Friday, September 8, 2006

The director of Georgetown University’s Campus Ministries says outside Protestant groups lost their official status on the Catholic campus this semester because of “ongoing difficulties” in communication and cooperation with the university.

“The result has been fragmentation between student groups and the inability to gather our Protestant students on occasion for ecumenical worship and dialogue while acknowledging our distinct theological differences,” the Rev. Timothy S. Godfrey said in a letter Wednesday.

Mr. Godfrey also said the decision last month was an attempt to unify Protestant students under the school’s leadership.

The university’s decision — which affects a few hundred students belonging to six evangelical Christian groups, such as InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship — was handed down to group leaders at an Aug. 17 meeting.

The decision forbids the ministries from having an “activity or presence” on campus, including worship services, retreats or helping students move into their dorms. The groups also are prohibited from using the Georgetown name in publicity.

In his letter, Mr. Godfrey clarified that students still can invite the outside groups on campus for prayer and fellowship. However, the groups cannot operate as part of the campus ministry.

He also said Georgetown next week will announce the formation of an advisory committee to explore how the school’s Protestant chaplaincy can meet the needs of Protestant students and members of the affected groups.

The Office of Campus Ministry also is “revising its programming” to address students’ needs, the letter states.

Members of the groups organized a petition drive to protest the decision and have received support from students and faculty on campus, leaders said.

Hannah Coyne, a senior and Chi Alpha student leader, said Mr. Godfrey also has invited student leaders to meet with him in groups of two, and Chi Alpha students have continued to meet on and off campus.

“We don’t want to be relegated to this kind of subversive status when we’re actually doing good things,” Miss Coyne said. “We’re trying to get clarity from them.”

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