Yale Chaplaincy Search Proves Challenging in an Era of Pluralism

October 2, 2006

Source: Yale Daily News


On October 2, 2006 the Yale Daily News reported, "The music is raucous, there is dancing in the aisles, and the band would not be complete without that clarinet. Dozens of polo shirt-clad students clap and stamp their feet singing the refrain. 'I will bless the Lord. Bless the Lord at all times!' This is the scene at the first All-Campus worship of the 2006-’07 school year, a student-run evangelical service in Battell Chapel. Earlier that day, other Protestant Yalies held a traditional and liturgical service in the same chapel, with wine, but none of the dancing. These forms of religious expression appeal to just a small part of the religious spectrum at Yale, which encompasses not only a plethora of Christian denominations, but hundreds of Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and those of the Baha’i Faith, among many others. In an increasingly pluralistic era, Yale has spent decades grappling with the question of its administrative approach to religion. In the next several months, many in the campus’ religious community will be closely following what could be one of the pivotal moments in the University’s religious history, as the administration searches for a new chaplain to oversee campus religious life. This decision to appoint a new chaplain — replacing Rev. Frederick J. Streets DIV ’75, a 15-year veteran in the position — comes at a time of controversy and uncertainty in the Chaplain’s Office. Recent movements toward a multi-faith approach in campus religious life accompany sometimes less visible efforts to maintain awareness of active University-sponsored Protestant ministries, in particular the 250-year-old University Church. Advertisements and job descriptions for the chaplain position have stated that candidates need not be Christian, but while a non-Protestant chaplain would not serve the traditional role of pastor in the University Church, officials have said he or she must respect Yale’s religious history."