Samford Values Belief in the Holy Spirit

“And in the Holy Spirit”
Those were the last words of the original version of the creed adopted at the Council of Nicaea in 325 and in 2022 they became the last words of the first of Samford University’s core values. Belief in the Spirit was something of an afterthought at Nicaea. Or perhaps better said: it wasn’t a subject of controversy. The same is true at Samford where the Spirit was added to a value statement seventeen years after it was adopted. The reason for the Spirit’s delayed addition is that the text had become tasked to do new work and the Spirit’s absence became noteworthy.

From 2005 to 2022, the first two of the “Core Values” in Samford’s identity statement were:

  • belief in God, the Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord
  • engagement with the life and teachings of Jesus

Now the first of these has been extended to read

  • Belief in God, the Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, and in the Holy Spirit

(A compilation including the draft of the 2005 identity statement, its predecessor, and the approved 2005 version is available as a PDF here. The current mission, vision, and values are here.)

To understand why this change was made after seventeen years, it is important to understand how the values have been used. For many years they were an official statement, appealed to when someone needed to make a particular point, or wanted to remind people to do things. But they were not referred to regularly. In recent years, applicants for faculty positions have been asked to respond to these first two core values. Applicants’ responses presumably highlighted the absence of the Holy Spirit from what otherwise seemed to be a Trinitarian statement. I have not been closely involved in faculty searches during this time, but I remember one new hire mentioning his befuddlement at the Spirit’s omission to me. Thus the Board of Trustees approved the addition of the five words “and in the Holy Spirit.”

Samford’s Trinitarian identity should not have been in doubt. In 2005, at the same time that the current mission, vision, and values statement was adopted, the un-amended Baptist Faith and Message of 1963 (BFM 1963) was adopted by Samford’s Board of Trustees as the university’s “corporate expression of faith commitment.” This second article of the BFM 1963 declares that God “reveals Himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, with distinct personal attributes, but without division of nature, essence, or being.” It then it provides a paragraph about each person of the Trinity.

Revision History to 2005

So why was it not included in 2005? Basically, belief in Jesus Christ was added to the first value late in the drafting process, using the words of the Apostles’ Creed. Since the Spirit is not mentioned in that phrase of the creed, it was not include it in the value. The revision history that lead to 2005 is helpful here.

When I arrived at Samford as a new assistant professor in 1999, the “value standards” of Samford university stated:

As a Christian community of learners, Samford University holds dear:

  • belief in God as Creator and in the traditions of the Christian faith
  • the ministry and mission of the church
  • the infinite worth of persons and the development of the full potential of each person at every stage in life, and “love of neighbor as one’s self”
  • the making of ethical choices based on the life of Jesus Christ, the teachings of the Bible, the well-being of others and an informed conscience
  • openness, truthfulness, justice and fairness among persons of both sexes, all races and ethnic identities, all ages and all levels of giftedness; and respect for opinions, convictions and beliefs different from one’s own
  • the aspiration for personal achievement, economic self sufficiency and public usefulness
  • a work ethic characterized by diligence, honesty, thrift and a sincere effort to do one’s best
  • civic awareness and responsibility, the processes of representative government, understanding of other cultures, and sensitivity to other people, places and systems
  • service to community and constituency, within the University and the wider society
Samford MCPPV Statements, last updated Feb. 4, 2005; Feb. 4, 2005 http://www.samford.edu/mcpvv.html (archived here)

In 2004-2005 a committee prepared revisions of Samford’s foundational statements. The proposed core values forwarded to the trustees in March 2005 stated.

Samford University’s particularity is rooted in convictions, essential to its integrity, and
expressive of its mission. The Samford community values lifelong:

  • belief in God as Creator
  • learning and responsible freedom of inquiry
  • personal empowerment, accountability, and responsibility vocational success and civic engagement
  • spiritual growth and cultivation of physical well-being
  • integrity, honesty, and justice
  • appreciation for diverse cultures and convictions
  • stewardship of all resources
  • engagement with the life and teachings of Jesus
  • generosity and loving fellowship
  • service to God, to family, to one another, and to the community.
Samford Foundational Statements, last updated March 31, 2004, accessed September 17, 2005 http://www.samford.edu/foundationalstatements/ (archived here)

The identity statement in this draft of the foundational statements declared Samford to be “a Christian community” and the mission statement called it “a Christian university,” but the values suggested that what united all of Samford was a commitment to monotheism, rooted in Judeo-Christian ethics, and valuing the teachings of Jesus. The draft values signaled perhaps that there was room for Jews, Muslims, and other monotheists to be full members of the Samford community. Such a sentiment was in keeping with my perception of the university’s culture and practice at the time.

The Board of Trustees and the administration in their reworking of the committee’s draft between March and September 2005 decided a declaration of belief in Jesus was important, so the values were changed before approval to read:

Samford University’s particularity is rooted in convictions, essential to its integrity, and
expressive of its mission. The Samford community values lifelong:

  • belief in God, the Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord.
  • engagement with the life and teachings of Jesus
  • learning and responsible freedom of inquiry
  • personal empowerment, accountability, and responsibility
  • vocational success and civic engagement
  • spiritual growth and cultivation of physical well-being
  • integrity, honesty, and justice
  • appreciation for diverse cultures and convictions
  • personal empowerment, accountability, and responsibility
  • stewardship of all resources
  • service to God, to family, to one another, and to the community.
Samford Foundational Statements approved by the Board of Trustees on September 16, 2005, http://www.samford.edu/mission.html accessed September 17, 2005. (archived here)

I do not find it particularly remarkable that the Holy Spirit was not included. The values were not intended as a comprehensive creedal statement and Samford’s Baptist tradition, like most Western Christian traditions, is not known for its emphasis on the Holy Spirit. The key role of the addition seemed to me to be reinforce the centrality of Christian faith at Samford. This was in keeping with the then existing values statement (dating from the 1990s) that Samford “holds dear belief in . . . the traditions of the Christian faith.” The Holy Spirit didn’t need to be included to make this point and the addition of the Spirit doesn’t change the key work of the passage. As for the broader “traditions of the Christian faith,” Samford’s adoption of the BFM 1963 as its corporate faith expression provided an extended statement of just what kind of Christian university Samford is. But since these two values are now being widely as a basis for conversation about Samford’s Christian mission, the Spirit’s inadvertent absence was telling and thus it is appropriate it is now there.

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