Seattle Pacific University: Then, and Now

In the summer between my high school senior graduation and my matriculation as a college freshman, my buddy Jim (he had the same first name as me) and his girlfriend, Gayle, asked me if I wanted to go on a blind day with Gayle’s cousin from out-of-town. I balked. Candidly, I was scared. Then, a man in our little country church of 50 people said, "I think you'd better accept the offer." I looked at him. He was about 50 years of age at the time, I am guessing. He had never married. What went through my mind at that moment was, "Wow, I don’t want to end up a bachelor like you, so I'd better say, 'yes'." So, I called my buddy Jim and hesitatingly said, "Yes."

The night came for the date. We were going to go bowling. That was about all there was to do for Christian kids in our little rural town of 6,000. As my buddy, Jim, and I were driving to Gayle's house, where I would meet this out-of-town cousin to be my blind date, Jim suddenly told me, "Pull over - I need to talk to you about something." I slowly pulled to the curb and stopped the car. He looked at me and said, "I've gotta tell you something." "Okay, what it is?" I asked. "Well," he responded, "you need to know, she has quite an acne problem." "Okay," I said, knowing that in my high school sophomore year, I had had the same problem. "Oh, but there is more," he continued. "What?" "Well, I'm not sure how to break it to you, but she is a little bit overweight." "Oh," I responded, trying to hide my concern.
(Now, let me make a disclaimer. I am not attacking weight-challenged people. I am one of them. I need to shed pounds. In fact, as I am writing this, I just came from two-and-a-half hours at the gym: working on a treadmill and doing weight training. People say, “Find an exercise you like.” Well, I have never found an exercise I liked! My wife and I had a treadmill in our bedroom for over 10 years - we hung lots of clothes on it, but I never lost a pound just having it there. I have spent many days wearing gym clothes around the house - it did no good, I lost no weight. You get the picture. I am not attacking weight-challenged people in my story, since I am one! Now, let’s return to the story.)
Jim continued, "Well, to be honest with you, she is not a little overweight - she is a lot overweight," he said. "Oh wow, Jim," I replied, "why didn’t you tell me this before? Why did you wait until we were one-half block from picking her up?" I stated, in great exasperation. But my buddy Jim was not done, "I need to be fully honest. I should have told you before. She is – well – huge." By now I was both panicked and angry. "Jim, we are friends! You should have been up front with me about this! But now l'm trapped - I can’t back out!" With a sigh, I shrugged and said, "Let’s go pick up Gayle and her cousin and get this date over with."
I was smoldering on the inside, really ticked at my friend for not operating in full disclosure.
I drove the last one-half block and parked my blue 1963 two door (with post), 6-cylinder (very slow car!) Bel Aire Chevy in front of the two-story, white-frame home. I got out, walked slowly behind my buddy Jim up the sidewalk to the house, dreading what was ahead, fuming silently all the way.
Jim knocked on the door. His girlfriend, Gayle, also a good friend of mine, opened the door with a big smile. I was not smiling.
Jim gave Gayle a greeting and an embrace. I dreaded the next moment. Where was this sizeable cousin that I was to take to the bowling alley for the blind date?
And then she appeared. The cousin – we'll call her “Linda” for this story (not her real name) – was now standing in the doorway beside Gayle. I was in shock. She was beautiful. She was not overweight at all. She was not carrying one extra ounce. She was very fit. She was strikingly attractive and had the most winning smile. My heart melted. Jim had pulled my leg!
We drove to the bowling alley, and had a great time. Frankly, I did not want the date to end. I would have liked a second date, and third, and fourth. You get the picture.
But when you are a newly-graduated high school senior going into your college freshman year, sustaining a long distance relationship across 1,700 miles, from the prairies of Kansas to the city of Seattle, Washington, is not an option. So, "Linda's" and my total dating experience was simply that one time. It was a great night of bowling, with lots of fun and good memories. That was one night in the summer between my high school senior and college freshman year that I will always remember, not so much because of who "Linda" was, but rather because of who she wasn’t (thanks to Jim’s misleading description).
Not surprisingly, my buddy Jim retold this story hundreds of times. He gave me a call on the day of my wedding to Rosemary – before his unexpected and untimely lethal heart attack. For decades, he was so proud of the prank he had pulled. I forgave him, long ago. In fact, I forgave him the moment I saw "Linda"!
Why did I tell you that story? Well, for one thing, to give us all a little laugh. (We don’t laugh enough these days.) But this blind date story serves as a long introduction to the topic of this newsletter: Seattle Pacific University.
"Linda" (again, not her real name) was going to be a freshman that fall at a college in the Northwest, Seattle Pacific College, now called Seattle Pacific University. SPU is a Free Methodist college.
What is a "Free Methodist?" The Free Methodists are a group that came out of the Methodists (then-called the Episcopal Methodist Church) in the 1860s (in part because the Methodists charged for pews or pew boxes – like a sport event does today – and the “Free” Methodists had pews, you guessed it, for “free.”) The Free Methodists departed the larger Methodist denomination, a short time after the Wesleyans left them in 1843, over the Methodists' unwillingness to take a strong stand against slavery. The Free Methodist are considered a “sister denomination” to the Wesleyans and to the Church of the Nazarene. The Free Methodist denomination was later to merge with the Wesleyan denomination at the Houghton College (New York) General Conference of 1959, but failed by one vote.
Since "Linda" was going to a sister-denominational college, I followed any news I heard from Seattle Pacific University with interest. I later had the opportunity to speak on the campus.
But that was then. This is now. What I am about to report about SPU is not good.
A couple years ago, the President of the college suddenly resigned, caught in the crosshairs of orthodoxy vs. apostacy. The faculty and segments of the student body were advocating for anti-Scriptural behaviors. The board of the college, to their credit, stood strong.
But the battle did not end then. It has intensified. How so? Some faculty, staff and students are now suing this Free Methodist University for not hiring homosexuals, lesbians, bisexuals, transgenders and everything else you can image. In other words, they think they can force the school to abandon its historic, Christian foundations, and affirm the debauchery of the modern era.
The Free Methodist denomination – like the Wesleyans and the Church of the Nazarene – have traditionally held to a “holiness” standard. What is that? Well, in short, it is the belief that post-conversion, there is an experience after initial salvation (“receiving Christ as Savior”), whereby a person goes through a “second experience” in which they are sanctified, or, at least, begin the sanctification process, to a point where they begin to actually experience victory over the sins that used to hold them. The “second blessing” is to “holiness folk” what “baptism of the Spirit” (usually with speaking in tongues) is to the Pentecostals. In fact, almost all the Pentecostal denominations (except the Assemblies of God) grew out of the Holiness denominations. What is great about the holiness message is this: Whereas the Good News is that God accepts you like you are, the Great News is that He does not leave you like you were.

