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A Response to Grove City College Regarding Its Now-Adopted Ad Hoc Report

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President McNulty:

My name is Adam Anderson, and I am a 2005 graduate from Grove City College. During my tenure there, I was a member of the Orientation Board, and RA, as well as a member of Delta Rho Sigma. Looking back on that time, I believe I was someone who could proudly represent my school and believed deeply in all the best that Grove City is.

I want to commend you and your leadership during what has undoubtedly been a difficult and fraught moment in the life of the college. I do not envy having to navigate the many different voices I’m sure you have heard, and still have a clear conviction as to the mission, vision, and position that Grove City has within the realm of higher education. However, I did feel it was important to lend another voice, and one that I have not found within the discourse of these debates since they began. I will acknowledge that while I have come back to participate in alumni events for students, I do not currently provide any financial support to Grove City, largely out of principle. I trust that doesn’t diminish the value of my perspective.

I’ve spent the varying part of the last month pouring over and reviewing every aspect of the turmoil since mid-2020. I’ve reconnected with friends who signed different petitions to understand their perspectives so that I could have a well-rounded view from people who, though I might not agree with, still care for very deeply. I spent an extensive amount of time reading the Board’s report, reviewing their logic, exegeting their Biblical references, and trying to make as much of a good faith effort as I could to understand as someone who was shaped by my time at Grove City, and still sees that time valuable.

Originally, I had planned on sending you and the Board all my critiques, frustrations, and deep worries about what that report offered – at last count I have 51 separate comments that I believe require a response. Instead, I simply want to offer a singular point, and then offer myself in service to my alma mater if you or the Board would take up my invitation.

On page three and four of the report, the authors[1] argue the following:

“From these historical aspects of GCC proceed three traits that are part of the College’s self-identity and public reputation. First, GCC is a Christian college; its community is Christ-centered and pursues biblical truth. Second, as a corollary to the first trait, GCC has a conversative disposition and perspective.” (emphasis mine)

With two judges on the ad hoc committee, I realize that word choices are always intentional. It does not take a very critical read to understand the intent: that fidelity to a Christian worldview mandates a conservative worldview, and a specific Hayekian et al perspective at that.

This corollary provides me with both philosophical and personal angst. Fundamentally, this leads to a very narrow view of Scriptures and the gospel itself. It naturally requires someone desiring a Christ-centered life and biblical truth to mandatorily value the specific tenets as subsequently laid out in the balance of the report. Furthermore, with a currently ambiguous ecclesial undergirding, it follows that many would question whether their salvation is then in question should they not believe so dogmatically in von Mises. To subject 18–22-year-olds to that kind of pressure amidst the necessary cognitive dissonance that is part of the undergraduate experience does a deep disservice to them, especially as those assumptions viz the Board’s corollary go unexamined.

More difficult is the personal angst I feel over a statement like this. After my graduation, I spent many years in service as a campus minister, as well as in public service for the state of Ohio as a subject matter expert in affordable housing[2] (working specifically with the department of Medicaid and the department of Mental Health and Addiction Services), before finally becoming a member of clergy in the PCUSA. After working with many individuals who had inherent value to God yet were net negatives to a free market system, I found that the conservative worldview GCC proffered could no longer sufficiently explain how to care for those individuals in my charge in a way that was Christ-centered with Biblical honesty. Over time, I found greater freedom in the exact philosophies that GCC now roundly rejects. Whether it’s Keynes, Heidegger, Foucault, or even Carl Schmitt, I found conversation partners that while at times problematic, could help me contour a pursuit of deeper vocational commitment.

Yet as I read where the college is today, I can’t help but pose a tragic, unshakable question – does the Grove City College of today think its former graduate a faithful Christian? Have I lost fidelity to the gospel because I can see value in discussions on systemic injustice? Am I not seeking truth because I’m no longer convinced that continental philosophy is anathema?

Had I not also later gained a greater appreciation of a Reformed theology through the very same person who is now the Chaplain of Grove City College, I might sit and question whether my own salvation is at stake. But, as Barth argued: Ecclesia semper reformanda est, I too am in a constant state of self-reflection and growth, and in that believe that the Spirit is still working faithfully within me, replete with the requisite fear and trembling.

What I hope for is a type of intellectual honesty that does not require this kind of corollary to exist and provides a safe harbor for future graduates to not feel the angst I have. I support and applaud GCC’s desire to be a conservative school as an alternative to many others throughout the country who have chosen to go a different direction. This specific kind of culture has been an important chapter in the discourse of American Higher Education, and I’m proud even still of GCC’s bold decisions. However, in the near 20 years since my graduation, I routinely come to the same conclusion – GCC is not fundamentally a Christian school. It is a conservative, pro-free market school that as a value holds an ancillary classical American Deist religious identity. In practice, this may not be very noticeable, but it carries massive implications in terms of pedagogy, and even the pastoral aspects of in loco parentis. By reversing the Board’s corollary, this more honest identity could be realized. I believe that the board was struggling with this perhaps without even realizing it was – to speak so often of Christ-centeredness yet only have one glancing rhetorical footnote to any of the four gospels is telling. Moreover, the sheer amount of proof-texting[3] is further evidence that the Board was shaping Scripture into a conservative mold, and not the other way around.

My invitation is just that I am available to help my alma mater think through these decisions as someone who still cares about the institution but does not agree with its worldview. I am here to serve faithfully, unreservedly, and honestly. Should you or any member of the board, faculty, or staff desire my perspective, I’m simply a phone call or email away.

I continue to pray for you and the Board as you navigate continued difficult waters. Again, should you find that I could be of any help, please do not hesitate to reach out.

Sincerely,

Rev. Adam W. Anderson,

MA, MCRP, MPA

Class of 2005

[1] Which, while clearly admirable standard-bearers of the college, do seem to lack the sociological and theological background that topics like this should demand.

[2] During which time I was invited back as an alum to discuss my career. I still have the Wendell August Forge plate!

[3] Defined by Webster’s as a Scriptural passage adduced as proof for a theological doctrine, belief, or principle

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