I didn’t choose Cincinnati Christian University to be in my life. It chose me. As a young boy I wore a navy blue T-shirt of my mother’s. On the back it had written in a collegiate font, "Cincinnati Bible Seminary, Class of 1968."
I had no idea what that even meant. But it was a comfy T-shirt, so I wore it.
Whenever my parents talked about things over at the Seminary, I couldn't help but think they were talking about a place for corpses. (Later, I would come to understand that it was not actually a cemetery.) I heard about it frequently in their conversations, recognizing its importance to our lives.
You see, back in 1957, a few professors from Cincinnati Bible Seminary started the Price Hill Church of Christ in the school’s chapel building. When starting the church, Daniel Eynon called on neighborhood families to convince them to join the young congregation. Professor Eynon met Genevieve Carr, who immediately joined the church; her husband, however, refused to let his children attend. One day Eynon confronted Garrett Carr on this issue and apparently challenged him, saying something to the effect of, “just because you want to go to hell doesn’t mean your family has to.” The logic of the statement registered with my grandfather: he let his kids go to church.
Thus my father became a Christian as a result of Cincinnati Bible Seminary.
While a student at the Cincinnati Bible Seminary, my mother worked her way through college serving as Lewis Foster's secretary; she had the opportunity to type pages that were later included in the NIV translation. During this time, mom engaged in Christian service, volunteering at that same Price Hill church, where she met my father.
So my parents married because of Cincinnati Bible Seminary.
Because my home church was in the shadow of Cincinnati Bible Seminary, I grew up reaping the benefits of proximity. Professors of the school were essential to our church's growth and development. I had the opportunity to be around CBS legends such as George Mark Elliott (whose wife Kathryn taught me piano lessons), Dan Eynon, Jack Cottrell, and Bill Bravard. Seminary students often attended our church, and I terrorized a number of them who dared to volunteer as Sunday School teachers.
I’m one of the youngest people with ties to the school who remembers what it was like to worship in the old chapel building. I attended the very last service in that building before it was torn down.
As I grew into my teenage years, I had absolutely no interest in (the then renamed) Cincinnati Bible College. In fact, I almost feared it, boldly declaring that there was no way I would go to college there. I always envisioned attending a big state school to study law.
But at the end of my sophomore year of high school, I finally discovered something I was not only good at, but something that I loved: preaching the Word of God. Once I decided that I wanted to pursue this vocationally, my college decision became a no brainer: it had to be CBC.
It was the only school to which I applied. And I still have my college acceptance letter.
The past twenty years of my life—the majority of my existence—is linked to Cincinnati Christian University. I played soccer for (and later coached) the Golden Eagles. I was both the President of my class and of the student body. I met my wife at CCU, proposing one evening before the whole student body at Family. All of my siblings (even ones who didn’t attend) found their spouses on campus. I served as President of the Alumni Association. I teach classes as an adjunct professor. Twice now, I’ve had the privilege to serve as a full-time employee of the school.
Some of the best and worst times of my life have occurred on that little piece of real estate in Price Hill.
And I’m sure that some of you reading this now could proclaim the same thing. Whenever I meet with old college friends, we swap stories, some of which I had completely forgotten. (Recently I was reminded that I used to convince freshmen that there was a pool on top of the library.) And even though many of us have experienced frustrations with the school, if you're like me, they wither away when I think of the blessings I’ve encountered because it exists.
I love CCU.
I owe everything to this place.
And I can never repay it.
But I can continue to love it.
As many of you have heard, CCU is yet again facing some financial difficulties. While our fiscal position is still redeemable, this situation has prompted leadership to engage in conversations with Johnson University near Knoxville, Tennessee, about a potential merger. Johnson is a fine institution, serving a powerful need in the kingdom of God and I mean it no disrespect in addressing this subject. But even though these conversations are merely exploratory, I believe them to be unnecessary.
CCU can still stand on its own.
I am confident that the leaders of these institutions are ultimately motivated by a deep love for the Lord and for their respective schools; the conversation is being framed within the context of what’s best for the kingdom and for Christian unity. But let’s not think that a singular perspective is capable of holding the only solutions for what best benefits the kingdom of God. While the Scriptures repeatedly speak of the unity of believers, we see numerous examples our kingdom’s diversity. It’s these different voices and perspectives that make our Movement what it is today.
The voicing of CCU is distinct from that of Johnson and, regardless of how delicately we approach this, a voice will be sacrificed. Is this truly best for the kingdom of God? Maybe, but maybe not. While some gains could be achieved in the short term, ultimately our Movement could lose out.
The concern driving these talks is for the survival of CCU. If these talks progress towards execution, the newly-created institution might bear some similarities with CCU, but our history, tradition, and heritage would be forever transformed. If we love the school enough to explore a merger, why don’t we love it enough to try a new trajectory? The assets for a successful turnaround to free CCU already exist. Have we truly explored every possibility?
I love CCU—so much that you might feel my apprehension is merely passion blinding any objectivity. My life was transformed because multiple generations of women and men believed in that school—and they provided a place where people could learn to love the Lord and teach others to do the same.
Too many people have given too much to have it end like this.
That little boy in the navy blue Cincinnati Bible Seminary T-shirt would agree.