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Posted 24 Jul 2001   For week ended July 13, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 21Jul01

By Kent Larsen

Dartmouth Club Denies Mormon Student; Says Mormons Aren't Christian

HANOVER, NEW HAMPSHIRE -- Saying Mormons are not Christian, the Dartmouth Summer Christian Fellowship has told a Mormon student she can't be a leader in the group. Meredeth Brooks, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, had expressed interest in the Summer Christian Fellowship, a non-denominational evangelical group on Dartmouth's campus. While both Brooks and the club claim that they have reached "an understanding," what the campus newspaper, The Dartmouth, calls a "series of miscommunications" had led to a conflict between Brooks and the service club's leaders. Now Dean Stuart Lord of Dartmouth's Tucker Foundation is investigating the conflict.

The dispute and investigation is another example of the ongoing dispute between Mormons and Evangelicals about recognizing Mormons as Christians. In Brooks' case, friends suggested that joining the group would be fun, according to Patricia Crossett, a Dartmouth staff member and the LDS Institute instructor on campus. Brooks apparently looked at joining and, after a series of miscommunications, Summer Christian Fellowship (SCF) leaders told her that she could not be a leader in the organization because of her religious beliefs.

However, Brooks then somehow received a copy of an internal SCF email message, which Crossett calls "anti-Mormon," sent by SCF advisor Craig Parker. The message, which advised SCF leaders on how to respond to Brooks, was basically a theological analysis of the differences between Mormon beliefs and traditional Christianity.

But the message contained a harsh reference to the book of Galatians, which Parker said applied to Mormons, that read in part "if any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed." Parker was later quoted in The Dartmouth as saying "I meant that only as a statement against theological positions that try to misrepresent the gospel ... against what I would call theological undermining." He also emphasized that the email was not directed at an individual nor was it intended to be seen by Brooks. "I regret that she ever received that," he said.

In a statement to The Dartmouth, Crossett said, "I'm sorry he would send an email like this to or about Meredith." But she added, "Christian denominations don't seem to get along ... that's just the way it is. I'm a great believer that various groups can invite who they want to be a part of them."

Brooks then wrote an e-mail message to SCF's leaders, saying she felt that the clubs actions indicated a belief that Mormons are not Christian. And she disputed that belief in the message, "I have no doubt in the wide world that I am indeed a Christian. It's rather bigoted of the SCF to be exclusionary based on their fundamentally wrong and naive categorization of my religion."

SCF leaders explained their position to The Dartmouth, saying that Mormon beliefs are so fundamentally different from "traditional evangelical" views that they would blur the group's message. SCF leader Joel Wickre told The Dartmouth, "We're welcoming of all people to be part of our fellowship, but as an organization, we want to be true to the things that we believe and consistent in our theology."

That message led to a meeting between Brooks and SCF leader Alex Jordan, at which they reached an understanding. Jordan said that the "very delicate" and "painful" issue and been resolved but, "I am upset that she is upset." But Brooks said, "I went away from [my meeting with Jordan] knowing that I wouldn't really be accepted as a Christian member of that organization." She now wants to drop the whole matter, "As an idealist and as a Latter-day Saint, I believe in forgiving and moving on."

But for now, that may not be possible. The college prides itself on its openness and tolerance, and the allegations of intolerance by the SCF have reached the attention of Dean Stuart Lord of Dartmouth's Tucker Foundation. Lord said he must look into any allegation of intolerance, "If a student of this community feels that they haven't been respected or honored, we must pay attention to that. We must seize this as an opportunity to learn."

And Tucker's investigation could make a difference. The Tucker Foundation was created by Dartmouth's Trustees to further the moral and spiritual life of the college. The foundation, which is run by Dean Lord, oversees religious life on campus, supporting a wide variety of religious groups and providing the College Chaplain. Since the Tucker Foundation has recognized the SCF, although the Foundation does not provide funding for the group, Dean Lord could withdraw that recognition.

According to Crossett, Dean Lord met with her and Brooks this morning, and was scheduled to meet with the SCF leaders and Parker in the afternoon. Mormon News' call to Dean Lord's office was not returned before this story was sent. At issue are questions of fairness, such as whether SCF's policies were clear from the beginning and whether those policies are consistently applied. Crossett notes that as the LDS advisor on campus, she received an invitation to participate in the SCF last summer, and that other groups that are not "traditional evangelical" participate in the SCF.

Darmouth's own religion experts say the dispute is part of a broader conflict between Mormons and Evangelicals. The chair of Dartmouth's Religion Department, Ronald Green, says that the dispute arises as the LDS Church has increasingly emphasized its belief in Christ and beliefs that it shares with evangelical protestants, and college-age church members don't remember a time when the LDS Church didn't emphasize those beliefs. Religion Professor Charles Stinson notes that the deep doctrinal differences between the Mormons and Evangelicals have led to a debate among the Evangelicals about "whether the Mormons are a type of Christian church or whether they are an outside-the-fold kind of religion."

Mormon News' own coverage shows that this dispute has arisen throughout the US, as LDS Church members assert their belief in Christ and Evangelical Christians assert that Mormons are not Christian because they don't have "traditional" Christian beliefs. And the disagreement is showing up outside the US as well. An article this week in the Scottish Daily Record reports that the St. George School in Gravesend, Kent, England told LDS Church member Jacqueline Holder that her 11-year-old son, Jacob Tulip, could not attend the school because Mormons are not Christian.


Club faces intolerance charge
Dartmouth College The Dartmouth 13Jul01 D2
By Itham Peltan

School Bans Mormon Boy
Glasgow Scotland Daily Record 19Jul01 D2


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