Statement of Community Responsibilities
As a Christian learning community in the Wesleyan tradition, we pursue academic achievement, personal development and spiritual growth. We seek to create an educational environment that integrates faith, learning and living in a way that honors Christ, follows biblical principles, builds loving relationships, and develops whole Christians who will be active in serving Christ.
To become this kind of community, it is essential that we share a set of values, convictions and commitments that guides our life together. We honor our individual freedom in Christ, the rich diversity of our experiences and backgrounds, and the critical exploration and decision-making that is inherent in our personal development. At the same time, we embrace the vision, ideals and standards that bring us together and allow us to function as a unified Christ-centered academic community. This is a delicate balance, and our statement of community responsibilities describes the ways in which we will seek that creative balance. In joining this community, we individually and corporately covenant with God to live with integrity according to its provisions.
As a community devoted to both academic excellence and spiritual transformation, we desire a life together shaped by love for God, love for one another, and love for the world. We recognize that God’s love calls us to respond in love and service to him and those he has created.
As we seek to live in obedience to God, we depend on the guidance of his Spirit and Word. We affirm the importance of the spiritual disciplines in our individual and corporate life, and we commit ourselves to prayer, study of the Scriptures, worship, faithful church involvement, chapel services, spiritual mentoring and the global work of the church. We maintain that the Houghton community, both individually and corporately, should set aside the Sabbath as a time for worship, meditation, rest, renewal, recreation, fellowship and service to others, especially people in need.1
We believe that living in daily fellowship with other Christians is a privilege and an expression of God’s grace. We cherish relationships in our community and strive to follow the example of Christ in our activities, discourse and interactions with one another. As people created in the image of God and belonging to him, we seek to be a community of inclusion, justice, mercy and redemptive action in the world.
As members of the body of Christ, we desire several specific expressions of love in our community: celebrating, building, caring, confronting, forgiving and healing.
- Celebrating. We will joyfully celebrate one another, rejoicing in our uniqueness, diversity, environment, heritage and calling.
- Building. We will strive consciously and deliberately to build relationships that support, encourage and help others, fully recognizing that this takes time, effort and sacrifice.
- Caring. We will provide comfort, encouragement and intercession for those who experience grief, discouragement, illness, tragedy, loneliness and other personal trials.
- Confronting. We will strengthen our community by speaking the truth to each other always in a spirit of love. We will hold paramount the welfare of the person we confront, and our confrontations will be for the purpose of growth and will be motivated by love, not revenge.
- Forgiving. When difficulties in relationships occur, we will seek to be humble, compassionate, gentle and patient, bearing with one other and forgiving whatever grievances we have against one another.2
- Healing. When one of our relationships has been harmed for any reason, we will reach out to one another: forgiving, making restitution and restoring affection.
We believe that certain attitudes are available to individuals through the Holy Spirit, including “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”3 We will seek to demonstrate and encourage these attitudes in all aspects of our life together.
We believe that God has blessed each of us with talents, skills, abilities and earthly provisions. We will follow the command to be “generous and willing to share” these blessings with others in order that we might “take hold of the life that is truly life.”4 We will avoid attitudes of materialism and cultivate our talents and skills for use in the glory and worship of our Heavenly Father.5
We believe that God has given us stewardship of the earth6 as well as the responsibility to care for the creatures of the earth.7 We will strive, therefore, to live environmentally conscientious lives in order to glorify God and preserve the earth for its future inhabitants.
We believe that hospitality is a fundamental value within the body of believers and a vital part of the Houghton College community. We will strive to be gracious and cordial to all, opening our homes and lives to one another. We will make every effort to help visitors and newcomers feel welcome in our community and to “share with God’s people who are in need.”8
We also believe that Scripture condemns certain acts of the heart, such as greed and jealousy,9pride,10 lust,11 bitterness and an unforgiving spirit, unrighteous anger,12 discrimination and prejudice13 (whether of race, gender, ethnicity or socio-economic class), gossip and purposely causing division in a relationship.14 We will work to overcome these attitude in ourselves and in our community, and we will ask for God’s forgiveness and help to grow in grace.
We encourage all members of the Houghton College community to do everything for the glory of God15 and to exercise biblical maturity, grounded in the virtues and values of Scripture. Our community life should embody such foundational principles as self-control, avoidance of harmful practices, the responsible use of freedom, and sensitivity to the heritage and practices of other Christians.
We believe that Scripture clearly prohibits certain acts, including drinking alcohol to excess, stealing, speaking or writing profanely or slanderously, acting dishonestly, cheating, engaging in occult practice, and engaging in sexual relations outside the bonds of marriage (including premarital sex, adultery and homosexual behavior).
