Freedom of Faith

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Planning the future of Fresno Pacific University is a continuous process. Currently our planning has been framed by the presentation of an initial draft of proposed major desired conditions, with an invitation to contribute changes and additions. We collaborate in the ongoing search for the consensus we need to wisely prioritize and organize our work together.

We must select the particular conditions we want to experience in our life together as an accredited, Christ-centered, higher education community. We also need to agree on just what should be different in the church and the world because of our work. Suggested additions and modifications from the entire FPU community will be evaluated by the Strategic Planning Committee that is chaired by Provost and Senior Vice President Steve Varvis. The committee is an intentionally large group, and members are chosen for their ability to use diverse knowledge, skills and perspectives to develop a plan that moves us toward a future that is best for the university as a whole. They are not responsible for defending, protecting or advancing any particular program or interest group. They help frame proposals for university consideration and eventual submission to the FPU Board of Trustees, which makes the final determination. But while we select and work to implement our current priorities, we are already thinking about the future plans beyond these decisions.

The frame of reference and source of general guidance for our planning effort is defined by four guiding statements. Our mission, vision, values and Fresno Pacific Idea statements are approved by the university and ultimately by the board of trustees that governs the institution. But there is one document that is even more fundamental than these four: our Confession of Faith. Our core values include being and acting as a Christian Community. The Confession of Faith defines our understanding of what it means to be our particular kind of Christian learning community. It summarizes our shared understanding of what the Bible says about God’s will for us as we seek to be the people of his kingdom on earth. Unlike our statements of mission, vision, values and the Idea, we do not have final approval of our faith statement; it is developed and approved by the U.S. Mennonite Brethren Churches. We participate actively in that dynamic process, but the statements are approved by the church body and are not under our final control. We are a creature or agency of the church, and our policies must always respect and express the faith and life standards of our church.

We face many great challenges as we try to live out faithful and wise service, guided by that statement of what we believe to be true and important. Our beliefs guide our behavior. As James reminds us, our faith without corresponding actions is dead and useless. The unbelieving world in which we are called to serve and witness for Jesus does not care much what we believe, but that world cares intensely about what we actually do. And they resent and resist, sometimes angrily, when we prophetically act or call them to act in ways that they feel restrain or critique their personal freedom to do whatever they want.

For us, our faith creates the context of our freedom and the reason for disciplined and purposeful self-control. Our faith provides the freedom that matters most to us, the freedom from slavery to the desires of our old nature and the freedom to live out the mind of Christ as new persons. We value the freedom to pursue the integration of faith, learning and living for wise and faithful service in the kingdom of God on earth.

Here is the link to our Confession of Faith: http://www.usmb.org/menus/confession-of-faith-detailed-version.html. It is worth studying in detail. We will be referring to it often as we navigate together the moral and ethical issues that contextualize our organizational planning.

Rich Kriegbaum