by Scott Ely ’18 and Molly Richmond ’18
As the former co-presidents of Harvard College Faith and Action, the ministry resourced by Christian Union on Harvard’s campus, we write first to thank you for all of your prayers over the years and especially in this most recent season of tension on Harvard’s campus. Throughout the past year, we have been amazed by God’s faithfulness, touched by the extraordinary students who take part in our ministry, and challenged to seek out what faithful, Gospel-centered ministry looks like at a pluralistic university.
In our roles, we saw our community embroiled in several controversies: about theology and sexuality, about what counts as a disputable matter, and about the place and role of Christians on an elite college campus. These conversations were often very difficult and deeply personal and emotional. We held what unintentionally became a controversial large group meeting; the University responded to that event and our leadership standards by creating a new category of “administrative probation.” Even in this confusing time, we sought to reflect the Gospel of Jesus Christ as best as we could. Our primary goal, in the past few months and even now, is that Christ and the Gospel would increasingly be exalted on Harvard’s campus.
As we have transitioned out of our leadership roles, we want to share a little more about our experience. We are concerned about the place and future of religious groups at elite universities. Over the past decade, many of you have seen similar cases sweep the nation, with many organizations punished for holding to orthodox Christian beliefs. Neither of us expected that conversation to hit so close to home. This experience exposed us to the pressing fact that university administrations can indeed have agendas to impose upon student life, and these agendas often limit freedom of speech, thought, and association. In our experience, the responses of these administrations to questions of religious life on campus are often fraught with significant inconsistency and lack of clarity. Christians are called to be peacemakers, and also called to be prophetic voices. This is a cultural moment when winsome, but firm, voices are needed from across the political and religious spectrums.
Many people have asked us what we learned in this process. What tops both of our lists is an abiding sense of God’s faithfulness and a trust that He works all things for His glory. We ask you to continue to hold our community and other campus ministries in your prayers. We ask you also to think about how we, as Christians, can thoughtfully and graciously hold institutions accountable to procedures and principles they profess to hold dear. Above all, let us rejoice that Christ is Lord, that He loves students, professors, and administrators so abundantly more than we ever could, and He desires that all might know Him.