In our time at Concordia, a divide among Christian students across campus has always been present. Different Christian groups, such as The Remedy, Cru (the campus ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ), and Campus Ministry Commission, are all well-established on our campus and populated by students looking for worship experiences, service opportunities, Bible studies and genuine Christian community. However, differences in theological beliefs have created a sense of division between these organizations in which students are more often defined by what worship they attend and less by their Christian identity. This semester, student leaders from each of these three student groups have been meeting once a week for “We Are One Body” dinners. Through these conversations, we have formed a strong and diverse community in which we are able to bring ourselves fully to the table to share our stories and learn from one another. While we recognize that we do not agree on all aspects of our Christian theology, we also understand that God calls us into lives of engagement with our neighbors that enrich our stories as people of faith. These conversations led to the planning of the “We Are One Body” event in which over 150 students participated in a night of fellowship, song, and prayer, this past Tuesday.
The “We Are One Body” event demonstrates that Christian students on campus are seeking more than dialogue; they are seeking a place of genuine Christian fellowship where we can come together as one body of faith, unified by our belief in God, to support each other and learn from one another. This kind of community cannot occur unless the worship of students who hold different denominational faiths within Christianity is recognized. The “We Are One Body” event underscores the need for more attention in recognizing all Christians on this campus, not just those who worship in accordance with ELCA theology. In order for this to happen, students, administrators, and faculty must ask questions and engage in intentional conversation around this issue.
This conversation needs to include questions such as: how does our Lutheran tradition empower us to engage and accept Christians of other denominations? Where does dialogue regarding intra-faith cooperation fit in as our campus strives for a more pluralistic community? What is worship on this campus, how is it defined, and who defines it? In order to increase dialogue and foster an environment in which students feel comfortable exploring their faith, these questions need to be answered in a way that allows more faith perspectives to come fully to the table.
The purpose of a liberal arts institution grounded in a faith tradition should not be to screen or filter the worship that occurs in this place; rather, the purpose of such an institution should be to foster a diverse environment in which students are able to fully express themselves and explore their faith. In order to prepare students to become responsibly engaged in a diverse and dynamic world, Concordia college and, specifically, the established Christian communities on our campus, need to reevaluate the way in which we invite diverse faith perspectives to the table. As the “We Are One Body” event demonstrated, we can gain better understanding when we promote this type of cooperation. In order to foster acceptance and cooperation, we must engage in intentional dialogue and encourage relationship-building between diverse Christian communities. While we may come from different backgrounds and understandings of our lives as people of faith, at the end of the day, we are, indeed, one body, and this is what makes our community beautiful.
This letter was submitted by the “We Are One Body” planning team.