Reckoning with Southwestern's Methodist affiliation

Southwestern University, just like all four of its root colleges, is directly connected to Methodism.

This relationship was particularly problematic in the mid- to late-19th Century, when all of the four root colleges were founded and when the Methodist Church in America split into its Northern and Southern factions over the Church's acceptance or rejection of slavery.

For all of Southwestern's history, it has been affiliated with the Methodist Church. That affiliation has undergone renegotiation in recent decades, but has been a significant force in the development of the University throughout. Today, as we work to diversify the University, there are significant unsettled questions about whether our affiliation with Methodism is an impediment or a way forward, especially when we consider the way the most prominent symbol of that affiliation, the Lois Perkins Chapel and its centrality to campus today, encapsulates this conflict.

A space such as the Lois Perkins Chapel, simply due to the religious nature and purpose of the building, exerts a force on all those who interact with it. Walking into the Chapel seems to demand a hush, a reverence, regardless of religious background or spiritual belief. The presence of this…
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The Mood Obelisk was constructed in the late 19th century, and serves as a reminder of Southwestern’s founder, Francis Asbury Mood. The monument does not occupy a significant place in current student collective memory, and as such, the ethical questions brought about by Mood’s complicated role in the university’s history and memory remain largely unresolved.
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