Bethany College Founder’s Day Celebration Ties Alexander Campbell’s Principles for Biblical Interpretation to Understanding Dialogue

BETHANY, W.Va. – Bethany College celebrated Founder’s Day on March 7 with an academic ceremony and celebration among faculty, students, and guests.

The program honored Bethany’s 179-year history and its founder, Alexander Campbell. Campbell was a leader in childhood and adolescent education and championed universal female education. He was also one of the principal founders of the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ (DOC).

Rev. Teresa Hord Owens, General Minister and President of the Christian Church (DOC), gave the Founder’s Day address entitled, “Where the Scriptures Speak: Exploring Alexander Campbell’s Principles for Biblical Interpretation.”

During her address, Owens explored how Campbell’s principles of Biblical interpretation can help us achieve an understanding of differences as we come together in dialogue.

“Listen in an attempt to reach that understanding difference,” said Owens. “That’s all we can hope for because we are limited, and we are flawed. But we are here together, and I believe Alexander Campbell would want us to work on those principles of interpretation as we meet, talk, learn, and live together.”

Campbell’s principles include:

  • Consider the historical circumstances in the book.
  • Understand the authority under which this author operates.
  • Understand the philological principles (use the original language to get at the heart of what the writer actually intended).

The need to apply these principles is based on the limited means of the written word, according to Owens.

“Our words, be they spoken or written, are such limited tools. Campbell says we must come within the understanding distance, critical distance, yes, but an understanding distance that allows for grace, that allows for love, that allows for humanity.”

Dr. Tamara Nichols Rodenberg, President of Bethany College, presided over the event. “Today, we gather in this historic Commencement Hall to honor our missions and values with a spirit of community,” said Rodenberg. “This spirit has always defined us, drawing us together once again to reflect on the vision of Bethany College which was so beautifully articulated by our founder, Alexander Campbell, 179 years ago.

“Mr. Campbell envisioned that upon graduation, students would become their own teachers and pupils and continue their education throughout their lives. Standing here today and seeing our seniors donning their caps and gowns for the first time, I believe Mr. Campbell would be overjoyed.”

Founder’s Day at Bethany College is observed on the first Thursday of March. Bethany received its official charter from the Legislature of Virginia on March 2, 1840. The charter was affirmed on June 20, 1863, by the Legislature of the newly-formed state of West Virginia.

About Bethany College

Bethany College, founded in 1840, is the oldest private college in West Virginia. The Bethany experience focuses on academic excellence in the area of liberal arts and prepares students for a lifetime of work and a life of significance.

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