This morning one of my friends at church (St. Johns York Mills Anglican) told me about an article that described changing rules at Moody Bible Institute (my alma mater: class of 87 [BA:93]). Specifically he mentioned that the school had dropped the “no alcohol” rule. I looked this up and found the reference; and apparently the school has dropped the rule, at least with respect to faculty and staff (Christianity Today, 2013). Students, unfortunately, have not been affected. I think it’s a move in the right direction, but it is unfortunate that students are not included. When I went to school there, one of my biggest difficulties was that I could not take communion in the way that I was accustomed. Indeed, while I was involved with the more conservative church in the U.S., every (official) communion that I took was in the form of grape juice. It was not for a decade and a half that I was able to get back to a church that served communion wine.
When I went back to the school for Founder’s Week two years ago, I was pleased (and a bit jealous) that they had relaxed some of the personal rules as far as wearing a beard and dress. But as far as some of the others (and the attitudes that accompany them), things haven’t changed.
One of the issues when I was at Moody was that I danced with a friend while on Spring Break during my Senior Year at the Institute. That was one of the blanket no-nos at the Institute: apparently to this day (Christian Century, 2013). It was a complex issue; at the time one of my arguments was that the policy was less than clear about what whether the rules applied while on vacation from the Institute. (They now reflect that the rules apply as long as one is enrolled as a student.) I ended up writing a 20-page paper on “Authority and Submission” before graduation: to which I’ve actually adhered to ever since.
“Students must abstain from tobacco, alcohol, illegal drugs and ‘sexual promiscuity’ for at least one year before they enroll and during their time at Moody.” (Religion News, 2013) I would not have been able to attend it they had enforced this rule back in the 80s. In fact, that is a particularity American-centric rule. Not the illegal drugs or the sexual promiscuity parts: we’re not all like Rob Ford. I understand part of the justification for the “no alcohol” rule for students; most of them are under 21, the legal drinking age in the U.S. (But then, there are a more than a few older-adult students at the Institute, as well.) For the year before I went to Moody, I was a student at the University of Waterloo in Ontario; the drinking age is 19 and there are on-campus pubs. I certainly did not “carouse” or get drunk in that year before I went to Moody: but nor did I abstain. To expect everyone to adhere to American legalism is a bit high-handed.
The justification for the change in policy is that they want to create a “high trust environment that emphasizes values, not rules,” (Christine Gortz, Christianity Today, 2013). Although I’m sure I didn’t use that phrasing (“values” is a word that only entered fashion a only few years ago), I know this was the base of my logic in my paper. And, in fact, it is most unfortunate that the students are still under the “rules” of the school. These are the men and women who will lead the Evangelical offshoot of the faith for the rest of this century. It is unfortunate they are were… and are… still being taught (practically, in their daily life, if not in their classes) that they way to best follow God is to adhere to the rules. Believe me; when one is trained this way when one is fully developing one’s perspective on God and ethics and Christianity, it easily gets locked in to behaviour. And an attitude of grace becomes something of a rarity.