Editor’s note: The following commentary was adapted from MinistryWatch.com (Warren Smith’s Editor’s Notebook). For the last several months, MinistryWatch has covered the potential closing of The King’s College in Manhattan.
By Warren Smith
It looks like the closure of The King’s College in New York City is all but inevitable, and that will be a huge loss for the city, and for American evangelicalism.
We and others have written extensively about King’s in recent months, so I won’t rehearse the story here. If you haven’t been following it, you can get caught up here and here.
I should add, by way of full disclosure, that I worked as a consultant for The King’s College about a decade ago, and I fell in love with the place. So much so that I encouraged my son Walker to attend. He graduated from the school in 2018.
Those experiences led me to this belief: The King’s College fills a unique gap in American evangelicalism. It provides an academically rigorous, distinctively Christian higher education in the heart of one of the most important cultural centers on the planet. No other Christian college in America comes close to offering what The King’s College offers. Not Wheaton, not Biola, not Grove City, not Liberty, not Grand Canyon. (Again, by way of full disclosure: One of my daughters graduated from Grove City, and another from Liberty.) These schools have many virtues and offer their own unique gifts to the world of Christian higher education. But none of them can replace what we will lose if The King’s College closes.
Evangelicalism has a sub-industry of thought leaders and organizations who say they want to impact the culture not by engaging in short-term, political, “culture war” battles, but by playing “the long game.” Raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, educate them well. If we must criticize, then do so, as Michelangelo said, by “making something beautiful.”
I consider myself a kindred spirit with those who say these things. But in my frustration, I want to say: where are their voices now? The King’s College was the best shot we’ve had in a generation to accomplish what such writers as Andy Crouch, Gabe Lyons, Donald Miller, Mark Rodgers, Os Guinness, and many more have been writing about.
But a sober assessment causes me to understand why so many remain silent. King’s has lots of problems now, and money is not its biggest problem. The amount of money King’s needs is a pittance compared to, for example, what the Christian foundation Signatry spent on the “He Gets Us” advertising campaign. The money is out there.
The problem – as we have seen time and again here at MinistryWatch — is the current board. I don’t blame those who have the voice and/or the money to make a difference remaining on the sidelines. I would not give money to this board either.
But that, too, is a problem that can be fixed. When the Green family bailed out Oral Roberts University with $70-million in 2007, that gift came with strict conditions, conditions that included wholesale changes at the board level, and elsewhere in the organization. A far smaller amount of money, with similar conditions, could bring King’s back from the brink, and set it on a path toward flourishing.
The New York Times to Inside Higher Ed have commented about King’s lately, but I can’t think of anyone who has done so more wisely and graciously than Kimberly Thornbury. Kimberly worked in strategic roles at King’s before joining The Murdock Charitable Trust. I strongly recommend her Facebook post explaining why King’s is essential, and how it might be saved.
I also strongly recommend praying for the survival and renewal of The King’s College.
Ministry Watch is an independent donor advocate that profiles public charities, church and parachurch ministries. Ministry Watch is also a place to learn about how to be a responsible giver.