Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Georgetown University will allow outside Protestant ministries back on campus after barring them last summer.

The Rev. Philip Boroughs, vice president of the Office of Mission and Ministry, says the private Jesuit school has expanded worship and ministry opportunities for its Protestant community.

The university plans to establish a self-governing Council of Affiliated Protestant Ministries, which will include representatives from each of the six religious groups that were dropped from official university recognition last summer.

Officials at the 218-year-old school decided in August not to renew covenant agreements — guidelines for outside ministries — with the groups, collectively known as affiliated ministries. Georgetown officials said they did so as part of a restructuring of the university’s Protestant chaplaincy, which provides pastoral care and organizes several worship services for students.

The school also employs chaplains who minister to and hold worship services for Catholic, Jewish, Muslim and Orthodox Christian students.

“We decided not to affiliate this year so we could have a chance to say, ‘What are the issues, and how can we better enhance the communication … to make this work better for us and for our students?’ ” said the Rev. Tim Godfrey, director of the university’s Office of Campus Ministry.

The decision had nothing to do with theological issues, said Father Godfrey, who served on an advisory committee appointed by Father Boroughs last fall to re-evaluate the university’s Protestant-ministry structure.

“So much of it was a structural issue and how to better the communication, so that’s really where we began,” Father Godfrey said.

Father Boroughs announced the changes Sunday in a campuswide letter.

The committee, which met from October through March, was led by Terrence Reynolds, head of Georgetown’s theology department, and included faculty, student and staff members — including representatives from disaffiliated ministries.

“What we tried to do … is to expand ministry opportunities for students as much as possible,” Mr. Reynolds said.

In addition to the ministries council, the committee recommended establishing a university-funded Protestant Student Forum that will include students from affiliated ministries and groups under the Protestant chaplaincy, such as the gospel choir that performs at worship services.

The committee also recommended additional staffing for the Protestant chaplaincy.

Once the Protestant ministries sign the revised covenant agreement, they will be affiliated with the university, Mr. Reynolds said.

The disaffiliated Protestant ministries, like any student group, have been able to meet on campus unofficially, but have not enjoyed the privileges of university-recognized organizations.

“With affiliation comes certain benefits,” Mr. Reynolds said, such as access to campus classrooms and facilities, as well as participation in university-sponsored activity fairs and student orientations.

Georgetown senior Hannah Coyne, a leader of Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship, said the Protestant organization continued its ministry — and even managed to grow — despite logistical setbacks.

“It did affect our ministry because we weren’t allowed to rent rooms,” Miss Coyne said, adding the group was unable to reach out to students at the campus-ministry fair.

The new structure will level the playing field among all Protestant ministries, she said.

“The affiliated groups will have equal status with all the other Protestant ministries,” Miss Coyne said. “We’re recognized as being a real group on campus that’s doing real ministry.

“The most important thing that I got out of this is that the affiliated ministries are important to Georgetown — that Georgetown wants us here,” she said.

Georgetown had about 6,800 undergraduate students enrolled during the 2006-07 school year, and about 14,000 students total, including graduate, law and medical school students.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide