According to a February 25th press release by the Association of Christian Schools International, ACSI has chosen a new president. Dr. Brian Simmons will be replacing the current president, Dr. Kenneth Smitherman in August 2009.1
Brian Simmons is the vice president for university relations at Indiana Wesleyan University. ACSI Board Chair Beth Elder stated: “At the end of a thorough search and selection process … Dr. Simmons clearly emerged as God’s choice to lead ACSI in its next era of resourcing the Christian schooling movement worldwide.”
Lighthouse Trails reported in September 2008 that ACSI had begun their search for a new president.2 ACSI has been the topic of at least two Lighthouse Trails reports over the last year because of President Smitherman’s promotion of contemplative spirituality and emerging church writers (see report one) (see report two
ACSI, a major resource organization for Christian schools, has 5300 member schools and represents 1.2 million students worldwide. It claims to be the world’s largest association of Protestant schools.
As our previous reports have documented, through ACSI’s Spiritual Formation program, contemplative advocates are being promoted. One of the books endorsed at ACSI is Cultivating Christian Character by Michael Zigarelli. The book gives many contemplative implications including a recommendation for David Steindl-Rast, a Zen-Buddhist trained monk and good friend of Thomas Merton (see A Time of Departing for more on Steindl-Rast). For ACSI to introduce Zigarelli’s book to member schools is troubling.
The school where Simmons is currently working, Indiana Wesleyan University, is one of the schools listed on the Lighthouse Trails Contemplative Colleges page. In general, the Wesleyan denomination (as with many other denominations) has been influenced significantly by contemplative/emerging spirituality (see our 2006 report). As one example, Wesleyan Publishing released Wesleyan Keith Drury’s book for the Lectio Divina Bible Studies. Drury is a contemplative proponent whose books are also used as textbooks in Nazarene Universities. At Indiana Wesleyan University, there is a strong emphasis on Spiritual Formation.
As for Brian Simmons, time will tell what influences he will bring to ACSI. Let us pray that he does not share Ken Smitherman’s or Keith Drury’s affinity for contemplative spirituality.
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