We find other practices to be inconsistent with our understanding of Christian stewardship and our view of our bodies as the temples of God. Therefore, we do not permit the following: demeaning gestures or words, threats of violence or physical attack on people or property, the use of pornography, the use of non-medicinal drugs and other chemical substances (except as specifically prescribed by a physician), and the abuse of over the counter drugs. Houghton College is a tobacco and smoke-free environment; we do not permit the use of tobacco products on or off campus. We also believe that gambling is an unwise use of God-given resources and agree to refrain from gambling in any form.
We believe that we should submit to the authority of government, except on those rare occasions in which obedience to the civil authorities would require us to act in conflict with our consciences as they are informed by Scripture. On such occasions, we will submit voluntarily to the civil penalty for our behavior.
One of the special values of this community is the opportunity to learn from one another, including within each other’s Christian faith traditions. Since there are aspects of our culture and lives together about which devout and sincere Christians disagree, Houghton College expects its members to apply biblical standards of discretion and discernment and to be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. The Bible does not provide specific teaching about every behavior and situation. Scripture does urge us, however, to be willing to give up our rights for the benefit of others, especially when exercising our rights is harmful to them. We believe that both consideration for others and standards of good taste may either limit or redirect our activities.
We recognize the need for wisdom and discernment in our decisions about media and entertainment (including but not limited to music, drama, television, literature, dance, movies, video and Internet games). Our choices in regard to our leisure time and entertainment are important aspects of our calling to glorify God in everything, and so these decisions will be guided by biblical principles about careful use of time, purity of thought, and sensitivity to others. We will choose to engage in activities which contribute to our spiritual, moral, intellectual and physical well-being, and we urge discretion and restraint in activities which are morally questionable or diminish our moral sensitivity.
We recognize that dance is an issue about which committed Christians disagree, and that discretion and maturity are required if dance is to be an edifying activity. We therefore covenant together as a community to make decisions about our participation in dance that reflect our commitment to Christ, our pursuit of holiness, our desire for purity in relationships, our adherence to biblical principles, and gracious sensitivity to others.
Student organizations that wish to host an on-campus dance must receive the approval of the College Advisory Board and comply with all policies with regard to venue, music, type of dance, faculty advisors, etc. With regard to spontaneous dance and other instances of dance, it is expected that our community members will exercise appropriate maturity and sensitivity. In both structured and unstructured settings, it is incumbent upon all community members to contribute to the wholesome, edifying environment we are hoping to build on our campus and not serve as a “stumbling block”16 for others. We agree to be careful to avoid highly erotic, sensuous forms of dance that are antithetical to our Christian faith. With regard to off-campus dancing, community members are encouraged to use discretion and discernment as they make choices about dance venues and types of dancing in which they will engage. The college strongly encourages community members to avoid environments and activities that would compromise their witness and/or their pursuit of full devotion to Christ.
Community members of all ages agree to forego the use of beverage alcohol for the following reasons. First, we recognize the Scriptural warnings against exercising Christian freedom in a way that causes others to stumble. Second, we recognize the physical and psychological dangers of beverage alcohol and its counter-productive nature to the essential spiritual and intellectual pursuits of Houghton College. Third, we comply with New York State law, which prohibits the purchase of alcoholic beverages by persons under the age of 21 or giving or selling any alcoholic beverage to a person less than twenty-one years old.
The college has adopted these standards in order to foster the kind of campus atmosphere most conducive to becoming a Christian community of living, learning and serving. The standards regarding dance and alcohol are for the good of individuals, the smooth functioning of the community in which we live, and the reputation of our community in the world. Consequently, we consider these rules to be prudent expectations, not Christian absolutes or measures of spiritual commitment.
Keeping this statement of community responsibilities may on occasion require that we take steps to hold one another accountable, confronting one another in love as we work together to live in faithfulness both to God’s Word and to our own word. As we are willing to speak the truth in love, we will develop the kind of Christian character and community that Paul outlines in Colossians 3:12-17:
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
We ask our trustees, administrators, faculty, staff and students to strive to live by these principles and standards. As a community, we are committed to providing support for those seeking help with any of these issues. Members of the community who fail to live up to the expectations in this document may subject themselves to disciplinary action or dismissal (as outlined in appropriate college documents and policies) as well as to forgiveness and love. People who find themselves consistently unwilling to honor the specific commitments outlined in this document should withdraw from the community, at least for a season of reflection.
Because the policies of the college are not intended to infringe on the government of the home, we specifically exempt students when they are at home and parental standards differ from those of the college. Nonetheless, we ask students to exercise restraint as representatives of our Lord and this community.
41 Timothy 6:18-19
151 Corinthians 10:31
161 Corinthians 8:9; 2 Corinthians 6:3