JACKSON, Tenn. – Dec. 15, 2003 – More than 2,200 people attended the commencement services of Union University's 179th graduating class Dec. 13 at West Jackson Baptist Church. It was Union's largest graduating class for a December graduation with 242 students, according to David S. Dockery, president of the university.
Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University and a member of President Bush's Bioethics Council, delivered the commencement address titled, "Christianity, Conscience, and Law." He dedicated his message to the memory of renowned theologian Carl F.H. Henry, who died Dec. 7.
George reminded graduates of the biblical story of the rich, young ruler, told in the Gospel of St. Matthew.
"The story of the rich young man reveals just how stern a monitor Christian conscience can be," George said. "Although the challenge for the young man was to sacrifice his riches for the gospel, for each of us it may be something else. Perhaps in the cause of justice for the unborn (or some other just cause) we are called by Christ to risk reputation, social respectability, prospects for career advancement, friends or family, health or comfort. Each of us must pray and reflect upon our own unique circumstances, opportunities, talents and abilities in making the judgment of conscience required of us in the matter."
George said Christians should discern the requirements of conscience in light of the gospel, "each of us must consider that he or she is called by Christ himself to do more than merely meet the moral minimum of the natural law. One way or another, the Lord calls each of us to self-sacrificing love."
George also lauded Union University and Dockery's leadership.
"My prayer is that Union's success will inspire Christian colleges and universities throughout the country and the world, Catholic and Protestant alike, to strive to meet that standard," George said.
George was presented with a honorary doctor of letters from the university.