Shenandoah University

Muslim Chaplain at Methodist School?

on August 13, 2019

United Methodist affiliated Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia has announced its first ever non-Christian chaplain in 150 years, hiring an Islamic woman as Muslim Community Coordinator.

The school’s dean of spiritual life, who’s an ordained United Methodist, explained:

Shenandoah is open to people of all faiths, or no faith, exploring their belief system and being leaders in this world for the greater good. Hanaa [Unus] provides the opportunity to be what we always say we value, and that’s a place that cherishes religious diversity.

The hiring raises interesting questions about church affiliated schools and the extent to which they should teach Christianity versus wider pluralism. Recently United Methodist affiliated Emory University hired a Unitarian Universalist as its senior chaplain. Should chaplains at church related schools believe in the deity of Christ?

United Methodism has over 100 universities and colleges. But very few of these schools have, dating back many decades, taken very seriously their church association. Undoubtedly very few students at universities such as Emory, Duke, Boston, Northwestern, American or many others are remotely aware of the largely unacknowledged church affiliation. These schools function as mostly secular places.

Rare acknowledgement occurred earlier this year when United Methodism at its February General Conference reaffirmed traditional Christian sexual standards, prompting denunciation from many of the church’s schools, including Shenandoah. Several schools have already formally disaffiliated from the denomination or are planning to. In the coming division within United Methodism between USA liberalism and global orthodoxy, probably only a few schools in the USA will affiliate with the global orthodox form of Methodism.

Almost certainly Shenandoah University, after the schism, will affiliate with the new liberal Methodist denomination, if it affiliates at all. The school’s news release explains about hiring a Muslim chaplain: “We’ve always wanted to be more inclusive and more diverse.” But how diverse are they really?

Shenandoah University’s Office of Spiritual Life includes a cleric from the Church Within a Church, an LGBTQ advocacy group. There are six listed staffers in Shenandoah’s Office of Spiritual Life. Are any NOT progressive? Do any defend United Methodism’s and historic Christianity’s definition of marriage? Would a traditional Catholic or an Evangelical find any kindred spirits in this office? Does “diversity” include traditionalists? Or does “diversity” mean only progressives are truly welcome?

It’s my strong guess that many if not most actively religious students at Shenandoah University are probably more traditional than liberal. Where do they find their spiritual encouragement? The answer is probably at Winchester’s many churches, not on campus.

Does Shenandoah’s new Muslim chaplain support traditional Islamic beliefs about marriage and gender? If so, will she openly espouse these beliefs, which are closer to official United Methodism than what’s evidently espoused by her new colleagues at Shenandoah in the Office of Spiritual Life? Often liberal Christians will better tolerate traditionalism from other religions than from Christians.

If the new Muslim chaplain is progressive, and she doesn’t support Islamic teachings on marriage and gender, how effective will she be in her outreach to other Muslims? In the Shenandoah news release, she’s quoted:

Hopefully, if students can learn about different faiths and different cultures, they can go out into the diverse world and be the change-makers Shenandoah hopes they will be.

What does Shenandoah University’s Office of Spiritual Life mean by “change makers?” Traditional Methodists believe change makers preach Christ and seek a society reformed through the Gospel. But judging from at least its website and social media, Shenandoah’s chaplains have a vision of social change that’s closer to contemporary secular progressivism.

As United Methodism divides and reconfigures, traditionalists will have to think through what effective Christian education in universities and colleges should entail. One hundred years of spiritual and intellectual drift in United Methodist schools should instruct us what not to do. Where are the models for effective and comprehensive Methodist education in universities and colleges?

  1. Comment by JR on August 13, 2019 at 1:24 pm

    “It’s my strong guess that many if not most actively religious students at Shenandoah University are probably more traditional than liberal.”

    Interestingly, someone who is actually on the campus as a student has a different viewpoint. Which is more likely to be true?

  2. Comment by William on August 13, 2019 at 2:27 pm

    A key feature of the calling card of a contemporary progressive intellectual, as large numbers of these self-professing intellectual types occupy positions at our colleges and universities, is to question, doubt, mock, and even reject orthodox Christianity and God. In their ego-driven minds, this gives them prestigious standing and fraternal acceptance among their peers. It demonstrates their elitism and superiority. It certainly looks to be a lazy way to establish credentials.

