Our History

Though the Consortium of Christian Study Centers (CCSC) has only been in existence as a legal entity for a little under ten years, its history stretches back twenty years.  In 1998 the Francis Schaeffer Institute at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis decided to invite staff from like-minded institutions to attend the Francis Schaeffer Memorial Lectures that year, since Dr. Drew Trotter, then President of the Center for Christian Study in Charlottesville, Virginia was to give them. Wade Bradshaw, Executive Director of the Institute, thought that it would be worthwhile to gather in one place those who were experimenting with this new form of engagement with Higher Education.

From those meetings, four heads of different Study Centers in California, Minnesota, Connecticut, and Virginia—Rev. Randy Bare of Westminster House, Berkeley, CA; Dr. David Mahan of the Rivendell Institute, New Haven, CT; Dr. Robert Osburn of the MacLaurin Institute, Minneapolis, MN; and Dr. Drew Trotter of the Center for Christian Study, Charlottesville, VA—with two other interested parties from Colorado and Missouri—Mr. Steve Webb of Centers for Christian Study International, Inc., Boulder, CO. and Mr. Luke Bobo of Covenant Theological Seminary, St. Louis, MO.—began meeting together for prayer, mutual encouragement, and vision building.  These men met together for several years, adding new members, as some dropped off, last meeting informally in the spring of 2007 in Ithaca, NY at the Chesterton House at Cornell University with fourteen people representing nine different Study Centers in attendance.

On July, 25-27, 2008, representatives of six of these Centers—Rev. Randy Bare of Westminster House, Berkeley, CA; Dr. Richard Howe of the Dayspring Institute, Boulder, CO; Dr. Karl Johnson of the Chesterton House, Ithaca, NY; Dr. David Mahan of the Rivendell Institute, New Haven, CT; Dr. Robert Osburn of the MacLaurin Institute, Minneapolis, MN; and Dr. Drew Trotter of the Center for Christian Study, Charlottesville, VA—met at Northwestern College in St. Paul, MN and officially formed the Consortium of Christian Study Centers (CCSC), agreed on a mission statement, drew up by-laws and appointed Dr. Trotter as full-time Executive Director of the Consortium, to begin Jan. 1, 2009.  The plan at that time was to become a corporation in the Commonwealth of Virginia, but also to act as a subsidiary corporation of Centers for Christian Study, International (CCSI) in Boulder, CO.  Since April 1, 2009, the Consortium has operated on its own as a free-standing, not-for-profit organization.

CCSC achieved 501(c)(3) status with the IRS in July, 2009, and Dr. Trotter spent most of his time in 2009 and 2010 fund-raising, developing infrastructure for the Consortium and visiting numerous sites from Boston to Los Angeles, gathering data and input from Study Centers, churches and third party organizations, about how best to accomplish the four goals of the CCSC mission. He also agreed to be a workplace for a Trinity Presbyterian Church Marketplace Fellow, Erin Sheets, who began work as his part-time administrative assistant in the fall of 2010. An example of the results of their work together during this period is the CCSC website, www.studycentersonline.org, which launched in February, 2011.

Lizzie Guarino was hired in the fall of 2011 as our part-time administrative assistant and spent long hours regularizing systems of payment and data organization. In September of 2011, the Consortium sponsored its first Symposium in Charlottesville, Virginia with representatives from nine Christian Study Centers in attendance. Over two days, 18 Study Center staff and board members discussed James Davison Hunter’s book To Change the World with the author. In November of 2011, the CCSC held its first Annual Meeting in San Francisco, California between the Annual Meetings of the Evangelical Theological Society and the American Academy of Religion. 22 different representatives from various Study Centers and Partner Organizations engaged in a panel discussion and two workshops. Drs. Johnson, Mahan and Trotter led the panel discussion, sharing insights on what they had learned in a combined fifty years of Study Center experience. Mr. Kenneth Leonard of Seattle, WA led a workshop on fundraising and Mr. R. Craig Wood of Charlottesville, VA led a workshop on legal issues in higher education.

In December of 2011, the CCSC sent out its first monthly email, informing members and anyone who would like to receive the email of Consortium news, of events of interest at member institutions, and providing brief notes on books, articles, movies and outstanding programs at member institutions, which are useful for consideration by those involved in a Christian Study Center.

Two Symposia for member Study Centers took place in the spring of 2012. The first took place April 13-14, 2012 and featured Dr. Gregory K. Beale and a discussion of his book A New Testament Biblical Theology. This Biblical Theology Symposium was co-sponsored by Park Street Church in Boston, Massachusetts. Eleven representatives of Study Center Members and Partner Organizations were in attendance. The second Symposium occurred on May 3-4, 2012 with Dr. Amy Sherman on her book Kingdom Calling. This Church and Society Symposium was held at the Omni Hotel in Charlottesville, Virginia and had twelve in attendance.

Woody Granger was hired in the fall of 2012 as the CCSC’s part-time administrative assistant. The second Annual Meeting of the CCSC took place November 16-17, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois, just prior to the Annual Meetings of the AAR/SBL. Drs. Richard Horner, Executive Director of the Christian Study Center of Gainesville in Gainesville, FL and William Wilder, Executive Director of the Center for Christian Study in Charlottesville, VA, led a panel discussion on what they feel are the successes and the failures of their tenures at their respective Study Centers. Rev. Michael Woodward of Christ Church Lake Forest, Lake Forest, IL conducted a workshop on strategic planning.

