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Lee University School of Religion: Department of Theology
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Post Lee University School of Religion: Department of Theology Andrew Eastes
Over the past four years, I have attended Lee University as a full-time student, majoring in Biblical and Theological Studies. During that same time period, I have been able to evangelize full-time, preaching 200-250 times annually. Traveling to various churches, I have had many pastors ask the same two questions: "Has the Department of Theology at Lee become liberal?" and "Is it true that the Department of Theology is no longer Pentecostal?" All of these pastors had very good intentions in asking these questions and were merely inquiring about things which they had heard "through the grapevine." Given that I will be graduating this Saturday, I have had some time to reflect on these questions and would like to give my response to both of them below. While I cannot speak of any other department at Lee outside of my own, I can speak on behalf of my experience in the Department of Theology.

1) "Has the Department of Theology at Lee become liberal?" I suppose the answer to this question would depend on what one means by "liberal." If one means "does Lee teach things that would contradict the Declaration of Faith and undermine the future of the church," the answer is a firm and emphatic no. I have never had a Lee professor say anything that would threaten the future or theological integrity of our movement. If one means "does Lee ask questions that cause students to think critically," the answer is thankfully yes. In doing so, Lee is doing the COG a profound favor given the changing state of ministry in the 21st century. Difficult questions are no longer avoidable. It is far better for Lee students to encounter these questions in a safe environment such as the classroom than to encounter these questions during their first pastorate and to have no idea how to provide an adequate answer.

2) "Is it true that the Department of Theology is no longer Pentecostal?" While it is true that Lee has become increasingly diverse as a whole with many students from different traditions, the Department of Theology in the School of Religion is firmly committed to their Pentecostal identity and leaving room for the moving of the Holy Spirit. For example, my sophomore History of Christianity class was turned into an impromptu prayer service after students began to share their burdens and request prayer. Also during my sophomore year, another professor stopped his Greek study session because he felt impressed by the Spirit to pray for students who had not received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This same professor organized a Spirit baptism service in the stone chapel with three students and three professors giving their testimonies about being baptized in the Spirit. At the conclusion, an invitation was given in which students flooded the front of the building to receive prayer and seek the Lord. If one wishes to watch this service in its entirety, feel free to visit this link (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vE7oNKaVR98). The Department of Theology organized a healing service during my senior year with several students and professors giving their testimonies of being physically healed. An opportunity was then given for students to receive prayer with many responding to receive healing from the Lord. Just a month ago, the Department of Theology once again hosted a 24 hour fast that culminated in a prayer service for a fellow student who had been diagnosed with cancer. While praying for this individual during the service, a theology professor invited students to join him in praying in the Spirit and proceeded to pray loudly and authoritatively in a heavenly language. Suffice it to say, the Department of Theology at Lee is not only Pentecostal, they are proudly Pentecostal.

In conclusion, the Department of Theology at Lee is neither liberal nor afraid of their Pentecostal heritage. I am unsure of how rumors to the contrary have come "through the grapevine," but I can definitively say that "the grapevine" is wrong. In fact, the exact opposite is true. Lee is serving the purposes of the COG faithfully, training ministers that are maximally prepared to face the challenges of 21st century ministry while staying true to their Pentecostal identity.
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5/4/15 1:12 am


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Post Eddie Robbins
From what I have heard, it begins when one of those questions come up that challenges the students to think and one of them calls home and tells his Daddy who is a COG pastor. He calls one of his friends and here we go....

Great post!!!
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5/4/15 5:55 am


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Post drmrc
Thanks for the fantastic report on Lee.

So proud of what Lee University stands for.

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5/4/15 6:44 am


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Post Nature Boy Florida
Thanks for posting. That is great news to hear.

My son graduates from Lee this Saturday - and it has been a most positive, educational, and spiritually uplifting time for him.

I had heard many rumors myself - but I am totally pleased to say that my son has lived there - and we now share a bond of the "Lee experience" that is not much different than the one I had 30 years before.