    Yes, the weird part of this is that they go out of their way to defend and show unusual respect for other religions, depicting those followers as pure, exempt from critique, and often victims while demonizing those of orthodox Christian faith. These people are strange creatures.

    Now, could the other side of that coin be money, of all things, especially at many of our institutions of “higher learning”? Bottom line — like it or not, there is an all out assault on orthodox Christianity in America today, even on the campuses of religiously affiliated colleges and universities as is so succinctly pointed out in this article — and to be a member of that assault army is considered the best place to be in order to generate the money through tuition, book sales, seminars, donations, grants, paid speeches, conferences, et al. They work to be on the right side of the money flow, which in all honesty, could very well be the primary driving force behind this phenomenon in the first place.

  3. Comment by JR on August 15, 2019 at 8:43 am

    “A key feature of the calling card of a contemporary progressive intellectual, as large numbers of these self-professing intellectual types occupy positions at our colleges and universities…”

    Name two that you know personally.

    It’s easy to parrot ‘intellectual elitist’ from certain media sources, and to criticize people that you don’t know and haven’t met.

    Try to do better than that.

  4. Comment by Clayton D. Harriger on August 16, 2019 at 8:28 pm

    Well stated. There was a time when those who rejected portions of God’s inspired Word were known as “modernists” — then they evolved into “liberals.” Now they are known as “progressives” and of course, the word is also used in the political arena as well. But it is like a hobo casting off his rags and putting on a tuxedo! No matter how he dresses, he is still a hobo, poverty stricken with not even a copper penny in his pocket. And so it is with “progressive” Christianity in today’s world. It should be given a more accurate identifiable label > unregenerate “Christianity!”

  5. Comment by Clayton D. Harriger on August 16, 2019 at 8:35 pm

    My reply was to William – something got messed up in the process – sorry about that 🙁

  6. Comment by Mike on August 13, 2019 at 3:55 pm

    I was a student at Shenandoah in the early 1970’s, and it was hardly a bed of orthodoxy then. Some of our professors mocked Christian hymns and songs. The chaplain had about as much religion as the average liberal churchgoer. The student body was, at that time, considered to be about one third “Christian” (including many liberals), one third atheists (including many gays), and one third who had no idea what was going on. The only real Methodist influence was the fact that the bishop of Virginia selected the president of Shenandoah, and usually the selection was not a conservative. I don’t imagine that it is any better now.

  7. Comment by David on August 13, 2019 at 5:58 pm

    “According to newly released [March 2019] General Social Survey data analyzed by Ryan P. Burge of Eastern Illinois University, Americans claiming “no religion” — sometimes referred to as “nones” because of how they answer the question “what is your religious tradition?” — now represent about 23.1 percent of the population, up from 21.6 percent in 2016. People claiming evangelicalism, by contrast, now represent 22.5 percent of Americans, a slight dip from 23.9 percent in 2016. That makes the two groups statistically tied with Catholics (23 percent) as the largest religious — or nonreligious — groupings in the country. “

  8. Comment by Josh Cantrell on August 14, 2019 at 9:06 am

    As a devout Christian father, would I want to send my sons to a college that claims to be a “Christian college” and that represents the denomination that I currently (and I emphasize “currently”) minister and worship in?

    NO – it is time to break this mess up

  9. Comment by William on August 14, 2019 at 10:28 am

    Looks like concrete things are beginning to unfold.

  10. Comment by Charles Klink on August 21, 2019 at 7:48 am


  11. Comment by bob on August 14, 2019 at 12:24 pm

    Another staffer clergy is a GLAAD lesbian activist. Any traditional Christian appears to be shut out of the game, sadly common on self-defined ‘inclusive’ campuses. Since Islam firmly rejects same gender behaviors, the interaction with a dedicated daughter of Allah should be intriguing. The Muslim woman cannot serve as imam but since her primary focus is Muslim students, I have no objection…actually she may be better positioned to advocate for moral views (not theological views) more consistent with historic Christianity, quite an irony.

  12. Comment by Terry on August 15, 2019 at 12:49 am

    Students and parents interested in an institution based on an evangelical faith in the historic Wesleyan tradition should look at Asbury University. Asbury is a liberal arts university in which Christ is honored as Lord and Savior.

  13. Comment by pastorsmate on August 18, 2019 at 2:16 pm

    Asbury is an excellent school. Our daughter graduated from Asbury.

