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Christians gather to further a holistic understanding of Christian Higher Education

By Sally Jongsma

Christian academicians from thirty-four countries gathered in Nicaragua in November for Congreso Internacional 2006, sponsored by the Polytechnic University of Nicaragua. This was the seventh global conference put on by the International Association for the Promotion of Christian Higher Education (IAPCHE), which has its offices on the Dordt College campus. Six faculty members or administrators from Dordt College attended, as well as former president Dr. John B. Hulst and emeritus professor Dr. John Vander Stelt.

In a formal resolution brought to the floor of the conference on its final day, Dordt College was thanked and recognized for its faithful support of the IAPCHE organization over the past several decades.  The delegates met at the Convent of San Francisco in Granada, Nicaragua.

In a formal resolution brought to the floor of the conference on its final day, Dordt College was thanked and recognized for its faithful support of the IAPCHE organization over the past several decades. The delegates met at the Convent of San Francisco in Granada, Nicaragua.

The 145 delegates at the conference discussed ways in which their shared worldview directs and shapes their work across a wide variety of disciplines. Executive Director Dr. Nick Lantinga describes that approach as coming from a holistic Christian perspective building on C.S. Lewis’s and Abraham Kuyper’s concept of declaring Christ’s lordship over every square inch of Creation.

The conference was organized around the theme “Christian Higher Education in a Global Context: Implications for Curriculum, Pedagogy, and Administration.” It included three tracks

· How does Christian higher education bridge gaps between competing worldviews and culture?

· How can Christian higher education assist Christian elementary and secondary schools?

· How does Christian higher education prepare students to serve in specific regions with specific crises—such as AIDS, political repression, economic disparity?

“These are not just intellectual issues,” says Lantinga. “Like Dordt’s emphasis on serviceable insight, discussions must include both a theoretical understanding of issues and practical ways to respond and serve.”

The conference reflected a commitment to working together and learning from each other globally. The event was conducted in both Spanish and English. Rev. Dr. Jose Alcantara, newly elected chair of the board, is from Mexico. The 145 delegates came from thirty-four countries.

One delegate from Nigeria, when first asked to consider attending, thought it would be another event where white people got others together to teach them. He left edified by the wonderful opportunity for Christians from all areas of the world to speak and learn together, says Lantinga.

Part of the success of and the need for the international conference are the growing numbers of Christian educational institutions around the world. Nearly 100 new colleges or universities have begun in Africa in the last decade. Christians in Africa have grown from ten million in 1900 to 360 million in 2000. Within the next decades, China will count more Christians than the United States, says Lantinga. He gets calls to the IAPCHE office regularly from new Christian institutions looking for resources and advice. Just in the past weeks such calls have come from Liberia, Thailand, and Northern India. Each faces its own cultural and regional challenges, but they are trying to educate from the shared worldview of Christ’s lordship over creation.

Lantinga quoted Dr. Richard Mouw’s expansion on Kuyper’s square-inch quote, noting that students need to seek out a square inch for which they are prepared to suffer as they develop an understanding of what the Lord requires of them.

“I was overwhelmed by the spirit of trust that pervaded the conference,” says Lantinga. “There was extraordinary diversity, but one Lord and one faith. It had intimations of Revelation.”