chapter  11
19 Pages

Addressing the Identity–Relevance Dilemma: Religious Particularity and Pluralism at Presbyterian Church-Related Colleges

ByRobert C. Spach

In February 2005, the Board of Trustees of Davidson College, a liberal arts college in North Carolina related to the Presbyterian Church (USA), approved a controversial change to the institution’s by-laws that opened membership of 20% of the board to individuals who are not Christians. This decision altered a policy instituted in the 1960s which, in the face of rising secularism and diversity in the United States, had specifi ed that only “active members of a Christian church” could serve as trustees. The 2005 decision, approved by a margin of 31 to 5, had been proposed by an Ad Hoc Committee charged with studying the Reformed theological tradition that has shaped the life of the college since its founding. In a letter dated September 23, 2004, the Ad Hoc Committee asserted that including non-Christians in the governance of the college was consistent with the Reformed tradition and therefore a faithful expression of the college’s religious heritage in its current context.