JACKSON, Tenn. – Nov. 18, 2003– (Editor's Note: Following is a full transcript of the education report delivered by Union University president David S. Dockery Nov. 11 at the annual meeting of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.)
I have thought and prayed about what to share in the brief moments we have been given to share the Union story with you this afternoon. There is much I could tell.
I could begin with the great students among the 2,809 students enrolled at Union this fall -- a record enrollment from 43 states and 30 countries. I could tell you some special stories about the academic excellence represented therein with multiple national merit finalists or I could tell you about changed lives committed to service to God and to others seen in so many.
I could tell you about Union's expanding national reputation seen by being ranked in the top tier of universities in the South by U.S. News and World Report, including being listed seventh out of 135 universities in the South for student quality and selectivity and eighth in terms of faculty resources underscoring the academic quality of Union University.
I could tell you about faculty accomplishments, campus developments, or the generosity of donors.
I could talk about Union's special relationships with the churches of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, about the 1,300 students from Tennessee Baptist congregations representing nearly every association across this state. I could tell you about the recovery process from the tornado damage from the November and May storms and could thank all of you for your prayers for Union and many of you for your special gifts and service to Union to help restore the campus following $2.6 million dollars of damage.
I could tell you about great chapel programs, campus ministry opportunities, dozens of student mission trips, service projects, special conferences for pastors, scholars, students, lay leaders, and senior citizens during the past year and the years to come. I could tell you about a NCCAA national title for the Union women's volleyball team and conference championship for our cross country team or about the Union student newspaper being selected by the Baptist Journalism Conference as the best student newspaper on any Baptist campus across this country.
But I have just a few minutes remaining and I want to tell you two things:
1) Thank you for your support for Union University through the Cooperative Program. The Baptist Faith and Message (1963 and 2000) says regarding Christian education that "the cause of education in the Kingdom of Christ is co-ordinate with the causes of missions and general benevolences, and should receive along with these the liberal support of the churches."
Similarly, regarding cooperation, the BFM (1963 and 2000) says that "Members of New Testament churches should cooperate with one another in carrying forward the missionary, educational, and benevolent ministries for the extension of Christ's Kingdom."
So we say thank you! We value your support and think that is a worthy investment in the work of the Kingdom of God to do so, which leads me to the second point:
2) Secondly, I want to say, "Why should you continue to support Union University in days ahead?" I think the answer is this: because Union University is committed to Christ-centered excellence in all that we do -- not just in our outstanding Christian Studies department, not just in our campus ministry program, but across the board.
Each year we adopt a verse for the year for the entire campus. This year that verse is Colossians 1:18b -- that in all things Christ might have the pre-eminence. Would you give me just a minute to tell you what that means at Union University?
For Christ to have the pre-eminence requires a full vision of all that it means to say Jesus Christ is Lord. This is more than a personal statement, it is more than Jesus is Lord of my life. While we want every student, every staff member, every faculty member, administrator, and trustee to confess Christ in this personal way, the larger educational enterprise requires a more all-encompassing understanding. It is to unpack all that Paul meant in Colossians 1 when he said, "Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God, the first born of all creation, for in Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, dominions, or principalities or authorities, all things were created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together" (Col. 1:15-17).
To be a Christ-centered institution means we believe that Jesus Christ, the second person of the trinity, co-equal and co-eternal with God the Father is the Creator of all things. He is the sustainer of all things, for "by Him all things hold together". He is the goal of all things; for all things were not only created by Him, but for Him. All of history is moving toward a providential destiny that will be fulfilled in Him. He is the Redeemer of all things and Judge of all things. When all things in heaven and earth, visible and invisible, reach their final consummation, the redeeming work of the Son will be complete.
So as Paul goes on to say in Col. 1:18 -- "Then the one who is the image of the invisible God will be pre-eminent in all things." He is pre-eminent over kings and rulers, the centerpiece of all history -- and that means he is pre-eminent over all knowledge, all learning, all teaching, all scholarship. Jesus Christ is utterly central to all that humans can know or experience. There is nothing to which Christ is irrelevant. There is no segment of human learning in which He is not the central figure, for without Him neither we nor our students will ever make sense of this world, its history, its present, or its future. That is why and how Paul can say in Col. 2:3 that in Jesus Christ is found all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. In the end He is the key to all truth pursuits and nothing can be fully grasped without reference to him. Most of our claims unfortunately to be Christian institutions of higher education are truncated, partial, and diminished. At Union we will seek to make it our aim, our purpose, to reach every corner of every academic discipline and every area of student life for Christ, for we acknowledge that every aspect of human life must be lived under the Lordship of Christ!
Thank you for your support of Union's commitment to Christ-centered excellence in all aspects of our campus in service to Church and society for the glory of God.
By David S. Dockery