February 2, 2006
Karen B. Eldridge, Director of News and Public Information
The Bible should unite Christians, not divide them.
Such will be the basis of discussions held during Maryville College’s annual February Meetings, scheduled for Feb. 23-26 at Maryville College and at Maryville’s New Providence Presbyterian Church. Entitled “Rules of Engagement: Fighting Fair with Scripture,” the meetings will be led by Dr. Anna Carter Florence, assistant professor of preaching and worship at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur , Ga.
“Dr. Florence is a noted preacher, and she teaches preaching, or homiletics, at Columbia, one of the seminaries of the Presbyterian Church (USA),” said the Rev. Anne D. McKee, campus minister at Maryville College and coordinator for the College’s February Meetings. “She is writing a book with a chapter entitled ‘Sand Box Rules for Christians,’ with the image that we live, play and work together, so we need to have basic understandings between us if we are going to get along.”
McKee said she believes Florence’s visit and discussions will help enrich the campus’ dialogue about religion and in the process, build a stronger community.
“Sometimes, a student’s arrival at college marks the first time they have had sustained conversations about religion with people who disagree with them on questions of interpretation of Scripture,” she explained. “Students live right next door and go to class with people from different religious backgrounds and often enjoy this kind of exchange across denominational or ideological lines.”
But at a time when the Bible is being referenced, seemingly increasingly, in arguments regarding war and peace, the origins of human life, gender roles, sexual practice and materialism, McKee said Florence’s views on the use of Scripture in debate is relevant to everyone – not just college students.
“Christians certainly have controversy, partly because we are passionate about Christ and how he would have us live in the world,” the campus minister said. “There have always been questions of conflict in the church – from whether non-Jews could be full members in the first century, to the practice of church rituals and interpretation of Scripture during the Reformation …
“I think a lot of us have an image in our heads – or have had the experience – of Christians beating each other over the head with the Bible, using Scripture and its teachings to ‘prove’ our points, and then to close off all conversation about controversial issues,” she continued. “A bumper sticker says ‘God said it; I believe it; that settles it.’ Perhaps that’s the case, but on one hand, there have always been multiple interpretations of Scripture, which is what makes Bible study so interesting. And on the other hand, the Bible itself teaches that we are to speak the truth in love, rather than in a spirit of superiority or violence.”
Since 1877, February Meetings have offered the College and local community an annual opportunity to reflect on Christian faith and action. In years past, guest speakers and special music have been highlights of the condensed lecture series, which is open to all members of the College community, people in the area, and visitors. Maryville College, one of 66 colleges related to the Presbyterian Church USA, remains in a voluntary covenant relationship with the Church. Many faiths are represented in the student body.
Florence’s first service at the College is scheduled for Thurs., Feb. 23, at 7 p.m. in the Center for Campus Ministry. On Feb. 24, she will speak at 11 a.m. in the Fine Arts Center Music Hall.
At New Providence, Florence will speak at 7 p.m., Feb. 24, following a 6 p.m. dinner at the church, to which the public is invited. (For dinner reservations, call 865.983.0182.)
Lectures and discussions on Sat., Feb. 25, begin at 9 a.m. at the church and conclude at noon. A continental breakfast in Westminster Hall will be served at 10 a.m.
Florence will lead the 9 and 11:05 a.m. services at New Providence on Sun., Feb. 26.
For more information about February Meetings, contact McKee at 865.981.8298 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state‘s third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for its academic rigor and its focus on the liberal arts, Maryville is where students come to stretch their minds, stretch themselves and learn how to make a difference in the world. Total enrollment for the fall 2013 semester was 1,168.