When I began teaching at my small liberal arts college in the 1980s, I had honestly not thought much about the school’s affiliation with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). It had never crossed my mind that the college might be taking a risk in hiring a non-Lutheran like me, nor that I myself might be taking a risk in signing on to teach at a college that operates on the basis of a religious tradition different from my own. Since then, I have participated in many discussions of the college’s Lutheran identity and many revisions of its mission statement, and I have come to appreciate the Lutheran openness to interrogation and debate. I feel lucky to have fallen into a job at an institution that takes questions of faith seriously but does not expect uniformity of belief, that forever wrestles with how to remain true to its heritage while seeking out all types of diversity. The challenge for my college is how to preserve its historic sense of community and mutual endeavor while extending a warm welcome to all individuals, including those who do not share the college’s core religious values.
Professional Matters at Religiously Affiliated Institutions