Last month, Mr. Rickman, Mrs. Taylor and I welcomed a number of guests from the Eastern European Republic of Georgia. We received a request for this visit from the NC Global Leadership, an organization that partners with the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C. through their International Visitor Leadership Program. The NC Global Leadership, under the auspices of the State Department, welcomes international visitors and arranges meetings for them with various organizations that complement their professional work and interests.
The theme of their visit to the U.S. this year was set by the State Department...“Religious Pluralism and Countering Violent Extremism in the U.S.” Two main objectives for their visits to several other educational institutions were to:
- Underscore how U.S. religious organizations and academic institutions teach tolerance and cooperation among faith groups.
- Connect participants to community organizations and grassroots advocacy groups that foster youth leadership skills and engage young people through education, economic opportunity and civic participation.
After a tour of the campus, with interpreters present, we had the pleasure of sitting down in the Media Center for a roundtable discussion to share about how we live and operate as a coherent Christian community and organization. Although the primary religious sects in Georgia are Orthodox Christianity, Muslim, and Roman Catholic, most of our guests were of the Muslim tradition.
It was interesting to note, and perhaps why they chose to visit us, that they were most interested in learning more about how families who are not of the Christian faith assimilate into the academy. In our dialogue, we described our primary purpose of providing a rigorous academic environment within the framework of a biblical worldview. Mr. Rickman did a wonderful job explaining that back in the 80’s, the school board and Mr. Farlow faced some tough challenges and once again reinforced the original vision and purpose of the school - to provide a biblically based, college-preparatory education enabling children to pursue a relationship with Jesus Christ and impact their world for his glory. Therefore, it is not necessarily an admissions prerequisite that every family and student be professing Christians (although most of them are), as long as they are receptive and supportive of what we teach and why. This was an intriguing concept for them based on their education system and how they approach religion in their environment.
It was also noted in our discussion that many Georgians are fearful of the American influence because of what Hollywood portrays as “mainstream” in our society. We eagerly assured them that life for many Americans is far from what might be perceived as reality in our media and entertainment industry. Despite the barriers of a different belief system, it was good for all of us to understand that Georgian parents desire many of the same things we do - a free and safe environment where children can be protected from promiscuity and violence, the teaching of good moral principles, and providing a system for families to grow and live.
We also had the opportunity to share about the unique challenges we face as a nation that has drifted from the Christian ideas and principles set by our Founding Fathers. Our discussion affirmed that some of the same cultural threats that the church in America is facing are also making their way through the Orthodox Church in Georgia.
It was a special privilege to be chosen as a school for this visit and conversation, and more so, to share the purpose and calling for Christian education. One of our new Muslim friends commented that Wesleyan is a wonderful role model for other schools, and he would love for his own children to attend Wesleyan...that in itself was worth spending the day with them!
The school board and administration are committed to better serving all families while remaining faithful to our vision -“To Know and Live the Truth.” May the Lord continue to guide and equip us to teach your precious children their roles and purpose in a rapidly changing and diverse world.
Dr. Rob Brown
Head of School