Congratulations. Not sure how you are able to preach that much and complete a degree - but more power to you!
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5/4/15 9:37 am


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Post Great report, Andrew... OHIOBISHOPBILL
We typically criticize what we don't know...and all of us are guilty. Even the disciples were quick to the trigger in condemning other ministers that were not associated with their own! I get that...

Lee has been singled out by some and as the school has continued to become more diverse and reach a diversity that is outside of the Church of God, it is common for some to question loyalty and as teachers who don't have our faith traditions are hired, it seems that we are "selling out"...but could it be that God is bringing people to Lee so that they can experience something they could not find otherwise? I'm confident in the processes I've been witness to.

I remember a number of years ago that a pastor (Joe Chambers) from Charlotte got on a rampage about Lee and advocated that Dr. Conn was openly supporting gay rights and using the school to leverage his "liberal" belief system because some students had been reported to be gay and some drug activity had been discovered. Because I was from the area, I was hearing all kinds of trash about Lee and because I'm an alum and love the school I wanted to know. Next time I was in Cleveland, I made an appointment with Dr Conn who openly shared his frustration with the rumors and said that not one time did Joe or anyone else call to confirm anything but just ran with what someone had told them. Of course, it was all blowhard rumormongering and gossip. Through the years, when I've heard things I typically go ask and the information is helpful.

Here's what I know about Dr. Conn, his leadership team and faculty...in EVERY case where I have asked for help, sought guidance, needed something, floated an idea or suggestion, it has been met with professional courtesy, openness and eagerness to support creativity. We once used summer interns from the Department of Religion to help in smaller Louisiana churches and what a breath of fresh ideas they brought to the churches...Lee paid the bill and scholarshiped every student who volunteered $200 a week for the weeks they worked.

It's not the Lee some of us remember...its better and for all this time my sense has been the focus was the kingdom--planting transformed and educated lives around the world who will tell the story of what Christ means to them. Congratulations to Andrew and the others who walk this week...may God use them mightily wherever they go!

Andrew...you made my day!
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5/4/15 11:58 am


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Post revuriah
I just finished my first official semester at Lee, online courses. This semester, I did a Christian Education class, and then a class studying John's Gospel. A's in both. I am stoked to have the opportunity to study at Lee U, especially with the financial benefits of being a COG credentialed minister.

I already had some credit going in, from MIP, as well as community college and a semester at Patten a few years back. I'm taking the summer off, since I'm moving back to Florida anyway, and I plan on going back in the fall.

I too would like to focus on a theology major. Right now, I'm under Christian Ministry.
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5/4/15 4:34 pm


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Post Good post drew C. Chris Moody
Drew,

I am glad you made this post. I had a great discussion a few days ago with a Lee administrator. He enlightened me on several things that I personally had questioned. I am a Lee alum and I am thankful for my education from this institution. Without Lee I would have never met the wonderful people at South Cleveland. Furthermore, I would not be their pastor today.

I am eternally grateful for the thread you have initiated. I believe God orders our steps. He ordered my steps into a Lee administrators office last week. This week I had Voices of Lee at our church. We took them to eat afterwards and Danny Murray began telling me of the group's camp meeting tour this year. This group also represents our university well in recruiting and worship environments. I'm also grateful for stumbling onto this thread today.

I, like many others, have been guilty of false presumptions concerning Lee. It's students like you and multiple others who attend this institution to put all of our minds at ease. I still have great confidence in Dr. Rick Moore, Dr. Terry Cross, Dr Gerald Daffe, Dr John Lombard, and I better not leave out Dr. Skip Jenkins...fellow colleague and member of sccog.

I don't know how many of you know this young man who began this thread, but he is a great young evangelist in the church. I slipped into a meeting with him about a year ago and he really impressed me. Again, I cannot say enough about God ordering my steps. Many of my questions regarding Lee, have been answered here, through the administrator, and the great ministry of Voices Sunday really drove it all home for me. Thankful for your experience at Lee, and for the Holy Spirit checking me on my attitude recently with regards to this institution. Lee University has arguably one of the greatest leaders the COG has ever had leading at any level. Keep plowing and sowing Drew....the harvest is everywhere. You remind me so much of my time at Lee. I was always preaching somewhere during my time there.

