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Church’s Progressive Faith Helped Shape Chapman University

Rev. Nancy Brink is director of Office of Church Relations, the link between Chapman University and Disciples of Christ, which founded Chapman in 1861. The school's Fish Interfaith Center holds worship and events for several religious faiths.

Rev. Nancy Brink is director of Office of Church Relations, the link between Chapman University and Disciples of Christ, which founded Chapman in 1861. The school’s Fish Interfaith Center holds worship and events for several religious faiths.

Does Chapman have a religious affiliation?

It’s a question that’s often asked by prospective faculty and students, among others. The short answer is yes.

Chapman was founded as Hesperian College in 1861 by the Disciples of Christ, a progressive Christian denomination that is still present on campus.

But unlike Christian colleges, such as Pepperdine University and Biola University, that weave Christian doctrine into all aspects of the university and require students to do religious coursework, Chapman doesn’t.

Instead, Chapman’s Fish Interfaith Center holds worship and events for a variety of religious faiths represented on campus including Buddhism, Sikhism, Mormonism, Roman Catholicism and Judaism. It is also home to its founding denomination, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the church’s official name.

“For the people who are religious, there are resources on campus. For those who aren’t, they might not even realize there is a worship center,” said Rev. Nancy Brink, director of the Office of Church Relations at the Fish Interfaith Center. She is a Disciples of Christ member.

Brink’s office, which has three staff members, is the link between the Disciples of Christ and Chapman.

The Disciples of Christ and its partner, United Church of Christ, similar and yet distinct denominations, at Chapman are collectively called Disciples on Campus, or DOC.

“Not only are we ecumenical, believing that you don’t have to practice and be like us to be in God’s great circle, we’re increasingly interfaith,” Brink said.

“We don’t believe that Christianity is the exclusive path of faith,” she said.

Disciples on Campus is a student-run ministry.

Chapman students lead Wednesday services at the Fish Interfaith Center, organize events and take part in service projects. Brink, along with Gail Stearns, who oversees all religious programming at the Fish Interfaith Center, mentors student chaplains there.

The Disciples of Christ denomination is small, with about 750,000 members in the United States and Canada. United Church of Christ has more members, around 1.1 million in the United States. Given those numbers, the number of Disciples on Campus members is relatively large, about 100 students.

Scholarships for recruits

Brink recruits students to Chapman from Disciples of Christ and United Church of Christ congregations nationwide at churches and religious conferences. All student members of the Disciples on Campus are eligible for scholarships, which are primarily funded by donations from church members and alumni.

Originally published in The Orange County Register.  See full story.

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