Thus, the holiness colleges have always had a very high moral standard. Always. Until… recently. Azusa Pacific University (in the greater Los Angeles area), for example, was founded by a group of several holiness denominations coming together. It used to be a bastion of holiness teaching. What about today? Just ask alumni what has happened to their once-Biblically strong, holiness college. I served on a council of Christian leaders there for several years. I witnessed the spiritual demise of the institution right before my eyes. Many protested. Some board members even resigned in protest. But all to no avail. And such it is with some of Seattle Pacific University’s faculty, staff and students. But in contrast to APU, SPU’s board is standing strong.
Enter 2022: students, staff and faculty, who did not sacrifice anything to build the great Seattle Pacific University, are now demanding that the school compromise and capitulate to the “world.” SPU, which was founded in 1891 with 34 students, has now grown to between 3,000-4,000 students. Truly, I would rather see 34 students fiercely committed to Biblical holiness, than several thousand who are not.
Let me restate this: What is the great controversy? Some students, faculty and staff are demanding that the school capitulate to that for which God destroyed Sodom. They are advocating for that for which Lot’s wife, when looking back, became a salt shaker. They are incensed that the school would actually be Biblical, and advocate holiness.
Imagine, a holiness college that actually wants to hold to holiness! How dare they do that! Imagine, a Christian school that actually wants to be authentically Christian!
So now, the apostate faculty, staff and students have sued the school. Let that sink in: They have actually sued the school for being exactly what they say they are: Biblical. Click here to read the article for yourself.
May I make a suggestion? Call (206) 281-2114 and leave a message for SPU’s Interim President, Peter Menjares. Let him know that you stand 100% with the SPU Board in standing for Biblical holiness, in opposition to catering to some unbiblical faculty, staff and students, who are unappreciative of SPU’s history of Scriptural orthodoxy and holiness and oblivious to the enormous sacrifice of those who sustained the institution for more than a century.

Tragically, SPU is only one institution out of many evangelical colleges that are facing these types of challenges, but in almost all other cases, the president and the board are the ones who have capitulated. Joyously, in this case, the board is standing firm. Encourage them.
Thank you for taking one minute to make that call.
Dr. Jim Garlow
Well Versed

Rosemary Schindler Garlow
Well Versed

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