  14. Comment by William on August 15, 2019 at 8:18 am

    Would I be welcome in a Muslim Mosque if I entered announcing that I was there to worship my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ?

  15. Comment by JR on August 15, 2019 at 8:49 am

    Are you equating a Muslim Mosque with a university?

    I would consider those things distinctly different.

  16. Comment by William on August 15, 2019 at 11:49 am

    Of course a Christian, especially an evangelistic Christian minister, would be hired here and placed on staff to serve in a chaplain type capacity with direct access to students. Absolutely.

  17. Comment by JR on August 15, 2019 at 3:14 pm

    You are mixing your fruit. That can make for a delicious fruit salad, but a weak argument.

    I highly recommend that you go to the university website and do a little reading. The press release around this hire is also interesting.

    That kind of information might actually help you to understand and not just be offended. I wish you luck in your journey.

  18. Comment by William on August 15, 2019 at 6:12 pm

    Name one Muslim school worldwide that has a Christian chaplain and coordinator of the Christian community.

    And, this statement follows the usual liberal dialogue of inclusiveness, diversity, preparing for the world, et al. That’s the same world referenced in the mission statement of the UMC — to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. If this school does not believe in the mission of the church with which it claims affiliation, then it should say so and cut those ties.

  19. Comment by Lee Roberts on August 15, 2019 at 9:39 pm

    Actually, JR, there would be little difference between a mosque and a “Muslim university/college.” Both would be restricted to teaching adherance to the totalarian doctrine of Islam , and forbid any attempt to introduce apostate non-Islamic doctrine for consideration by students.

  20. Comment by Henry Stokes on August 16, 2019 at 5:18 pm

    Me thinks you are over thinking this. You want to attract a diverse student body, you need to provide for diverse student needs.

  21. Comment by Ted R. Weiland on August 16, 2019 at 5:20 pm

    Fitting judgment for antinomian “Christianity”:

    “The stranger that is within thee shall get up above thee very high; and thou shalt come down very low … he shall be the head, and thou shalt be the tail. Moreover all these curses shall come upon thee, and shall pursue thee, and overtake thee, till thou be destroyed; because thou hearkenedst not unto the voice of Yahweh thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which he commanded thee.” (Deuteronomy 28:43-45)

    For more on how Yahweh’s immutable moral law applies and should be implemented today as the law of the land, see free online book “Law and Kingdom: Their Relevance Under the New Covenant” at

  22. Comment by Polly on August 16, 2019 at 9:31 pm

    I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. This is all we need to know. I have now left the Methodist church for the second and last time. No funding Church of Bd and Society, etc. and let’s all hold hands and sing kumbaya. Methodists are losing membership and this is one of many reasons why.

  23. Comment by David Gingrich on August 17, 2019 at 7:14 am

    Polly, I am with you and, I hope, The Word. I gave money to the UMC for many years, while holding my nose because of its many sinful practices. I can no longer support this. At all.

  24. Comment by William on August 17, 2019 at 8:56 am

    The UMC is FINALLY in the process of separation. The traditional Methodist denomination is where I hope my local church lands. If not, I’ll immediately go to a nearby traditional Methodist denomination, the denomination that will definitely believe John 14:6.

    As for those across all of liberal Christianity who DO NOT believe John 14:6 and the good news Gospel of Jesus Christ, May they discover the error of their ways before it’s too late.

  25. Comment by William on August 17, 2019 at 9:39 am

    AMEN! I either believe or I don’t. There’s no middle ground.

  26. Comment by Lee on August 16, 2019 at 11:44 pm

    J. Gresham machen encountered this liberal b.s. at Princeton in the 1920’s. He wrote the best book on the subject “liberal Christianity”. His thesis and conclusion: Stop calling this liberal b.s. “Christian”. It is something entirely different…and if you are hiring Muslims to lead people in the worship of God (or Lgbtqiaderfcxsw+++++), then you are not a Christian school. God is not impressed with your progressive ways.

  27. Comment by William on August 17, 2019 at 9:23 am

    Of course Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life — and the ONLY way to the Father.

    Those who do not believe this and call themselves Christians, which appears to be rather widespread across liberal Christianity today appear to be headed to a chasm resembling the rich man’s dilemma.

