Olivet The Magazine | From the President

As we strive for conviction with compassion — not liberal-conservative, not centrism and civility — this isn’t code to avoid sensitive things. We aim for strong scholarship with deep piety, anchoring students while familiarizing them with extreme things.
Gregg Chenoweth official headshot

Gregg Chenoweth

May 29, 2024 Olivet The Magazine

There is an anti-college mood in culture. Across the Midwest, around 15% fewer high school grads than a decade ago enroll in higher education.

College cost explains only part of this. Olivet takes this seriously. Compared to a group of 20 schools you would know, our average net charges (after scholarships) were $3,000 less five years ago, but that relief gap now grows to $5,000. One in 10 Olivet undergrads are entirely tuition-free. Really.

The bigger anti-college factor is overly “woke” schools that unravel in students what parents stitched into them. Biological men play women’s sports. Ivy League presidents say “it depends” when Congress asks if students can call for the eradication of Jews. In the name of free speech, they defend far left and right positions but, under the banner of safe spaces, take no position other than civility. They hope students discover “their truth” in the chaos.

This brand of centrism — add liberal and conservative extremes, then divide down the middle for civility — won’t do. Instead, how about confident conviction with compassion?

The Faith calls us confidently toward liberal and conservative causes anyway. We still abstain from alcohol. That’s conservative. But it’s for social good, not as “the” litmus test of personal piety (1 Corinthians 8:9–13). Alcohol abuse so ravaged society it justified federal Prohibition in the 1920s — no theological rationale required.

But we do liberal things too. Our movement didn’t only eliminate slavery, but our schools also were among the first to racially integrate dormitories. We also train women for ministry. Even our customized training to serve children was at one time liberal because many countries view kids of such low status that they aren’t even counted in the census.

As we strive for conviction with compassion — not liberal-conservative, not centrism and civility — this isn’t code to avoid sensitive things. Without fear, we expose students to any idea made legitimate by the standards of an academic discipline, then advocate what the Christian faith prefers. We aim for strong scholarship with deep piety, anchoring students while familiarizing them with extreme things. Dr. Elton Trueblood shared the adage that Christianity is an anvil which wears out many hammers. Our Faith survived the condescension of Greek thinkers, fierce opposition from Roman emperors and blight of the Dark Ages, and it will thrive under modern challenges.

Here are a few real-time examples of how Olivet isn’t “woke” for civility and centrism but instead “awakened” to the person and cause of Christ, and how the Holy Spirit guides our work toward the needs of a hurting world.

Pro-Life Advocacy

It was conviction with compassion to act quickly after Roe vs. Wade was overturned by the Supreme Court. We invited impoverished and sometimes faithless women who chose life for their babies to live cost-free in one of our stand-alone apartment facilities, while a pregnancy resource center provides direct services (job training, budget coaching and discipleship). Some of these women used to sleep in their car. Now an on-site staff member ensures holistic support.

Orthodox Sexuality

We hold to historic Biblical doctrines on sexuality. Unisex dorms and apartments. Heterosexual marriage. A call to beautiful, positive celibacy in the unmarried, not the loss or damage of singlehood. Though we did not support a female student’s request to begin using a male name in our formal records, we did provide free housing for a month until her employment stabilized. That is not centrist, but conviction with compassion.

Beautiful Community Among Races

One-third of our student body are Hispanic, Black, Asian, Islander or multiracial. I understand why people criticize diversity and inclusion programs driven by a guarantee of outcomes based solely on race (e.g., race as the only hiring criterion). We don’t do that, but act in confident conviction and compassion to guarantee support where most needed. Scripture demonstrates special fondness for the widow, orphan, stranger and in general for the struggler. So when national data patterns repeated at Olivet, we put more resources toward the retention of students of color and now see the graduation rate of Black students doubled over the past six years. This emphasis doesn’t discriminate against those with less need. A fire truck speeds past intact homes to throw lifesaving water on the one with a burning platform. We should too.

In all of this, we don’t do social justice for its own sake. Liberation theology, for example, is so preoccupied with corporate conditions that the call for personal salvation is lost. Instead, John Wesley reminds us there is no personal holiness without a social holiness. God loved us, so we love others in His name.

From Olivet The Magazine, Compassion & Conviction – Spring 2024. Read the full issue here.

Gregg Chenoweth official headshot

Gregg Chenoweth

Gregg Chenoweth ’90, Ph.D., has been president of Olivet Nazarene University since 2021. As an Olivet alumnus, former faculty member, former dean, former vice president for academic affairs and parent of an alumnus, Dr. Chenoweth implicitly understands the value of Christian higher education. He has published works in more than 30 media outlets and is the author of the book Everyday Discernment: The Art of Cultivating Spirit-Led Leadership, published through The Foundry Press.

Student on main campus wearing pink sweater and holding water bottle.

Where Your Future Begins

We Believe. You Belong Here. Discover why Olivet is a place where faith meets calling. Take the first step today.

Plan a Visit Start my Application