Though the Consortium of Christian Study Centers (CCSC) has only been in existence as a legal entity since 2008, its history stretches back much farther. In 1998, when Dr. Drew Trotter, then President of the Center for Christian Study in Charlottesville, Virginia, was to deliver the Francis Schaeffer Memorial Lectures at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, the Francis Schaeffer Institute at the seminary decided to invite staff from like-minded institutions to attend.
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 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 our mission. An example of the results of that work is our website, www.studycentersonline.org, which launched in February, 2011.
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 sits 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.
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. We were led by Dr. Mary Poplin of The Claremont Graduate Schools, who used the book Knowing Christ Today by Dallas Willard as the basis for her presentation. 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.
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 significant changes for the Consortium. First, Elaine Rollogas was hired as the full-time Operations Manager. She comes to us having lived in New York City and worked at Redeemer Presbyterian Church since 1990. Shortly after Elaine’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 are a perfectly sufficient space for the Executive Director, Operations Manager, and Administrative Assistant.
The 4th Annual Meeting of the Consortium of Christian Study Centers was held at the Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove in Asheville, NC on July 7 – 9, 2014. Our speaker was Dr. George Marsden, the Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History Emeritus at the University of Notre Dame. His two talks revolved around his most recent book The Twilight of the American Enlightenment: The 1950s and the Crisis of Liberal Belief (New York: Basic Books) and his current work involving C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. On the first night we watched the film Doubt and had an engaging and passionate discussion following. Over the three days Study Center heads speak to the participants about various topics such as mission & vision, community, and how to organize and run a Study Center.
From June 22 – 24, 2015 the Consortium held its 5th Annual Meeting, once again at the Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove in Asheville, NC. We broke tradition and had two speakers. Dr. Richard Mouw of Fuller Theological Seminary gave two lectures: Thinking Missionally about the Secular University and Convicted Civility for the Secular Campus. Dr. Mark Bauerlein of Emory University and First Things magazine spoke on the history and current state of the gay movement in a talked titled The New Boy Network. There were more participants than ever before who gathered to ask questions, learn, and build relationships as part of the study center movement.
The 6th Annual Meeting of the Consortium of Christian Study Centers was held at The Cove in Asheville, NC from July 18-20, 2016. Our two speakers were Drs. Felicia Wu Song and George Yancey. Dr. Song delivered two lectures: Body + Bread: Towards a Practical Theology of Technology, and Blogging: The Serious Business of Selling Authenticity and Finding Community which focused on social media and its influence in our culture. Dr. Yancey addressed racial issues in America: Is there a Christian Solution to Racism? especially as they relate to higher education. Our Partner Organization, Ratio Christi, pleasantly surprised us by displaying a Torah scroll that is three centuries old and survived the holocaust in Germany during World War II.