The ACU 2009 Opening Chapel

This is a post for interested Abilene Christian University alumni and supporters. (Although I think many readers outside of the ACU community will also find this of interest.)

ACU has an opening chapel that starts our school year. One of the wonderful traditions at opening chapel is the parade of flags where student representatives carry a flag from each US state or nation attending ACU that year. It's quite a display of color.

For many years, after the parade, a devotional and a speaker the chapel ended with a patriotic segment. The Big Purple Band would play the Battle Hymn of the Republic and a very large American flag would drop from the rafters. We would all then say the Pledge of Allegiance. The assembly would then conclude.

For as long as I've worked at ACU both faculty and students have objected to this concluding segment. They felt, and I agree, that the mixture of God and Country was inappropriate for a religious worship service. Further, the symbolism of the American flag drop was also a source of objection. Specifically, for many years the large American flag would drop in front of all the state and nation flags, dramatically blocking them from sight. Many felt this sent the wrong signal to students from other nations, that it signaled American triumphalism and exceptionalism.

Opening chapel planners have tried to address some of these concerns. In recent years the American flag dropped behind the national and state flags. And our President took pains to rhetorically separate the devotional period from the concluding patriotic display. But this year the changes were bigger. This year the planners replaced the patriotic display and kept the object of worship and allegiance centered fully on God.

Unfortunately, from what I'm hearing, our President is coming under criticism for this choice. Many are objecting to a full focus on God during a worship service.

Our tradition, the Churches of Christ, has a strong and long standing tradition of keeping faith and nation separate. Unfortunately, in recent years many Churches of Christ have been turning away from this tradition and are starting to look like many evangelical churches. So I feel that our President, for sound biblical and theological reasons, simply turned us back toward our rich Restoration roots. God and Country, for us, have always been two separate things. Flags and the Pledge of Allegiance have never been a part of our worship assemblies. This change was a good one. The Opening Chapel was not reflecting our history or doctrine.

If you agree with our change this year it would be nice for you to let us know. Please voice your support for the decision by contacting our President, Royce Money. If you know any members of the ACU Board of Trustees please also let them know that you agree with this change.

You can mail letters to:

Dr. Royce Money
Abilene Christian University
Abilene, Texas 79699

Or contact or call our alumni association:

Toll free: 800-373-4220
Fax: 325-674-6679

This entry was posted by Richard Beck. Bookmark the permalink.

16 thoughts on “The ACU 2009 Opening Chapel”

  1. Praise God for this decision, and thank God for the wisdom and leadership of Royce Money. I hadn't heard, but this is such good news. I'll be letting the alumni association know as soon as possible.

  2. I would have protested had I known about the earlier ceremony. Parent of Former Students

  3. One must be sensitive to their history. Church history, national history, international history. And the history of the world itself. And of God and his creation.

    God created the Sabbath for man, not the other way around. Just as he allows us to have the freedom to follow him, or not; we have the responsibility to use that freedom to show our thanks and gratitude.

    People take the separation of Church and State too far. The United States of America in its origins and throughout history is a Christian Nation. One that allows the free exercise of religion. The need for the separation of church and state is only to protect the nation from the situation in which the founding fathers left. State ordered and established church.

    Would those in the church today be able to follow a nation that adopted a state church that was not in line with the individual's personal beliefs. I think not.

    However, in this nation that protects our right to worship and the freedom we have to follow our conscience... I feel there is something wrong with giving in to pressure to change such a reaffirmation of our allegiance to this wonderful nation God has blessed us to live in.

  4. Charles,
    I certainly understand those sentiments. To recap, it is completely out of character for the Churches of Christ to say the pledge of allegiance during one of our worship services. The chapel, as it stood, just didn't fit our tradition and, thus, people were confused. Of course, other traditions are completely comfortable with patriotic displays in their worship services. And, like you, I am happy they are free in this great country to worship that way. As we are free to make other choices. God bless the USA.

  5. Charles, I don't understand how one can be a Christian nation and a nation that allows the free exercise of religion. Wouldn't it just be a nation that allows the free exercise of religion that happens to have a lot of Christians in it? I'm not sure what a "Christian nation" is or a "Christian university" for that matter. To be "Christian" is to follow Christ's example and give up privilege for the sake of others. I'm not sure nations or universities are capable of that...or churches.

  6. I'm so glad they've made this change, I will definitely have write those parties.

    I love Battle Hymn of the Republic, and I don't think it has an explicitly patriotic tone, though it is almost always used in that way. What would be awesome is to end the parade of flags with a giant Christian banner -- to symbolize how in Christ, all nations and ethnicities are united into one body and one mission. I admit, the flag would likely be quite hokey, but the symbolism would be beautiful.

  7. "Please register my appreciation for the intentional focus of the opening chapel. The message for me is that Abilene Christian University is able to hold extreme and opposing tensions, prayerfully discern a direction and move on with bravery and humility to greater maturity." Class '54

  8. Please. ACU chapel services have blended sacred with the non-sacred for generations. Patriotic traditions may need to be updated, but there is no reason to apologize for having them in this setting.

  9. I guess I am just sensitive at this time. We have an african american President, and now we must change. I don't know ACU's political climate, but I think it is interesting that the change must come now. Was the change considered when former President Bush was President. I am just asking the question. I really don't care if they mixed the two or not!

  10. I think that's a fair question. But I can assure you that pressure to change was growing all through the Bush presidency (and before). Almost every year the Optimist had a letter or petition asking for a change. No doubt it looks like Obama-creep, but I don't think that is the case. Of course, if one goes in for Obama Apocalysism (i.e., the end of the word is nigh because a liberal black man is at the helm) then I don't think anything I'd say would convince such a person.

  11. I have to say I'm disappointed in ACU for these choices. It sends a message that ACU is not proud of our country or the people that fight to protect it. It's insulting, really, that you would refuse to honor our country when there are so many brave men and women who have sacrificed their lives for us - many of which were probably associated to ACU in some way. It is not taking anything away from worshiping God to honor the country that God has so wonderfully provided for us. Shame on you!

  12. Anonymous,

    On Sunday my church didn't have a patriotic display. Is that a problem? Not having such things in a worship service? Were we insulting our troops (or my Grandpa who was shot in France in WWII)?

    Of course not.

    (Also, if you if want to say "Shame!" at least sign your name.)

  13. HMMM - Dr. Beck seems like you could use some cognitive-behavioral treatment for anger problems

  14. I certainly wasn't that last "anonymous" but i'll sign my name and say SHAME! We as Christians have gotten scared of confrontation! Someone else complains and we scurry to please them. Why not mix God and Country?!! You say "God bless the USA" but why would he bless us when we don't want to envolve Him? This nation is in the sinful pit that it's in because Christians are too scared of offending someone. Heck, the homosexuals have a louder voice in this country then the Christians do! If you ask me we need to put GOD BACK IN THIS COUNTRY!!

  15. R. Chambers,
    Well, as a Christian not afraid of confrontation I'd just like to say "Shame!" right back at you. I'm sad for Christ and his church that you adopt the name of Jesus.

Leave a Reply