There is a common saying in market psychology: "It doesn't matter what you really are, but how you look." This actually well describes the mentality of this age. To the general public as well as the academic world, an accredited educational institution is considered better and more respectable than a similar institution without accreditation. Despite the fact that accreditation is necessary for the public and schools to enhance the quality of education, it has always been a myth rather than a mystery for me, one who has served the Lord in both accredited and unaccredited institutions for more than a quarter of a century. The fact is simple: as long as the public pays its homage and due respect to accredited institutions, we all wish to maintain the myth. Who would say differently once one has found himself/herself as part of the system? 

I am very impressed by Melinda Heppe's article, "Meeting the Standard." I felt so relieved as I finished reading it. It takes the myth out of the accreditation process to bring us back to the mystery of reality instead of the reality of mystery. Well, accreditation is mystery. After being coached how to complete the self-study of the institution, one comes to the mysterious experience of having a real grasp of one's self through collegial confirmation on the institution's true meaning of existence. In some sense, accreditation process is similar to incarnation process. It begins with a mystery, yet it becomes a revealed mystery of the truth, and eventually it sets us free.

I thank Heppe, the ATS administration, and all the visiting teams. She clarifies the function and purpose of accreditation with full awareness of the complexity and pluralism in contemporary theological world. At the same time, she takes away the myth of accreditation process without disarming its mysterious effects. Her article should serve as a revelation and call for all of us to appreciate accreditation and its process.

Joseph Tong, Ph. D.
Los Angeles, California

 Joseph Tong is the president of International Theological Seminary in Los Angeles, California.

Board Truths
It was with interest that I read the article "Through a Glass Darkly," by Christa R. Klein in the September issue of In Trust. I was reminded of my early days as the trustee of a college where the generally accepted behavior for the first year was not to speak out. Ask no questions, make no comments.

Being an extrovert, I found the assignment impossible, but more importantly, I believe with the writer of the article that trustees set the standard for truthfulness and have a moral responsibility to participate and to speak the truth as each understands it. Knowing when to speak and when to be silent is a much-needed skill for a trustee. 

Years ago I became the trustee for an institution, and at my first board meeting I was quietly invited to a "meeting after the meeting." As it turned out this was a covert meeting of women trustees held to address a perceived problem with the role of women on campus. Being uncomfortable with covert activity, I left the meeting and sought the advice of another trustee who was also a trusted friend. 

It would have been helpful to have Klein's article to read at that point in time, because her Advice for Questioners can help trustees not only avoid pitfalls, but also learn the nuances of responsible trusteeship. Thanks to In Trust for providing such helpful information for those of us in the trenches.

Reba S. Cobb
Louisville, Kentucky

Reba S. Cobb is the executive director of Interfaith Community in Louisville, Kentucky, and a member of the board of Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, Virginia.


The staff and board of directors of In Trust Inc., are delighted to announce two major foundation grants in support of In Trust's work. 

The Lilly Endowment, which has supported In Trust since the inception of In Trust magazine a decade ago, has made a three-year award of $610,000.

The Henry Luce Foundation has awarded In Trust $300,000, payable over three years. The Luce grant will be used in part to support the research and writing of a series of in-depth reports on topics crucial to theological school governance.

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