The president of Trinity International University this week sent out a fundraising letter complaining about cultural acceptance of transgender people and linking this acceptance to the recent mass shooting that left six people dead in Nashville, Tenn.
Some alumni of the evangelical school in Deerfield, Ill., reacted with horror and dismay.
“It says much about the state of our culture when people barely flinch at a man proudly and confidently claiming to be a woman (or whatever identity happens to be the trend of the month) simply because he declares it to be so,” the fundraising letter begins. “As Western culture becomes increasingly antagonistic to the gospel it also, necessarily, becomes increasingly detached from reality. It is no coincidence that a generation which denies the existence of the Creator and his laws also denies all other fundamental truths. The tragic implications of our culture’s dominant worldview became even more evident after the devastating shooting in Tennessee.”
President Nicholas Perrin then tells potential donors, “The men and women who helped form Trinity more than 125 years ago would have hardly believed the extent to which our culture has deteriorated.”
Never fear, he continues, because “the source of truth they looked to for answers — God’s unchanging word — remains the lens through which our students are taught today. Whether the focus of study is theology or law, bioethics or business, our students learn to apply God’s transcendent truth to the issues they face.”
David Cramer, a Trinity graduate who is a professor at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary and managing editor of the Institute of Mennonite Studies, was among those expressing shock at this fundraising appeal.
“I am aghast and ashamed by the latest fundraising letter from President Perrin,” he wrote on Twitter. “Regardless of one’s theological anthropology, this is not the way I was taught to interpret and engage culture when I was a student. This letter is flippant, calloused and dangerous. It reads like a fundraising letter for a right-wing political action group instead of a place of theological education.”
“It reads like a fundraising letter for a right-wing political action group instead of a place of theological education.”
The unusual fundraising appeal has motivated Cramer, who earned a Ph.D. and previously taught at Baylor University, to donate to organizations “that provide support and care for our trans neighbors who are created in the image of God and are beloved children of God,” he said.
President Perrin continues in the letter to say his school’s faculty “ethically, compassionately and biblically address the issues facing our world today.”
The financial appeal to help Trinity’s faculty and students “stand for truth” corresponds with recent news that the school will move its undergraduate program to online only and will close the residential campus at the end of the current semester.
Trinity International University comprises Trinity College, Trinity Graduate School, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Trinity Law School and a camp called Timber-lee. The school is affiliated with the Evangelical Free Church of America and enrolls about 2,700 students.
Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, a once highly influential nondenominational school, has declined from an FTE enrollment of 1,510 to 491 in the past 30 years.
Perrin’s predecessor as president was David Dockery, a Southern Baptist who currently serves as interim president at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Dockery led the school from 2104 to 2019, when Perrin succeeded him.
Perrin earned a bachelor of arts degree in English literature from Johns Hopkins University, a master of divinity degree from Covenant Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. in biblical studies from Marquette University. He previously taught New Testament and early Christianity classes at Wheaton College.