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Degree programs of study offered by Ambassador Baptist College have been declared by the appropriate state authority exempt from the requirements for licensure under provisions of North Carolina General Statutes Section (G.S.) §116-15 (d) for exemption from licensure with respect to religious education. Exemption from licensure is not based upon assessment of program quality under established licensing standards.
by Dr. Alton Beal
From time to time, a parent or prospective student will ask me, “Is Ambassador an accredited college?” Without hesitation, I tell them that we are not. Then the questions usually begin. “Will my credits be accepted elsewhere? If you are not accredited, you have poor quality, right?” There is no doubt about the sincerity of these questions, but it is important to understand some philosophy about accreditation and its effects on Christian institutions before questions like these are answered.
Forty years ago, fundamental Christian colleges were unified in their thinking about accreditation. It was looked upon as an unnecessary and unhealthy thing. Pioneers and leaders in the Christian college movement—like Myron Cedarholm—cited a number of objections to the practice of accreditation in the Christian college realm. In recent years, several colleges who at one time eschewed accreditation now proudly declare it as a valued distinction of their institutions. What has happened through the years? In the following paragraphs, I would like to share with you some reasons why Ambassador Baptist College has made the conscious choice to seek neither regional nor national accreditation.
An accrediting agency is an organization that is approved by the US Department of Education to establish operating standards for institutions. According to the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, there are seven institutions that provide regional accreditation. This type of agency is responsible for providing approval of many secular universities and some private Christian colleges and universities. Another type of accreditation is known as national accreditation. Agencies providing national accreditation are usually specialized in nature. The Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS) is a good example of an agency that provides membership to schools that are distinctively Christian. Both regional and national accreditation can be found in fundamental Christian colleges today.
It is commonly thought that accreditation ensures that credits must be allowed to transfer from one accredited institution to another. That is not what the Department of Education says. They encourage students to investigate whether or not their credits will be accepted by another accredited institution before making plans for their education.
It is also commonly thought that accreditation will ensure the highest quality of an education. While accreditation can provide a college with institutional safeguards and organizational standards, it can by no means guarantee that one is going to get high-quality training in the classroom. That is the responsibility of the administration and board of the school. Accreditation does offer some helpful concepts such as self-study and accountability. However, these things can also be done without the help of an accrediting agency that is endorsed by the Department of Education. At Ambassador, we are committed to providing the highest quality of training that an independent Baptist Bible college can provide.
Ambassador will not seek regional accreditation because it would yoke our Bible college with unbelievers. This is expressly forbidden in 2 Corinthians 6:14–15. Why should we seek educational approval and associations with those who are opposed to our commitment to God’s truth? Some would argue that the association is a loose one. Nevertheless, it is an association that is contradictory to God’s Word.
National accreditation is not a possibility either because it would yoke ABC with brethren who are either disobedient to the truth or walking in unsound doctrine. In 2 Thessalonians 3:6, believers are instructed to “withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.” In accrediting agencies such as TRACS, you will find colleges that are unashamedly charismatic or new evangelical. Honesty compels me to admit that several accredited Christian colleges have not had chapel speakers who are charismatic or new evangelical, but that number may shrink with time.
Accreditation causes Christian colleges to place growing financial dependence upon the federal government. The distinction has been made by several accreditation proponents that the colleges do not get the funding directly. It is given to the students. That observation may be correct, but in the end, the same result happens. If a college loses its accredited status, it stands to lose a consistent income provided by Uncle Sam. At the very least, the college will be tempted to reconsider its “Biblical” convictions. ABC does not want that temptation.
Along this same line, I have seen a growing number of graduates who prepared for the ministry in accredited Christian colleges who are forced to delay their entrance into the ministry because they must first repay large student loans. In a conference hosted at Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary in Lansdale, PA, in 1995, Dr. Les Ollila cited this very reason as one of his oppositions to accreditation in a Bible college setting. In a way that only Dr. O could say it, he told the preachers in attendance: “Don’t trust Clinton instead of Jehovah-Jireh.”
Accreditation could restrict institutions like Ambassador from hiring teachers who are spiritually qualified to train young people for the ministry. The secular world is looking for credentialed teachers with degrees from accredited institutions. God is looking for men who are like 1 Timothy 3 and for women who are like Titus 1. The secular world places the emphasis in the wrong place. Character is trumped by knowledge and pedigree. It would be better to have a preacher who has walked with God and was skilled in the Word training preachers than a man with the right degrees but no spiritual substance.
In the event that an accredited Christian college would want to leave an accrediting agency, it would not be a simple process. The breaking of that relationship could trigger lawsuits by unhappy alumni. By withdrawing from the accrediting agency, their diplomas would be rendered “worthless” in the system of the world. Is it really worth the risk? Just recently, I read of some proposed bylaws by the Department of Education that would have pressured all Christian colleges to seek licensing in order to exist. Thankfully, the proposal was withdrawn. With the advancement of the homosexual agenda and other developments, the pressure will come to accredited Christian colleges.
The truth is that all Christian colleges should be held to a higher accountability—the Word of God. For Ambassador to maintain a high level of excellence and to improve for God’s glory, it must remember 1 Corinthians 10:31 and “do all to the glory of God.” While we may be unaccredited by conviction, we are ever mindful of the high standard of Scripture.
I realize that good men disagree with our position. Nonetheless, we are persuaded in our own conscience that this position is true to the Scriptures. I heard a noted Christian educator say that if he led his institution to seek accreditation, the school would have “one ear turned to the accrediting agency and the other one turned to God.” At Ambassador, we want both ears tuned toward Heaven as we train God’s servants for God’s service.