Welcoming students from other Christian traditions
By Jessica Fraser
According to the Asbury Registrar’s statistical summary, out of 1,326 undergraduate students, 27 students declared their denomination as Roman Catholic. Although Asbury maintains a commitment to a Wesleyan-Arminian perspec- tive and, according to the institution’s mission statement, “requires all who affiliate with the university to live within the guidelines of this commitment,” the mainly Protestant institution welcomes Catholic students.
According to Todd Jefferson, a Catholic stu- dent on campus, there are several differences between Protestant and Catholic Christianity. Jefferson said that the main difference is that Ca- tholicism is grounded in structure and tradition. “Catholicism is more structured than any other religion that I have ever come across. You do a certain thing at a certain time because, well, that’s just how it’s always been.” Maddie Lewis, one of the 27 Catholic stu- dents on campus, said that Catholicism is differ- ent than Protestantism in that it requires more commitment. “We are just more disciplined,” she said. “For example, we never miss going to church.” Sarah Sterling, also a Catholic Asburian, said that she has only missed going to church twice in her entire life. “Once was because I was really sick, and another time was because I was being stubborn and skipped. But if you are Catho- lic, your butt is getting out of bed and going to church every weekend, no exceptions,” Sterling explains. Sterling also said that in addition to there be- ing some differences, there are a lot of miscon- ceptions about Catholicism. “They always think we worship saints and Mary, and that is a big misunderstanding. Just because we pray to them, does not mean we worship them,” she said. “Worship to me means getting on your knees and bowing down, and that is not what we do.” Sterling explained that just because she is Catholic does not mean she believes in every part of the Catholic religion. She said that she is pretty uncertain about pur- gatory and that she does not agree with the sacrament of rec- onciliation, when you confess to a priest and he forgives you of your sins. “Those are the only two things I don’t agree with and the only two things some people have criti- cized me for.” Even though these two branches of Christi- anity are different, some Catholic students be- lieve that the tension is unnecessary and that the differences are trivial. “As long as I am going to church and praising God, well that’s all I really care about,” said Jefferson. Lewis explained that she believes that much of the tension between Protestantism and Ca- tholicism are small differences that are not im-
portant. “People need to understand that not everybody is the same, but we all believe in the same God,” said Lewis. “But as long as there are differences, there will be disagreement.” Sterling believes that some people do not know enough about Catholicism to under- stand that it is a form of Christianity as well. “People don’t understand that Catho- lics are Christians,” said Sterling. “People will point out that I am Catholic, but I want them to understand that I am a Chris- tian, too.” Jefferson is accustomed to being different because of his religious beliefs and can handle jokes that are made if they are not out of line. “I don’t make fun of other religions, so why would you make fun of mine?” he ques- tioned. “Just because you don’t understand some of my beliefs does not mean you need to make fun of them.” Although she has had to stand up for her faith, Sterling feels that, overall, Asbury accepts her for her faith. Despite certain differences in theologies, the Asbury community welcomes students of different Christian traditions. “I am happy here; I do not get interrogated every single day, and I, for the most part, I feel that the As- bury community embraces me still and makes me feel welcomed,” said Sterling.