After twenty years of Bible college ministry, we have found that there are some legitimate problems relating to the needs and challenges of entering ministry in today’s hostile culture that require our earnest consideration.
As we have considered the needs before us and have earnestly, prayerfully, and diligently sought solutions, we have found that the issues raised in the previous pages can be avoided while still answering the challenges before us.
Before listing these considerations, I want to state that these issues are not related to finances for our ministry. We have been blessed, and we have labored to wisely steward God’s blessings. Neither are these issues related to accommodating the earthly whims of students or parents. We have no desire to adapt to students whose only concern is money and scholarships rather than the will of God.
The following considerations, however, are real for young people seeking ministry training who want to glorify Christ in ministry and life:
- The State of California and our veterans’ right to the GI Bill—There are unaccredited institutions in other states with state agencies friendly to faith-based colleges that have been able to accept students on the GI Bill. These benefits for unaccredited institutions, however, can only be obtained through state approval. As an unaccredited religious-exempt school in California, this government review and oversight of WCBC is something we refuse to allow. We do, however, desire to honor our veterans (and their children) who have placed themselves in harm’s way for our freedom and then, with the calling of God on their lives, come to WCBC to train for full-time ministry. The funding these men and women receive is not “just money.” It is money they have earned—and which they have earned while protecting our freedom.
- The difficulty of students transferring general credits to accredited institutions should they determine they are not called to full-time ministry—Some students enroll in WCBC with a heart for ministry but without being certain of God’s specific calling on their lives. We believe there is no better place to make that calling sure
than at WCBC. Should a student attend for a year or two, however, and sense God leading him into a secular field of service, we desire that his general courses of English grammar, composition, speech, history, computer skills, etc.—which are taught by qualified professors and are as substantial as that which they would learn in a secular school—could transfer to an accredited college.
- The increasing difficulty of accepting international students—Unaccredited faith-based colleges have faced an increasingly difficult ability to accept international students in recent years. Each year, our foreign students are at constant risk of losing their ability to continue their education at WCBC. Federal government scrutiny is minimized through a college being accredited by a body (even by a Christian agency) that is recognized by the Department of Education.
- The refusal of earned scholarships—A high school student who earns a college scholarship through academic accomplishments will only be able to use that scholarship toward Bible college tuition if the college is accredited. This is similarly the case for students eligible for the 911 scholarships (granted to dependents of those killed or permanently disabled as a result of the 9/11 attacks).
- Students whose parents work in large corporations unable to receive educational benefits their parents have earned—Many corporations and nonprofits have private grants and scholarships that are paid out only if a student attends an accredited college.
- The increasing hostility and encroachment by our government toward religious training—Each year, we see state and federal mandates that affect Christian schools, colleges, and churches. We are open to measures that would protect our ability to operate at current levels. We are also willing to stand and suffer if and when that time comes.
- Our graduates sometimes having missions doors closed to them—Many missions opportunities require a “creative access ministry” such as a business or education “front.” This is especially true in Communist and Muslim countries. Obtaining entrance into these countries often requires a degree from an accredited institution.
Our response to these considerations holds significant ramifications for our students, including that many of our students would be eligible to receive monies from private funds, grants, and corporate funds if we were accredited. Private funding or earned scholarships paid to a student, of course, attach no obligations to our college like government funding directly to our college could do.
As our administration studied the above realities, we were reminded of the “children of Issachar” in 1 Chronicles 12:32 “which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do.” In every area of leadership, it is incumbent upon leaders not only to have an abiding, thorough understanding of God’s truth, but also to have an “understanding of the times” and an ability to exercise biblical principles in current situations.
With this in mind, we revisited our original concerns regarding accreditation. What we found was that some of our perceptions regarding accreditation failed the test of further study as we began to understand the various options available.
There are various accrediting agencies, one of which is the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS). We understand TRACS to be a ministry recognized internationally as an accountability partner with institutions such as WCBC.
TRACS was founded by creationist Dr. Henry Morris (author of The Genesis Flood) to help Christian colleges and universities. TRACS is not a government agency, but an independent, evangelical agency with a Christ-honoring statement of faith which exists to provide accreditation for Christian institutions. TRACS is recognized by both the United States Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation as a national accrediting body for Christian institutions, colleges, universities, and seminaries.
TRACS, as opposed to regional accreditation, understands the unique concerns of Bible-centered ministries. It requires all member institutions to adhere to a literal interpretation of Genesis 1–11 and to have a solid doctrinal statement that reflects historic, orthodox Christianity. In light of the compromises of our day, TRACS assures us that, were they forced to accept the homosexual agenda, they would close before they would compromise.
Affiliation with TRACS is not the government controlling our college. It involves the voluntary request of an institution for partnership of academic accountability from peers. From our founding, we have sought to “approve things that are excellent” (Philippians 1:10) spiritually, academically, socially, and physically by providing quality instruction and state of the art facilities. Utilizing an accrediting agency does not need to result in dependence upon such an agency. TRACS provides accountability in curriculum and faculty development, peer reviews, and objective-based outcome. These are educational disciplines that facilitate academic excellence which we welcome—with or without accreditation attached.
Since inclusion in the membership with TRACS is voluntary, local church autonomy is not violated any more than autonomy is violated when a church calls for an external audit or uses an outside agency (such as the Christian Law Association) for legal concerns. In fact, most ministries have some level of review from outside agencies already. For instance, churches with preschools have some form of review even directly with the government. Almost all ministries have fire inspections, etc. Affiliation is also not indefinite, and a member institution can withdraw at any time.
Our discovery is that since accreditation through an organization like TRACS is voluntary and is not through the government (thus, surrendering the school’s autonomy to the government), it is not intervention in our purpose, mission, or founding pillars. If accreditation is voluntary—our request for peer-based review—it is not intrusive in the sense of our original concerns.
Applying for membership with TRACS is a request for peer-based reviews within our current curriculum that would strengthen the academic disciplines that lend to excellence. We believe that requesting this type of non-government, independent-agency accreditation will enable us to better serve our students in fulfilling our founding mission—to train laborers for His harvest.