(Over the course of the 1993-1996 quadrennium the University Senate of the United Methodist Church engaged in sustained discussion of the changing realities of higher education in the United States. In particular the Senate reflected upon private higher education and struggled with the meaning of church relationship. A task force was appointed that produced a working document for discussion. At the close of the quadrennium it seemed wise to offer a brief statement to be passed on to the subsequent Senate. This statement was adopted by the University Senate at its meeting at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, on June 21, 1996.)
The United Methodist Church has more colleges, universities, theological schools, and preparatory schools related to it than any other Protestant church. The predecessor bodies of United Methodism were anxious to serve the larger society by engaging in education. In this they were true to John Wesley's own concern for education, and, more specifically, to the institution building commitments of early American Methodism. American Methodism has always sought to serve the general community, as well as its own members, through a series of complex institutions including colleges, schools, hospitals, orphanages, retirement homes, and publishing operations. The University Senate was established in 1892, one of the earliest accrediting bodies in the United States. Its mission was to be certain that the schools, colleges, and universities related to the Church be worthy of bearing the name of the Church, in one way or another. In recent years the task has become less one of accreditation, in large part because this work is done by regional accrediting bodies, and more review of the way in which an institution is in fact related to the Church. Such relationships differ, and this is inevitable. History, geography, finances, governance structure, and current realities differ for each school. Nevertheless there are some marks of Church relationship which should be manifest if an institution is to be related meaningfully to the United Methodist Church. Among these are the following:
- Church-related institution identifies itself as such in printed materials, official listings, and other statements of self-description.
- A Church-related institution respects, honors and provides the teaching of religion, and specifically, appropriate scholarly theological teaching in the Christian tradition within the curriculum. In the case of professional institutions and programs, the curriculum includes opportunity for faculty and student reflection on the ethical dimensions of professional practice.
- A Church-related institution respects and honors religious practice and, specifically, worship and service for students and faculty who choose to participate in the Christian tradition within the total life of the school.
- A Church-related institution willingly allows faculty and students to explore the place of religious belief and practice, and specifically, the intellectual dimensions of Christian faith, in all academic disciplines and co-curricular activities.
- A Church-related institution encourages the exploration of the place of religious belief and practice in the larger society and advocates appropriate recognition of the contributions of religion to public life.
- A Church-related institution recognizes the Social Principles of the United Methodist Church and seeks to create a community of scholarship and learning which facilitates social justice.
- A Church-related institution includes in its faculty, administrative officers, and board of trustees persons who understand and respect the relationship with the United Methodist Church.
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