But Shelly said the list sends a message to Christians in the wake of the recent closing of Church of Christ-associated Cascade College in Portland, Ore.
“All of us know the value that Christian colleges have added to the evangelistic outreach of Churches of Christ in different parts of the country where they are known,” Shelly said. “We just can’t let any more of them collapse.”
Now, obviously, all of these colleges are tiny in terms of undergraduate enrollment — none of them top a thousand, none of them are really even close. But Shelly’s lament doesn’t seem to be directed toward the fortunes of his particular school (and, really, the specific financial state of these particular schools is not what interests me about this article), so much as toward the entire dream/mindset/whatever behind the parachurch superstructure that has grown up in mainline Churches of Christ and, now, apparently, must be supported. (Visions of AIG, Bear Stearns, and Lehman Brothers are dancing in my head.)
The grand, triumphalistic (and ironically parochial) dream that sustained the establishment of these schools, and the supply of ready congregational cash that supported them, in the mid-twentieth century, has dried up — or so it would seem — at the dawn of the twenty-first century. What if, in the midst of an economy that is not recovering, and a shrinking donor pool to support these schools, mainline churches are forced to give up on institutional maintenance and look to other, more primitive ways of educating their children? It’s obviously not to the immediate benefit of college presidents like Shelly — and others stuck in the institutional maintenance mindset — to do this kind of imagining. But it may be forced upon them.