SPU lacks strong Christian identity

Like many students, I came to Seattle Pacific because it was a Christian university. Although I am a Christian, I ultimately chose SPU because it didn’t require students to be Christians, and I wanted a place where all people would feel welcome to have conversations and have different opinions.

I believe the freedom to choose is an essential part of SPU’s identity. In 1891, SPU began as a seminary dedicated to sending out missionaries to all the corners of the Earth.

Over the years, and in a move to become more inclusive, we have lost our identity as being rooted in faith above all else.

Over the last decade, at least 70 percent of students identify as being strongly Christian.

But we don’t require them to engage in any sort of Christian community or education outside of the UFND series. Over 40 percent of students graduate from SPU without ever attending a campus worship event, such as Gather or Group.

It is common to go on a student-led tour without hearing a single mention of our Christian identity. We are hiding our faith, and we are certainly no longer a school with the deep desire to send missionaries out to the world to share the good news of Jesus Christ.

We have embraced our motto “Engage the culture, change the world” so well that we fit right in. We have engaged the culture so well that it is impossible to tell us apart from anyone else.

We are trying to change the world, so long as no one knows we are Christians. You’ve all seen the “From this place…” banners around campus. They are wonderful achievements from some talented and gifted alumni, but not one of them mentions a single thing about Christ.

Not one of them even hints at our Christian identity. We will boast about nonprofits, development work, social justice and professional athletics, but Heaven forbid we boast about Jesus Christ.

We live in a world that has mistaken tolerance for grace and have become so concerned about being tolerant, accepting and inclusive that we have shied away from the difficult narratives Scripture presents us.

We no longer present the truth that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. We have become an apologetically Christian university.

We act like our faith is something to apologize for, so we try to hide that part of our identity. We have won the fight for inclusivity, but done so at the expense of our identity.

We have forgotten how to follow in the footsteps of our radically inclusive yet dangerously bold savior, Jesus Christ.

Hope is far from lost, and I believe that SPU will continue to be a Christian university.

But if Jesus Christ is not the center, not the focus, not the basis of our university, then we will always be apologizing. We will constantly be on defense, trying not to hurt anyone offend anyone, or make anyone uncomfortable. But that is not the faith that we are called to have.

If SPU is going to continue to be the Christian institution we claim it to be, then things need to change. All our staff and faculty need to actively engage with students about what it means to be Christian.

Our professors need to bravely share their faith because students need models to look up to.

Our tour guides cannot be afraid to claim SPU’s Christian identity. Our marketing campaigns cannot strategically hide our faith.

My hope that non-Christian students who choose to come to SPU will not only have a fair understanding of SPU’s core commitments, but will also feel welcome regardless of their religion.

A diverse student body of different faith traditions, cultural backgrounds, economic positions, interests and gifts is what makes SPU great.

I believe God is doing something great through Seattle Pacific University, and I believe it is going to take hard work and big risks. We cannot be afraid or apologize for being Christians.

I pray that the city of Seattle will know we are Christians by our love, by our words and by our deeds.

I pray that the city of Seattle comes to know Jesus through every interaction with Seattle Pacific University.


Laura Nile is a senior theology major.

This article was posted in the section Opinion.