The Christian Union, an evangelical organization that runs the group Princeton Faith and Action, has reversed a decision to split its ministry into two racially separate groups at Princeton University after students challenged the decision.
Tim Adhikari, who served as the ministry director of Princeton Faith and Action and was well liked by many students, was allegedly let go over the dispute at the beginning of December. Adhikari vocally opposed the split.
A group called Legacy merged with Princeton Faith and Action in the fall of 2013 after the two groups held events together and realized from a Christian perspective they should be “one body in Christ.”
Prior to the merger, the two organizations differed in their size and mission. Legacy, founded in 2010 by a student, was a much smaller group than Princeton Faith and Action. The group recruited Africans and African-Americans with a goal of celebrating the black worship experience.
The Christian Union recently announced a move to revive Legacy as a separate group.
The head of the Christian Union, Matt Bennett, told Planet Princeton Tuesday that the goal was to have as many students as possible experience the richness and closeness of community in the challenging environment of an Ivy League school and have the personal and spiritual resources they need to thrive at Princeton.
“Student organizations similar to Legacy have been on Princeton’s campus for almost 20 years. We perceived that those organizations provided meaningful and beneficial experiences for students looking for a spiritual community to call home,” he said. “We would love every student who is involved in Princeton Faith and Action to remain involved and had hoped that an additional ministry (such as Legacy) would be a benefit to students who are not already in Princeton Faith and Action and who have different needs and preferences.”
Many students objected to the decision, and a petition opposing the move was signed by more than 225 students.
“It was a really bad decision and the timing was awful given everything that has been going on lately with Ferguson and the protests,” said one student.
Students asked that Princeton Faith and Action be allowed to stay united with subgroups offering multicultural programs. Many students also want Adhikari reinstated.
The Christian Union reversed its decision about the split this week and Bennett said the leadership is sorry for the hurt the issue has caused.
“We are deeply grieved to have hurt students who perceived this proposal as an attempt to split the multi-cultural community that they so deeply cherish and we so fully affirm,” he said. “We now understand that students see restoring Legacy as indeed splitting the community, and so we have ceased any efforts to encourage the restoration.”
Bennett declined to comment about the reason for Adhikari’s departure. Some students initially said Adhikari was let go for participating in protests about Ferguson, but others said it was because of his strong belief that African Americans should not be placed in a separate group again called Legacy.
“We reserve the right not to comment on personnel issues,” Bennett said. “Tim’s dismissal was in no way related to any protests in which he may have participated. We support peacefully protesting racial injustice.”
Tim Adhikari was reached by Planet Princeton Tuesday night. He declined to comment on his departure except to indicate it was related to Legacy.
Adhikari spent eight years on Wall Street as an executive for Merrill Lynch prior to earning his master’s degree at Westminster Theological Seminary. He also worked as a pastor helping plant a new church in New Jersey prior to working in campus ministry.
Bennett, the founder of the Christian Union, is now based in New York. A worker for Campus Crusade for Christ at Princeton University for 12 years, he founded the Christian Union in 2002 with a goal of developing Christian leaders at Ivy League Schools. The organization has grown year after year, and now operates with an annual budget of more than $5.5 million. In addition to Princeton, the group now has ministries at Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Penn, and Yale.