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Intervarsity Harvard minister: 'I voted for atheist chaplain president'

by Premier Journalist
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Harvard Chaplaincy for Graduate School

The current campus minister for Intervarsity Christian Fellowship at Harvard University reveals that he voted for the controversial atheist president of chaplains.

Last week, Harvard University appointed Greg Epstein, a humanist chaplain, as the president of the university's chaplaincy, with unanimous support. While Epstein received support on-campus, his appointment drew much controversy from religious leaders, who expressed that Epstein's position was reflective of the growing secularism consuming modern society.

Pete Williamson responded to these critiques in a public article at Christianity Today. Williamson is the current chaplain assigned to Harvard's chapter of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and has served there for several years. Williamson expressed that he held to traditional Christian beliefs and that "Had I not been in the room where it happened, I might have had a similar reaction to the news." However, Williamson does provide some context. First is that chaplains are not employees of Harvard, but rather affiliates who share a primary commitment to "treat each other's communities fairly and honestly and a secondary, broader commitment to the spiritual needs of the people of Harvard." The role of chaplain president is understood to coordinate and lead meetings among the various faith leaders on campus. 

When asked about why he voted to support Epstein's appointment, Williamson expressed that his approval was based on Epstein being "well equipped for the role he was elected to, not the role much of the media has imagined." Williamson also sees it as an expression of support for the interfaith goals of the chaplaincy. "My vote for Greg Epstein was motivated in part by my desire to build trust in an interfaith space where people hold sharply conflicting views and do not pretend otherwise." writes Williamson. "Without that trust, evangelicals would be relegated to the fringes. Instead, we are at the table, discussing truth in partnership with our fellow chaplains and being looked to for leadership in the diverse religious life of Harvard."

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