By Bridget Hadorn 21′, Contributor
It’s the summer before my freshman year at Gordon and I’m sitting on my couch checking the “Gordon Class of 2021” GroupMe chat. When I open the chat, I’m greeted with an article from one of my fellow incoming students titled, “Dear Catholic, Do You Know for Sure if You are Going to Heaven?” Spoiler: the article said no. I was already feeling nervous about coming to Gordon, but that this article seemed to confirm my worries: Catholic students are not welcome at evangelical institutions like Gordon College.
After taking four years of Christian Ministries courses, my anxieties about being a Catholic student at Gordon have dissolved in many ways. My professors have encouraged me to engage deeply with my faith and continue to walk beside me when others would belittle the legitimacy of my tradition.
I am still a Catholic despite the rude articles insinuating that the salvific work of Christ does not extend to me. I am still Catholic despite chapel preachers describing Catholicism as a treadmill – something that takes a lot of work and in fact, “will kill you.” I am still Catholic despite frequent questions about whether “I’m saved.” Despite being accused that I worship Mary, believe in works-based salvation, and countless other flawed assumptions. I am still Catholic.
I am stronger in my appreciation for Roman Catholicism for many reasons, yet this certainly isn’t the result of any concerted efforts by the college. Rather, it is the support of my professors and fellow students who have continued to encourage this growth. I am not the same student who cried over a mean article someone sent in a group chat many years ago.
As I plan for life after Gordon, sometimes I picture myself teaching at a college or university. It is my hope to work for a Christian Ministries department, but one thing is for certain: I will probably never work for Gordon College. This is not necessarily a biting critique of my experience or a lack of desire to work here. The unfortunate reality is that despite being a graduate, Gordon wouldn’t hire me to its faculty because of my Catholicism.
Gordon College does not hire Roman Catholic faculty.
I often wonder what the difference is between signing the school’s statement of faith as a student instead of a faculty member. This statement is the very thing that would keep me from teaching in the future. That most students at Gordon are evangelical is an insufficient explanation for this fact. This has tempted me at times to think some of the same thoughts I had coming into college. The foremost of these is that Gordon views my faith as ‘bad’ or incomplete in some way; that my faith is inherently less “Christian.”
However, if I’ve learned anything during my time at Gordon, it’s just how important dialogue is in the presence of diversity. Studying how to do both ministry with students from multiple different backgrounds has only enriched my faith. Being instructed by professors from a diverse range of religious traditions has shaped me as both a minister and theologian. My prayer for Gordon is that it would recognize the movement of the Spirit in the midst of this diversity. The Body of Christ is divided where there ought to be unity. I hope that Gordon has the courage to hire faculty that is demonstrative of the breadth of those in Church. We will only experience the beauty of this diversity when there is a willingness to enter into dialogue with others. It is my desire that Gordon will take this fact seriously as they select faculty to educate future leaders of the church.