Wednesday, August 24, 2005

My story: Montreat College

As I get closer to the present day, a word is in order about my blog's policy on anonymity. Most of you who read are my friends: people I know in "the outside world" who I've already given the link to this site, and you know who I am already. I'm actually not interested in maintaining site anonymity because I feel I'm sharing secrets about my life or my views that I'd be embarrassed if people knew about. However, I'm also not interested in having spammers and random searchers gain personal contact information or other details just by doing a web search. Blogs, being mostly text, are very easy to search with Google or a similar search engine.

For that reason, I have chosen to avoid using most people's personal names, except when I consider them to be public enough figures that being named in my blog would cause them no additional harm. I've chosen to withhold some city names, though admittedly not others, such as Montreat. I confess the distinction here is somewhat arbitrary. I also do not use the name of the seminary in which I work, even though, again, most of you who read this on a regular basis already know where I go, and anyone who really wanted to figure it out could do so fairly easily just by reasoning the information through. But at least they just can't do a web search for it, and find it via my site, which is really the point.

But onward to more bloggy matters....

I started college in Montreat, NC in the Fall of 1992. While I could give a play-by-play of events there, it seems better at the moment to go "big picture." I chose the school not only because of my love for the city, having been there several times over the previous years for the youth conferences, but also because it is associated with my home denomination, the PC(USA). This allowed me access to some scholarship money, in addition to some institutional aid that made attending a private, Christian school more affordable. And going to a Christian school was rather important for me, as I had already discerned a call to church ministry by this time.

Although Montreat College is nominally affiliated with the PC(USA), as is the Montreat Conference Center, I soon found that the college is considerably more conservative than the conference center, and I learned about several "Christian controversies" that I had not been fully aware of previously. Chief among these was the debate between creationism and evolution. Oddly enough, while I recall thinking to myself "how do Adam and Eve fit into the timeline of 'Neanderthal' and 'Homo Erectus?'" I never really considered the possibility that someone might think, in this day and age, that these concepts were irreconcilable. These debates were (so I supposed) cleared up in the 1930's! Clearly that was not the case. However, I had made a commitment, to myself and to God, that I should take these concerns seriously. If the Bible really was impossible to reconcile with the theory of evolution, then the Bible (and more correctly, faith in God) would have to take precedence.

Similarly, I was confronted in a new way with the opinion that women could not hold church office, because of the teachings of Paul in I Timothy 2:12 (among other passages). While I'd been aware of such feelings elsewhere, I had grown up in a church with a female associate pastor. The idea that women could not hold office, just because they were women, was something I had held as closed-minded. But again, I needed to take these texts seriously, and keeping an open mind meant that I myself would have be open to considering ideas that I might not like very much. It wouldn't do to accuse others of closed-mindedness only to find that I was guilty of it, myself.

I enrolled in a "Bible and Religion" major, and an English minor (which mostly consisted of drama courses, being heavily involved in drama for three of my four years at the college). This enabled me to devote a fair bit of time and study to these new matters that my companions were bringing to my attention. I'm sure I was quite a bit more conservative during most of my years at Montreat than I am today, given my desire to take matters seriously that might not have been personally appealing, if it held true that God really did want Christians to be so conservative. However, my studies eventually enabled me to come to a position that I feel takes the Bible seriously, while still believing that women are called to all the ministries of the church, and that the theories of evolution are not in necessary conflict with the intentions of Genesis (not to mention clearing up other controversies that came my way in those years, although I confess that quite a few matters remain a mystery to me).

Having graduated from Montreat with honors, I was ready to begin seminary. This journey got off to an uncertain start, largely due to some events that happened while still in college.

But that's a story for another time....

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