Since its organization in 1852 by the Shenango and Ohio Presbyteries (of what was at the time the Associate Presbyterian Church), Westminster College has been a church-related school. This relationship continues today as we are related to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A), and are in a Covenant Agreement with Shenango Presbytery and the Synod of the Trinity.
What does it mean for us to be a church-related institution? This article does not intend to provide all of the answers to that question, but is, in a small way, a contribution to and an invitation to conversation on the topic.
Being a church-related school is, first and foremost, a matter of perspective. The story is told of an incident that occurred when George Carey was installed as the Archbishop of Canterbury. Invited to his installation were leaders from the Jewish and Muslim communities in England. As he was preaching the sermon of the day, Dr. Carey paused and addressed some of his remarks to the leaders of those communities.
"It is important," he reflected, "for those of us who are in the Christian community to hear your story." He continued, "It is also important for you to hear our story." *
Westminster College values its Christian roots. That is our story. To that end, Westminster encourages individuals to be rooted and grounded in religious faith in order to empower and equip them to live lives of gratitude in response to God's grace in Jesus Christ.
Westminster is proud of its heritage of more than 150 years of embodying the values and ideals found in the Biblical tradition. This heritage has at its core those ideals exemplified by Jesus Christ. Having been founded to promote the spirit and ideals of Christianity, the College continues to see the well-educated person as one whose skills are complemented by ever-developing values and ideals identified in the Christian tradition.
That is our story. It is the story of an institution whose foundation is laid on a specific set of ideals and principles. It is therefore understandable and proper that Westminster Board of Trustees, administration, faculty and students develop their policies and practices based on the principles, values and ideals of the Christian faith.
At the same time, we, as an institution, embrace the total church in its divisions and the human race in its diversity. The College is open to the moral and spiritual character of different religious traditions and resolves to continue its participation in both ecumenical and interfaith endeavors.
In order to live out what we believe, Westminster's chaplain also serves as Director of Church Relations with the task of helping the churches through programs and initiatives and economic opportunities to recover a commitment to higher education. These programs will assist pastors, lay leaders and individual congregations in utilizing College resources and expertise. It is our intention to assist congregations in the areas of leadership training, funding, youth programs, music programs, and social issues.
To be church-related means to be an institution that is rooted and grounded in faith. An institution that looks to Jesus Christ, her Lord, for guidance and direction as she seeks to be faithful in the present and in the future. Westminster College is such an institution.