What We Believe

The Christian faith is central everywhere at Houghton—not only in the classroom and the chapel, but also in the athletic fields, residence halls, and practice rooms.

While many describe themselves as Christian, the word means different things to different people. Here’s what we mean when we say that Houghton is a Christian place.

Houghton Is a Wesleyan College

The Wesleyan Church originated with a group that split from the Methodists in the 1840s over the issue of slavery. The pioneers of the movement believed that one could not be a Christian and hold slaves. Those first Wesleyans knew that following Jesus would be costly, but that they could not stand by and do nothing while the cruel practice of slavery continued.

Today, the Wesleyan Church in the US represents a quarter of a million people aiming to follow Jesus even when it is inconvenient, even when it would mean making significant changes in our lives. The Wesleyan spirit infuses Houghton through the passion and dedication of our faculty, the idealism and strength of our students, and the ongoing dialogue between church and college as we seek to follow Christ together—even through disagreements and challenges.

Houghton Is Solidly Biblical

Is Houghton “conservative” or “liberal?” These words are difficult because they mean different things to different people. Instead, Houghton could best be characterized as solidly Biblical. In a time of unprecedented and rapid change in our society, Houghton seeks to understand and follow the Bible. This means looking at every issue—abortion, racism, marriage, social justice—through a Biblical lens. It means joining with God wherever we see Him, commending the good wherever we see it, and working with the Holy Spirit to stand against sin and injustice.

Sometimes, this means affirming positions currently called conservative. For example, we privilege the understanding of marriage as between a man and a woman, and the sanctity of life from conception to natural death. At other times, Houghton’s positions look less conservative: for instance, we affirm that God calls both men and women into pastoral ministry, and that we have significant work to do in healing the scars of racism in America. In all of these things, though, Houghton is not drifting along, mindlessly following whatever our culture is telling us to think. We look to the Bible as a guide and a key component in our curriculum, in faculty research, chapel, residence life, and even campus clubs. We seek to live our lives in accordance with God’s will, rather than the agenda of any one person or group.

We Come from a Wide Variety of Christian Backgrounds

As the church strives to become less entrenched in American culture, Christians need to learn to work together. Houghton has a variety of faculty and staff from many different Christian backgrounds, and this diversity is reflected in the many different worship styles we employ in chapel and around campus. It also makes for wonderful and sometimes heated discussions across campus, in classrooms, and in the coffee shop!

We Are Thoughtfully Engaged

It’s not enough for Christians to lock ourselves in sanctuaries and worship while the world struggles; we must work toward His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. But following Jesus today is tricky. How would Jesus vote (if he would vote at all)? How would Jesus process abortion, poverty, racism, immigration, and the other pressing issues of our day? Houghton encourages faculty, staff and students to work toward creating a just and equitable society. Throughout their time at Houghton, students will discover many different perspectives about these difficult issues, and be pushed to think deeply about the strengths and weaknesses of all these different ideas. The goal is to create scholar-servants who work all around the world for justice that pleases the heart of God.

We All Give Up a Little to Follow Christ Together

Living together to pursue Christ means some sacrifice, and so Houghton has expectations of its students, staff and faculty which help the whole community pursue God wholeheartedly. Students are required to attend chapel, in order to build healthy habits of encountering God together. Students are also expected to be courteous and respectful of others, and to abstain from the use of alcohol and other drugs, in order to preserve a healthy learning environment for all. Houghton features single-sex dorms, and there are rules governing when opposite-sex visitors can be present in living areas. Unlike some other schools, though, faculty and staff also have expectations. They are expected to participate in the college’s worship life. They also agree to forego the use of alcohol, so that students can have role models who demonstrate that alcohol is not a necessary accompaniment to life’s highs and lows. The point of these regulations is not that one can only be a good Christian by behaving this way; instead, the point is that living together means giving up some freedoms so that the whole community can be oriented toward Christ in a way that is safe, welcoming, positive and distinctly Christian.

For more about what we believe at Houghton, please review our Doctrinal Statement.