The Big Tent: What We Believe
As school approaches, I’m running into people who ask me how my summer went. A highlight for me was the week I spent as a Van Lunen Fellow in Grand Rapids, Michigan for an Executive Christian School Management program. It was a privilege to be selected as a part of a cohort of 24 Christian school leaders from all over the United States and Canada. The other Fellows came from a range of denominational and school backgrounds. Some of the schools (like KCS) are not affiliated with any particular denomination, while others come from schools associated with various Reformed, Pentecostal, Lutheran or other groups. On our first day in chapel the head of faculty spoke of the program's vision in terms of being under a “Big Tent” of schools that share a commitment to intentionally Christian education – but approach the task from a variety of background and perspectives.
Kelowna Christian was founded more than 35 years ago with the marriage of two schools (Evangel Christian Academy and Kelowna Christian School) one of which had a Pentecostal background, the other Reformed. From our earliest days recognizing this diversity was considered both a distinctive and strength. In fact, our constitution mandates that we seek broad denominational background in the members of our Board.
Still when considering a “Big Tent” model, the question of how big is invariably and appropriately asked. Occasionally, parents and others ask me (sometimes with concern) about the beliefs or teaching of a particular staff member. In past, I don’t think we’ve always been as helpful in our responses as we could be. Merely affirming that we are “Christian” and that there are a range of possible responses to a question doesn’t seem adequate to me. Parents bring certain expectations of what a Christian school approach should be. I think seeking to understand if there is a reasonable alignment between their expectations and our practices seems a good endeavour. A more ‘mainstream’ denomination or group (such as the United Church) might feel very differently about an approach to an issue such as hell (for instance) than a more ‘evangelical’ denomination or group (such as the Baptists or Mennonites). This doesn’t mean we can or should meet every parent expectation – just that we need to be clear and honest on where we are as a school.
SO WHO ARE WE?
Certainly “Big Tent”, but what is the focus of our consensus? When I have conversations with folk about Kelowna Christian School and they ask about our beliefs, I invariably come back to several key points.
- We believe that the Bible is the Word of God. By this I mean we are a community that takes the Bible very seriously. The various churches that we largely draw our student population from describe the Bible as being “inerrant”, “infallible”, and “wholly sufficient” in matters of faith and life.
- We believe that the decisions we make now and the lives that we lead have eternal consequence. In my opening devotion with school staff this year, I’m going to emphasize that while created in the image of God, all of humanity shares the immediate and long term consequences of sin. This has prominent impact on how we approach our task as educators.
- We believe that thedeath and resurrection of Jesus Christ are historical fact – not just some form of metaphor for sacrificial living (although they certainly can be both). These acts are integral to God’s plan of salvation.
- We celebrate and seek to encourage students to enter into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.
- As a school we encourage all members (staff, students, parents and others) to enter an increasingly close walk of discipleship with our Lord.
As you may be aware our Leadership and Board are jointly working on revisiting our Mission and Vision. As part of this process we will be rewriting our Constitution and creating a more explicit Statement of Faith. I’m thankful that this process will help make it easier to say with confidence who we are and what forms the foundation of what we do.