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July 23, 1994|ROSANNE KEYNAN

Why are there so few religious institutions that can compete academically with America's premier colleges and universities?

That is the question that two Pepperdine University researchers will attempt to answer in a yearlong nationwide study of Christian higher education funded by a $106,000 Lilly Endowment grant.

"Many Christian institutions of higher learning determine that their religious commitment is a detriment to serious scholarship and eventually shed their Christian orientation," said Richard Hughes, a professor of religion at Pepperdine, who will direct the project beginning Sept. 1.

"Harvard, Yale, Vanderbilt, the University of Chicago and a host of other major research institutions that began with a distinctly Christian foundation are examples. At the same time, conservative church-related institutions sometimes find it difficult to reconcile first-rate scholarship with their faith commitments," Hughes said.

As a result, he added, there are few religiously oriented colleges and universities that measure up academically with the nation's most elite campuses.

"There are a lot of religious schools that are quite good but very few that are just sterling," he said.

He cited the Catholic university Notre Dame and the Jewish-affiliated Brandeis University as two outstanding exceptions.

"Protestantism doesn't have a major flagship institution," he noted, "perhaps because it is divided into so many denominations."

He cited the Reformed-affiliated Calvin College in Michigan for producing an "amazing number" of first-rate scholars.

"Perhaps it is because the Calvinist heritage takes very seriously the notion that everything is a part of God's creation," he said, "and has an intellectual tradition of not being afraid of looking at any particular idea, even if it may seem threatening."

Asked to speculate on a possible explanation for the apparent dearth of such schools, Hughes said: "I think that sometimes people in all faiths--not only Christians--think, 'My world view is the only world view.' Yet the essence of a university is the opposite. First-rate scholarship means taking the world seriously."

Hughes said the study would ask whether certain faith traditions sustain serious scholarship better than others because of their outlook on the world.

The project will examine how religious missions and academic quality can be effectively integrated at 15 Christian institutions of higher learning that represent seven faith traditions: Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed, Mennonite, Wesleyan/Holiness, Evangelical/Interdenominational and Baptistic/Restorationist.

Each faith category will include a school from the West Coast and one from the rest of the country.

Scholars at each institution will write a narrative history that examines their school's efforts to integrate faith and learning from its founding to the present.

They will explore how the institution conceives of the tasks of teaching and scholarship, and the relationship between the two; and a host of issues ranging from the way the institution portrays itself to its internal and external constituencies to religious patterns of student recruitment and financial aid.

The narratives will be edited by Hughes and William Adrian, a former Pepperdine provost and director of the university's London Program, who will serve as a consultant to the project. The articles will be published in book form and circulated widely among Christian colleges.

Said Hughes: "We hope it will stimulate serious conversation about these issues."


* John Lutzker, chairman of the psychology department of Lee College at the University of Judaism, has received a four-year, $804,000 grant from the California Wellness Foundation to implement a child abuse prevention program he created with psychologist Ron Doctor of Cal State Northridge.

* The California Community Foundation has awarded $40,000 to the National Conference of Christians and Jews, Long Beach, to support a program to conduct human relations programs among the diverse student body in Long Beach public schools and for diversity training and prejudice reduction seminars for the Long Beach Police Department.


* The Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple will hold its 35th annual Obon (Thanksgiving and memorial) Festival from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. today and Sunday. Performances begin at 3:30 p.m. and will include Taiko drumming, Aikido martial arts, a tea ceremony and holiday folk dancing. There will also be games, food, raffles and bingo. On both days, Obon services will be held at 11 a.m. in the temple. Manto-e (lantern) services will be held at 6 p.m. and Bon Odori dancing from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. 505 E. 3rd St., Los Angeles. (213) 626-4200.

* Los Angeles County Sheriff Sherman Block will speak on "Law Enforcement and Cultural Diversity" at Temple B'nai Hayim in Sherman Oaks at 8 p.m. Friday. 4302 Van Nuys Blvd. (818) 788-4664.

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