This post has made my day
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5/4/15 4:49 pm


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Post Old Time Country Preacher
Andrew, thank you for posting the link to the chapel service, the ole timer just watched it. I was especially moved (to tears) listening to Dr. Rick Moore's testimony of receiving the Baptism in the Holy Spirit after joining the faculty of PTS. The power and longevity of godly parents, grandparents, etc., is a tremendous testimony. Acts-pert Poster
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5/4/15 5:42 pm


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Post Brandon Bowers
When I was at Lee (2003 grad), these same questions and accusations arose then.. Some were even from the student body from within the School of Religion.

Here's what I learned about those who made these "accusations."

They believe they know everything already. They only went to Lee in order to get make official what they believed about themselves already. They had already arrived.

Here's what happened with those guys....

No one knows... Why? They fell off the face of the earth. They allowed their egos to get ahead of them, and now they are nowhere to be found. God is primarily concerned with our character, rather than what we believe we can do in ministry. So many guys back then got it backwards..

Great post! I'm glad to hear Lee is still a wonderful place.
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Post tongues as initial evidence diakoneo
Andrew,
On a scale of 0-10, 0 being not at all and 10 being overwhelmingly so, how would you say the professors affirmed tongues as being "the" initial evidence ?

Thanks
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5/5/15 7:33 am


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Post Eddie Robbins
Regardless of that answer, keep in mind that former GO said it was one indication of the Spirit. So, it really doesn't matter how many agree with Dr Walker and how many don't. The COG is a church with different views on that subject regardless of the teaching. Acts-pert Poster
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Post Diakoneo, Good Question Andrew Eastes
In order to understand my answer to this question, there are some demographics to keep in mind. First, a large number of students who come to Lee are not from a Pentecostal background and have never even heard speaking in tongues until they arrive here. Second, a vast amount of the self-identifying Pentecostals that come to Lee do not speak in tongues prior to coming here. This should come as no surprise given that the most recent poll showed that forty-nine percent of Pentecostals in America do not speak in tongues. For example, I had a Lee student who grew up COG tell me that they had never heard speaking in tongues in a church service prior to coming to Lee (they eventually began attending Redemption Point...imagine the shock). Given these two points, the faculty of the theology department have to spend a great deal of time arguing for the validity and authenticity of tongue speech as a spiritual experience and as an appropriate liturgical practice. In this sense, Lee's first concern is with defending tongues in general rather than defending a particular doctrine concerning tongues. Given that I have spent the last nine years doing interdenominational ministry, I can affirm that this is the appropriate route to take as people do not care if tongues are the initial evidence if they think tongues are not truly real from the outset.

That being said, while their first concern is with defending tongues in general, there is also concern for initial evidence at Lee. By what I understand, this conversation takes place in Systematic Theology, and initial evidence is affirmed in that conversation. However, I cannot speak to that directly as I did not have that class due to the program being structured differently when I came here. Also, this conversation is commonly had in the Doctrine of the Holy Sprit class, which introduces students to the classical Pentecostal understanding of Spirit baptism. While I am unsure of what other classes might have this conversation, I will say that at no point have I ever had a professor explicitly contradict initial evidence in a class. Apart from the classroom curriculum, initial evidence is a regular part of the theological language used at Lee. For example, here is one New Testament professor, who regularly gives invitations for people to receive prayer to be baptized with the Holy Spirit. Each time I have heard him give the invitation, he exclaims, "Who here wants to be baptized in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in other tongues?" Those words speak for themselves....

In conclusion, I would not want to give a concrete number on your scale due to the fluidity of the situation at Lee and within Pentecostalism as a whole, but I would feel comfortable placing it in the 6-8 range. It would be untrue to place it any higher than 8 due to Lee having to spend so much time just affirming that tongues are real apart from the initial evidence conversation. It would also be unfair to place it any lower than 6 as initial evidence is a significant part of the theological conversation and spiritual ethos of Lee.


