The United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry held a panel discussion entitled, “Tending the Flame,” at which they studied the relation between the local church and institutes of higher education. Following the June 13-15 event, the leaders concluded that students entering higher education institutions are “more religiously engaged than in recent years,” and suggested, “a religious revival may be occurring among today’s young adults.
“Many students experience a call while in college,” said John Ewing Jr., president of United Methodist-related Mount Union College, Alliance, Ohio. “Are we giving them an opportunity to respond to God’s call on their lives?”
“Our church is in serious trouble if we don’t find new pastoral leadership,” Ewing continued. “Students are finding spiritual fulfillment outside of the United Methodist Church.”
Meanwhile, according to the United Methodist News Service, the Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker of Florida pointed out that while bishops and college presidents have been in conversation for years, they did not yet “connect in the connection.”
“We need to get the attention of local church members,” said Whitaker.
The Rev. Dan Morris, First United Methodist Church, Millbrook, Ala said the way to rekindle the flame would be to “teach our young people to love God with their minds”
“The natural progression is to educate your mind to the highest level so that you can serve Christ in the world,” said Morris, in reflection of the church’s view of sanctification and perfection.
The other attendant, the Rev. Samuel Johnson, Boston University School of Theology, also agreed that the relationship between the church and the school must be strengthened.
“We need to encourage colleges to invite seminarians to their campus to see who we are, to see what it means to be United Methodist,” said Johnson. “The tradition of United Methodist culture is worth holding up and holding on to.”
Concluding the 2-day discussion, Ewing suggested bishops and college presidents work together to appoint local ministers and pastors at leadership positions at educational institution.
“The church has to make a serious attempt to connect young people in colleges with dynamic pastors and campus ministers,” said Ewing.
“Early in our history, the only way for higher education institutions to survive was from church support,” said Ewing. “The opposite is true today. The only way the United Methodist Church is going to survive is if higher education institutions support the church.”