Tony Jones comments on the recent controversy surrounding the termination of Tom Oord from Northwestern Nazarene University:
1) I have no doubt that the enrollment at NNU is down and finances are suffering. The explosion of evangelical colleges in the second half of the 20th century flooded the market with a glut of schools. Too many. As GenXers fall away from church, their kids are less likely to attend evangelical schools. But the real crisis for these schools will be in 10 years, when Millennials start sending their kids to college.
2) Many schools are getting more conservative in response to this downturn, but that’s exactly the wrong strategy. They’re doing it to appease their aging Baby Boomer donors. Yes, the Baby Boomers currently have the money to finance these schools (and, for that matter, non-profits (remember the World Vision controversy) and churches), but the better long-term strategy would be to find a moderate path that also appeals to the more open and inquisitive Christianity of Millennials.
I share this for two reasons: 1) The speculation is that Oord got into hot water with NNU administration over his publicly stated sympathies toward evolution. I have no idea if that’s true, but even if it did get him fired, the fact that a well respected evangelical scholar at a conservative Christian university felt comfortable being open at all about his belief in evolution demonstrates the massive changes that have occurred in the last 20 years. 2) Jones is right about the future of Christian Universities. There is a wave of Millennials coming whose notions of faith are radically different than the evangelicalism I grew up in. If you think you’re alone, you’re not.