Westmont Magazine Affirming our Faith
The board of trustees voted last fall to adopt a new statement of faith for the college, bringing a two-year process to a close.
In September 2000, President David Winter appointed a task force of trustees, faculty, staff and a local pastor to develop the new creed. Provost Stan Gaede and Religious Studies Professor Jonathan Wilson co-chaired the committee.
The impetus for change came from the 1995 Long-Range Plan, which called for “a new creedal statement that articulates the convictions of the institution in a way that is compelling in the 1990s.” Recognizing that the current statement reflected theological concerns of the 1940s, the plan proposed a new document “orthodox in content and evangelical in style . . where literary style and theological content commends itself to thoughtful Christian educators and inspires loyalty and living commitment.”
“We didn’t set out to change the direction of the college nor the intent of the original statement,” says President Gaede. “Our goal was to make it more readable, more compelling and more easily understood. To the extent that the old statement used archaic language and ambiguous phrases, it became less relevant and less helpful. With a new statement, we attempted neither greater inclusivity nor exclusivity, neither casting the net more broadly nor more narrowly. Rather, we expect that it will inspire us in those central tenets that have undergirded Westmont since its founding.”
The task force began by reviewing the existing creed, which had not changed since the college’s founding. Members also read similar documents at other evangelical institutions. After discussions about the nature and scope of the creed, a subgroup drafted a proposed statement. The committee received it with enthusiasm.
“We wanted a statement that reads well and is theologically and doctrinally accurate, and I believe we have accomplished that,” says Professor Wilson. “At the same time, we hoped to enliven the statement, to make it a true expression of our community life. Such a statement could inspire more theological discussion on campus and encourage us to celebrate what we believe.”
Then began the hard work of reviewing the draft line by line, comparing its content to the existing statement. Eventually, the task force asked faculty and staff to comment on the proposal. Not only did they accept written evaluations, but the committee held three focus groups to give community members an opportunity to discuss their thoughts and reactions with task force members.
The draft received wide-spread support on campus, and the task force carefully considered all comments.
The trustees were involved from the beginning, affirming the decision to revise the statement. Adoption of the new creed required 100 percent approval by the board.
Ed Hayes ’53, a Westmont alumnus and former president of Denver Seminary, was one of two trustees on the task force.
“The history of the college reveals an openness to seeking truth while affirming historic evangelical beliefs,” he notes. “Dogma, the kind that is always open to investigation, need not shut the door to learning. The historic Christian faith affirms certainties that have served to guide believers in that search. I believe we understand our biblical roots and that our new statement has a fine history within the Christian faith.”
For more information about the statement, see the commentary by Professor Wilson, posted on the Web: www.westmont.edu/_academics/pages/provost/commentary.html.