and staff, we have an associate chaplain for Protestant life to oversee and raise the visibility of Christian ministries, a Christian life section on our website, a Christian Life Facebook page and a weekly Christian Life newsletter to inform the community about the many Christian events on campus.
The purpose of these efforts is to encourage more collaboration among all our Christian groups and to make it easier for Christians to get connected with a meaningful fellowship and a faith community.
The university is pleased to host 12 active Christian groups, supported by three Christian chaplains including a Catholic chaplain and 13 staff affiliates. Eight of the staff affiliates represent evangelical traditions.
Every week, we have over 25 Bible studies meetings across campus in residence halls, fraternity and sorority houses, the Numen Lumen Pavilion, and other campus spaces. There are nine regularly occurring opportunities for Christian worship on campus. And all of our recognized Christian student groups have the same access to meeting spaces, student government funds and flyer postings (paper and digital) as any other student organization on campus.
We take seriously the experience of students. Every spring, we survey Christian-identified students to understand their experience on campus and ways we can better support Christians spiritually. Overall, the responses have been very positive. Last year, 79% responded that Christians are "definitely" or "mostly" welcomed and supported at Elon.
Based on this feedback, we have also developed programs to help new students connect with Christian groups, including a reception for Christian students and families on Move-In Day and a combined Christian Praise Worship with introductions from student leaders from all our Christian groups. These last two events were included in the official orientation schedule for all new students and their parents.
There is a policy for off-campus organizations and houses of prayer to distribute materials on campus in a way that does not disrupt the traffic patterns or pressure students who do not want these materials.
We certainly want to hear from any student who does not feel supported or welcomed on campus. We will do our best as chaplains to address their concerns and to help them find meaningful spiritual community on campus. We also want to hear when things are going well.
It is also true that we make every effort to understand Christian belief and practice as inherently diverse, in the context of the larger world of other religious practice, as well as among those who have no faith.
In the same issue of the Pendulum as the alumni’s letter, there were four other articles about religion on campus — Elon’s religious affiliation, Islamophobia, faith and athletics and a spread of photographs from the Holi celebration of color. The campus is buzzing with dialogue about the place of faith: we love this and want all members to be included in the discussions, to deepen their understanding of, and commitment to, their chosen religious path as well as an understanding of the religious world we share together.
The religious studies faculty members who teach Biblical texts are committed to engaging them thoughtfully. Biblical courses are offered regularly and are very popular. Courses offered include a section of "Introduction to the New Testament" every year, a Hebrew Bible/Old Testament course annually and a course in Christian traditions.
Ten sections of the very popular course “Religion in a Global Context” are taught each semester so that approximately 600 students take this course each academic year. All religious studies courses count toward the graduation requirements under the Civilization category. Since each student must take two Civilization courses for graduation, it is very difficult at Elon to graduate without taking a religious studies course and having to think about the larger implications of faith commitments.
We want the campus to know that we value all our student, faculty, and staff perspectives. If you have concerns, we want to hear them. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your voice is important to me.
Chaplain Jan Fuller