A Higher Education Symposium was held at the Doubletree Suites by Hilton in Santa Monica, CA on April 26-27, 2013. Led by Dr. Mary Poplin of The Claremont Graduate Schools, the participants read the book Knowing Christ Today by Dallas Willard as preparation for the discussion. Dr. Willard was scheduled to present on his new book The Disappearance of Moral Education, but, sadly, he was never able to finish it. Wanting to be with us in the worst way, he held out to be able to meet with us until just days before he succumbed to the cancer he had fought for some months. The church has lost one of its finest servants, but Dr. Poplin ably filled in for him. She used a draft of her book Is Reality Secular? (IVP, 2013) for her presentation.

Sam Heath was hired in the fall of 2013 as our part-time administrative assistant, and the CCSC’s 2013 Annual Meeting, the largest in attendance yet, was held on November 22 & 23 at the Baltimore Convention Center and Hilton Hotel. Ben Sanders, Co-Director of the Arizona Center for Christian Studies, spoke on “President Obama’s Campus Challenge” and how Member and Partner Organizations can engage in interfaith dialogue and community service. Cherie Harder concluded the first session by sharing with the attendees how to moderate reading groups and discussions effectively. For the second session the following morning, Steve King and Rhett Butler from Gammon & Grange, P.C. discussed the current state of, and challenges for, tax-exempt organizations as they relate to government.

2014 began with two very significant changes for the Consortium. First, Elaine Rollogas was hired as the full-time Operations Manager in January. She came to the CCSC having lived in New York City and worked at Redeemer Presbyterian Church since 1990. Shortly after Rollogas’s arrival, the CCSC moved from its longtime offices at Drew Trotter’s home to an office suite located near the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville, VA. These offices provided a good working space for the Executive Director, Operations Manager, and Administrative Assistant. Sam Heath, hired in the fall of 2013, continued as the CCSC’s part-time administrative assistant.

In 2014, other important shifts took place in the work of the Consortium. The Annual Meeting moved from its typical November time frame between the Annual Meetings of Partner Organizations the Evangelical Theological Society and the American Academy of Religion to a summer slot, July 7-9, 2014. The CCSC also moved to more of a retreat atmosphere provided by The Cove near Asheville, NC. Using parts of three days, rather than two, the Annual Meeting became a hybrid of the former Symposium and Annual Meeting. George Marsden, professor emeritus at Notre Dame, spoke on the content of two of his recent books, The Twilight of the American Enlightenment: The 1950s and the Crisis of Liberal Belief, and a smaller book about C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity and its life as a book. Participants engaged one another in workshops and seminars, led by Executive Directors of member Study Centers, on various topics having to do with intentional community, vision, and bringing order to ministry.

The CCSC also modified its email service to its readers in 2014. What had been for a number of years a single, monthly email became two emails. A “CCSC News & Events” email was sent out monthly, describing not only Consortium events and news, but programs, job placements and other news from member Study Centers and from Partner Organizations. A second email, entitled “CCSC Resources”, led readers to reviews of movies, articles and books, as well as new resources such as Discussion Guides, a Speakers List and template documents valuable in starting and maintaining a Study Center.

In 2015, the Consortium had perhaps its most stable year yet. The staff remained the same as Elaine Rollogas and Sam Heath became more and more comfortable in their jobs, allowing Drew Trotter to do more travel and speaking. The Fifth Annual Meeting, following essentially the format of the year before and also held at The Cove, was even more appreciated by the membership as Richard Mouw, past president of Fuller Theological Seminary and Mark Bauerlein, Senior Editor of First Things spoke on topics of civility and public discourse in the university. Workshops on shared space and spiritual direction, directed discussions in groups segmented by “years in existence” called Tier Discussions, and an introductory panel of Partner Organizations (IV’s Emerging Scholars Network, Regent College, and Global Scholars) rounded out the programming of the Annual Meeting. By the end of the year, the Consortium had grown to 19 Members (3 Study Centers joined in 2015) and 21 Partner Organizations (6 Partner Organizations joined in 2015).

In 2016, Sam Heath left the Consortium to pursue a career in high school teaching and was replaced by Marie Trotter, who became a part-time administrative assistant, chiefly in charge of the News & Events email, bookkeeping, and other administrative duties including the new Regent College Scholarship Project developed to allow students and staff from member Study Centers to attend two weeks of summer school at Regent College in Vancouver, BC and engage in discussions of vocation and Christian life and study with Dr. Trotter. This year’s Annual Meeting, again held at The Cove, featured Dr. Felicia Song and Dr. George Yancey, addressing issues of digital life and racial reconciliation, respectively. In 2016, two more Study Centers joined the Consortium, bringing its membership to twenty-one. 2016  saw a large increase in Partner Organizations with six more joining, making the total twenty-seven.

2017 saw a physical change to the offices of the Consortium, as it moved to a more spacious location, though it remained in Charlottesville. The Regent College Scholarship Project went from four participants in its first year to ten recipients, representing three different nationalities, eight different universities and graduate schools, and four different racial/ethnic backgrounds. The Annual Meeting continued to increase in size and was held at a new, more central location at Wheaton College near Chicago, IL, to reflect the growing presence of Study Center members and Partner Organizations from the Midwest and Western United States. The speakers were Drs. Peter Leithart, John Inazu, and Christopher Armstrong, complemented by workshops and directed discussion groups. Two more CSCs joined the Consortium, bringing its number to twenty-three, as different Partner Organizations both left and joined the Consortium, leaving its number at twenty-eight.

 

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