Last edited by Andrew Eastes on 5/5/15 12:11 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Post Nature Boy Florida
Andrew,
Nice response.
Thanks.
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Post Andrew... Aaron Scott
Just a question.... Have you ever heard any sermons by Ray H. Hughes...T.L. Lowery...or Paul Henson? Specifically, were you encouraged or required to do so?

I have a growing concern that few theological students are required to hear the flagship preachers of the Church of God. A former seminary student had never heard a Ray Hughes sermon.

My concern is not doctrinal, but I do think we miss something important to not have to hear preachers who shaped and influenced Church of God preaching...who set a standard that caused Church of God preachers to often be thought of as the very best Pentecostal preachers in any denomination.

It's not "wrong"to have never heard them, but it seems to be a huge loss and a missing link in the continuity of the movement.
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Post Aaron, Good Question Andrew Eastes
Being raised in the Church of God, I had heard of those ministers and their messages prior to coming to Lee, and I fully affirm that it would benefit Pentecostal preachers to be aware of the rich legacy left by the fathers and mothers of our movement. That being said, I should clarify that I majored in Biblical and Theological Studies, not Christian Ministries. Within my major, there is not a focus upon pulpit ministry specifically. My discipline is more concerned with theological inquiry than homiletical theory. Therefore, I cannot answer that question in regards to classroom curriculum and what ministers that professors might recommend as examples of effective preaching.

However, I can affirm that all students at Lee are given healthy exposure to the premier Pentecostal preachers of our day through chapel services. In the time I have attended Lee, denominational leaders such as Bishop Raymond Culpepper, Bishop Mark Williams, and Bishop Mark Williams have preached multiple times in the Conn Center pulpit. In addition, various COG pastors have spoken at different times, including Pastor Mike Chapman, Pastor David Cooper, Pastor Loran Livingston, Pastor Mark Walker, and Pastor Kevin Wallace. These examples are only a drop in the bucket, but exemplify the way in which Lee aims to keep their students connected to the Pentecostal tradition and the diverse preaching styles that come with it.
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Post diakoneo
Eddie Robbins wrote:
Regardless of that answer, keep in mind that former GO said it was one indication of the Spirit. So, it really doesn't matter how many agree with Dr Walker and how many don't. The COG is a church with different views on that subject regardless of the teaching.


What does the Declaration of Faith say? Need some help Smile

Quote:
In speaking with other tongues as the Spirit gives utterance and that it is the initial evidence of the baptism of the Holy Ghost.


If we have many different views perhaps we should remove it from the declaration of faith.
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5/5/15 4:19 pm


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Post Eddie Robbins
diakoneo wrote:
Eddie Robbins wrote:
Regardless of that answer, keep in mind that former GO said it was one indication of the Spirit. So, it really doesn't matter how many agree with Dr Walker and how many don't. The COG is a church with different views on that subject regardless of the teaching.


What does the Declaration of Faith say? Need some help Smile

Quote:
In speaking with other tongues as the Spirit gives utterance and that it is the initial evidence of the baptism of the Holy Ghost.


If we have many different views perhaps we should remove it from the declaration of faith.


I know what it says. I don't need help. If I were reading, I probably would need my glasses, but I know that one by heart. I have heard it all my life. But, that doesn't negate the fact that many in the COG don't agree with it.
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5/5/15 4:41 pm


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Post Randy Johnson
Eddie Robbins wrote:
I have heard it all my life. But, that doesn't negate the fact that many in the COG don't agree with it.


Aren't you glad that resolution to "agree with" didn't pass at the last General Assembly. Wink
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5/5/15 5:20 pm


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Post Eddie Robbins
Randy Johnson wrote:
Eddie Robbins wrote:
I have heard it all my life. But, that doesn't negate the fact that many in the COG don't agree with it.


Aren't you glad that resolution to "agree with" didn't pass at the last General Assembly. Wink


Sure, for those it would have affected.
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Post Christopher Stephenson
Drew,

Thank you for this post! I am thankful to have played an extremely small role in some of the dynamics and events to which you refer.

Best!
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