    As for the UMC, separation is finally coming. The traditional Methodist denomination, out of that split, will finally be able to start preaching John 14:6 again and hopefully bring those lost back over to Jesus before it’s too late. That should be our prayer.

  28. Comment by Donald Sensing on August 18, 2019 at 7:33 am

    As a graduate of Vanderbilt Divinity School, I know that the university generally and its religion departments specifically fully embrace conceptually and practically gay rights. The teachings of the Jewish and Christian scriptures that say that homosexual practice is sinful are either simply ignored or reinterpreted by the professoriate. This is a very strong institutional value of the university.

    In 2010 Awadh Binhazim, Vanderbilt’s Muslim chaplain (volunteer position, unpaid), when pressed at a public forum on whether Islamic law requires the death penalty for homosexuals, asserted that yes, it does. Furthermore, he stated: “I don’t have a choice as a Muslim to accept or reject teachings.”

    Vanderbilt’s response? “For clarification, Vanderbilt strives to bring many points of view on the issues of the day to campus for examination and discussion. This is the purpose of Project Dialogue.

    “Vanderbilt is committed to free speech. It is equally committed to a policy of non-discrimination on the basis of race, religion, color, sex, national origin or sexuality.”

    I absolutely guarantee that the university would fire a Christian chaplain who denounced homosexuality as abominable.

    Remember: the Left does not have principles. It has slogans.

  29. Comment by William on August 18, 2019 at 9:34 am

    Most revealing but no surprising in this radical hypocrisy age. These institutions of higher learning, even those with some sort of Christian affiliation, scream diversity, inclusiveness, free expression, et al constantly on the one hand while practicing the opposite on the other. Orthodox Christianity across America is under assault, even from those claiming Christian alliance. They will even defend and excuse Islam, for example, when it can be used as a back door slap at orthodox Christianity. Placing Muslim, Unitarian, etc. chaplains at schools claiming affiliation with Christianity is an insult, affront, and displaying and attack by those doing this, which, of course, violates another of their high ideals — to not offend and harm others.

  30. Comment by John on August 18, 2019 at 9:33 am

    Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Parker May 15, 1819
    Were I to be the founder of a new sect, I would call
    them Apiarians, and after the example of the bee,
    advise them to extract the honey of every sect.
    I think Jefferson would approve(with a gleam in his eye).

  31. Comment by William on August 19, 2019 at 3:48 pm

    Of course old Thomas devised his own Bible to the delight of his enlightenment gods.

  32. Comment by John Smith on August 19, 2019 at 6:27 am

    OTOH Shenandoah has a great music program with many free and low cost performances by world class artists available to all. Many take place in the chapel which seems to get more use as a music venue than a worship space. Of course for many of our churches we could say they get little use for most of the week.

  33. Comment by Jimmy on August 19, 2019 at 8:19 am

    This is just another example of the apostate church in action. “John Wesley” must be “rolling over” in his grave!! God help us all!!

  34. Comment by Gloria on August 19, 2019 at 8:28 am

    Shame on Shenandoah University! You’re following the band wagon right over the cliff with this ‘progressive’, ‘diversity’ card. Do your research and see what their ultimate objective is. Wake up Christians! This is no ‘inclusive’ party…it’s take over time, the highjacking of Christianity without one shot being fired. And most of the people calling themselves ‘progressives’ don’t have a clue.

  35. Comment by Dr. Charles Klink on August 21, 2019 at 7:58 am

    What will be interesting…and denominationally…will be the educational shakeup which will occur following the inevitable split wjthin our system. Will these schools be so anti-congregational, as it seems they are in their relationship now, when they no longer have the “numbers” pool for the student body as the society reduces the number of siblings/family and, subsequently, the inevitable reduction in $ for the educational institution. Then we will see and hear how progressive they want to be following closures and personnel who are unemployed…but they will have “taken their stand for their social and theological philosophies”!

  36. Comment by William on August 21, 2019 at 9:19 am

    They are convinced that they are insulated from any and all economic factors and believe that they are on the right side of the money flow. It is long past backlash time where benefactors stop their donations. But watch, as soon as that happens, these places will pivot and claim they’ve been more conservative all along and were simply misunderstood before. Their principles are based on the prevailing winds of the day — and, of course, ???.

  37. Comment by Kenneth E Kinzer on September 17, 2019 at 8:20 pm

    Is there a Trust Clause for University property?

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