November 20, 2014 | 4 p.m.
By Tricia Theurer, Communications Specialist
Bethel University recently worked with ReNew Partnerships, an organization that supports leaders of universities, churches, and ministries in their efforts to build healthy, biblical, multicultural organizations, to help Bethel grow toward becoming a Christ-centered multicultural community.
In October, Bethel students, faculty, and staff participated in several on-campus sessions that covered such topics as engaging cultural differences; cultivating a biblical, multi-cultural campus; and ethnic unity and the gospel. The day also included a chapel address, “Turtles: Overcoming Heart Issues That Keep Us from Discussing Ethnic Diversity,” by ReNew Partnerships’ leaders Chad Brennan and Michaela Gregory. The two shared with the community that they want the discussion around diversity to be “an extension of worship.”
About the partnership with ReNew, President Jay Barnes said, “Bethel is at a pivotal time of change and has an opportunity to actively pursue our calling and commitment to be Christ-following reconcilers committed to being salt and light in the world.” Barnes referred to Scripture, when Jesus calls His followers to be united: “‘Father, may they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.’” (John 17:23)
Working with ReNew Partnerships was a step in that direction. “There’s an opportunity to be seized to create common language, and to heal and grow from the challenges we’ve had in the past,” said Leah Fulton, Bethel’s associate dean of intercultural student programs and services. “We see ReNew’s sessions as a chance to do that…. what do we share more in common than our faith?”
To help inform ReNew’s visit, the Bethel community participated in a survey to gauge sentiments and impressions about past and current initiatives around diversity. The results of the survey shaped ReNew’s recommendations to the President’s Cabinet to build a multi-cultural community. Suggested action steps involve training and dialogue opportunities, including biblical foundations; clearly defining and communicating desired outcomes; emphasizing campus-wide ownership; and repeating the survey in one to two years to measure progress and to pursue broader participation, especially among students.