As times change, Milligan stays close to Christian roots

Brandon Paykamian • Dec 22, 2019 at 8:00 AM

Milligan College is different from its local secular higher education counterparts in more ways than just its small size.

President Bill Greer said Milligan educates its students in the hope they will take Christian values into their future workplaces. He said students should aim to “integrate their faith and their work so that they live their lives holistically.”

“Being a faith-based institution has been part of our fabric since our very, very beginning. We were founded in 1866 as a faith-based institution with the intent of providing an education in lots of different academic areas all undergirded by faith with a basis in Biblical teaching and emphasis on character building. It’s part of our history and part of what we continue to do,” Greer said.

“I think we differ from a secular institution in that we are free to and take advantage of the ability to integrate faith into what it is that we teach. Our mission is to honor God by educating men and women to be servant leaders, and we think that has a scriptural basis in terms of following the example of Jesus Christ, who came to serve and not to be served,” he continued. “That way, they’re not just weekend Christians or Sunday Christians, they’re Christians in the workplace every day of the week and every day of their lives.”

Until August, the Christian institution — be officially named Milligan University in June 2020 — had strict rules prohibiting students from drinking alcohol, even if they were 21 and off Milligan’s campus.

Greer said the policy change came from a desire to “recognize the maturity and adulthood of our students.” 

“We’re not advocating the use of alcohol, but we are not prohibiting its responsible use on the part of students as they reach legal age,” he said. “If you prohibit its use, you can’t speak into it at all, and it actually doesn’t create a positive learning experience. I think we’re in a much better place now with it having been changed.”

The campus remains a dry campus, and still maintains some requirements secular schools do not have.

“It’s not a matter of us wanting to ‘change with the times,’” Greer pointed out. 

Milligan still requires student participation in what is called the “Spiritual Formation Program.” 

In order to gain enough “SFP credits,” students are encouraged to participate in various service projects and attend chapel at Seeger Chapel every week. Greer says “there are lots of ways” to earn those credits. 

“It’s their choice as to whether they come (to the chapel) or not, but they can also earn SFP credits from service projects, through other service opportunities in programs that have a spiritual formation component throughout the semester,” Greer said. “Over that four-year span (as a student at Milligan), we want them to grow, mature and develop in terms of spiritual formation.”

Greer said the soon-to-be university was able to expand and add space after the absorption of the Emmanuel Seminary in 2015. This addition, as well as the soon-to-be-built student center, are key components of the college’s transition into university status. 

“They were challenged financially, and they were not able to continue operating on their own, so we worked with them over a couple-of-year period to stabilize operations and strengthen their finances. Once it was at a place we were comfortable with, we absorbed them into Milligan,” he said. “It has been phenomenally successful for the institution.”

Milligan differs from local secular institutions like East Tennessee State University in other ways besides programming and the presence of a chapel and seminary. 

Though the school’s alcohol ordinances were recently lifted, there are still some positions the university’s president doesn’t budge on — one being his position on human sexuality.

“I do think there are social changes and aspects of the world that are inherently in opposition to certain Christian values, and so even just in living out what scripture teaches us, that sometimes runs contrary to newer social norms,” Greer said. “We believe that human sexuality was created to exist in a marriage relationship between a man and a woman. That’s what, institutionally, we believe.

“But we also believe that Christ’s love is to be shared with everyone and demonstrated to everyone, so we’re inclusive in that regard, even if we have differing opinions about lifestyles. It’s a delicate balance. We try to adhere to that scriptural teaching but be as open and loving as we can.”

Milligan does not have any official LGBTQ groups or student organizations, according to Allie Greer, Milligan’s assistant director of public relations. 

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