SSU is a liberal arts university with a Christian heritage. The term ‘Christian’ is very broad, so we’d like to clarify what our Christian heritage means for who we are as a community today.
In an increasingly polarized political and cultural landscape, SSU is trying to become a refuge of intentional hospitality and inclusion. We recognise that we, as the Church, have often failed to demonstrate Jesus’ compassion in the past; he made a point of accepting and including the marginalised, and we want to follow his example. At SSU we want each member of our community to be free to truly be themselves; consequently we are an affirming, inclusive community that values and embraces all who want to journey with us.
Unlike a denominational institution or Bible college, at SSU we don’t share one common set of beliefs or doctrine that uniformly identifies us – we are a diverse group of people from all kinds of backgrounds. Each member of our community has a unique faith story, and over the years we’ve changed as new chapters are added to our stories; we respect the older chapters while continuing to write new ones – we want to learn and grow, continually reaching for more humility, justice and compassion. We love the beauty that emerges from diversity, and our community is richer for the medley of ideas and opinions that coexist within it.
We try to avoid being positioned on Christian spectrums (e.g. Liberal-Conservative, Religious Left-Right), or being neatly labeled. As an institution, we are drawn to a spirituality that is enriched by difference, so we choose to focus more on values such as compassion and justice rather than align ourselves with a particular doctrinal stance. Here are some of our leanings:
- We highly value the historical journey of the Church and its teachings and traditions, and at the same time we continually explore and question how to better represent Jesus and love people. A phrase we like that reflects this tension for us is “anchored, with wings.”
- We affirm LGBTQ+ staff and students, and try to create a place of safety here, particularly for those who have been rejected by other communities.
- We emphasise the outworking of faith in social justice and care for the poor and oppressed, along with environmental stewardship of the earth.
- We take the Bible seriously, and we acknowledge that it can be read and interpreted in many ways, so for us it doesn’t prescribe one particular worldview to the exclusion of others. The Bible leads us to a focus on authentic spirituality, contemplative practices and compassionate action.
- We find ourselves more and more drawn to the contemplative Christian stream, in which traditional and progressive voices come together to share their unique gifts and pursue vital spirituality.
Although we aren’t homogenous in our worldviews, we do find ourselves commonly influenced by certain authors who challenge us to keep thinking, learning and progressing in our understanding of God and life and people*:
Jean Vanier Brian McLaren Henri Nouwen Wendell Berry
Shane Claiborne Thomas Merton Simone Weil Richard Rohr
Parker Palmer Martin Buber Desmond Tutu Therese de Lisieux
*Perhaps you, like us, see that we need to give greater attention to women and minority voices. We’re hoping that in a few years we’ll have a more diverse list of favourites to share!