Hillsdale College altered its mission statement this summer, for the first time since the 1980s, to more clearly reflect its foun­da­tions and adherence to Christian principles.

Pres­ident Larry Arnn worked with admin­is­trators to rewrite parts of the statement to better reflect the college’s mission in regards to religion, Provost David Whalen said. The final draft was com­pleted in the spring and intro­duced to the faculty assembly and the board of trustees in May.

The changes are indicative of the college’s history and purpose, Whalen said.

“As the culture around us becomes more secular or more pro­gres­sively anti-Christian, it becomes more important any latent ambi­guity as to the college’s beliefs and identity to be removed,” Whalen said.

Whalen said Arnn has con­sidered making these revi­sions for years. The changes come just months after the U.S. Department of Edu­cation released guide­lines on how edu­cators should address trans­gender students.

The new mission statement quotes from the Articles of Asso­ci­ation, written by the Freewill Baptist founders of Hillsdale College, declaring it the college’s aim to pre­serve and teach the Christian faith. The revised statement is a “more perfect reflection” of this founding doc­ument, Arnn said in an email.

“As a non­sec­tarian Christian insti­tution, Hillsdale College main­tains ‘by precept and example’ the immemorial teachings and prac­tices of the Christian faith,” a new sen­tence in the statement reads.

The revi­sions also removed ref­erence to the “Judeo-Christian faith and Greco-Roman culture,” stating the college is a trustee of “our Western philo­sophical and the­o­logical inher­i­tance tracing to Athens and Jerusalem.”

The new version also adds that stu­dents will receive an edu­cation based in the­ology as well as lit­er­ature and science.

Whalen said the restatement of the college’s mission is meant to clarify con­fusion as to whether or not Hillsdale is a Christian institution.

“Some people are just con­fused,” Whalen said. “A lot of people may say Hillsdale is secular, but it’s really just inde­pendent of any affil­i­ation with a church.”

Hillsdale is finan­cially inde­pendent from gov­ernment support, but reg­u­la­tions could affect the accred­i­tation of the college’s pro­grams of study, a process the school is preparing for now, said Tom Burke, pro­fessor of religion and philosophy.

Whalen said the changes in the statement are not a result of Hillsdale’s upcoming accreditation.

Burke said, however, if the college did find itself in a position to justify its beliefs, the clearer lan­guage could help Hillsdale defend its reli­gious liberty.

“We’re just trying to make that clear so that if there are any chal­lenges brought, we stand within the Christian tra­dition, and therefore, should have the priv­ilege of abiding by tra­di­tional Christian ethics,” Burke said.

Michael Jordan, pro­fessor of English, said as the culture becomes more secular, there is a greater need to state a reli­gious affiliation.

“What we used to under­stand as the norm isn’t the norm anymore,” Jordan said. “I think it is a good thing it is now more explicit because what used to be under­stood is not the case, espe­cially in the culture at large.”

Burke and Whalen said the changes to the mission statement are unre­lated to new require­ments in the core cur­riculum, which now includes a revamped religion course required for all students.

The mandate, however, does help with Hillsdale’s Christian affil­i­ation, Burke added.

Whalen said overall the changes to the statement’s lan­guage were minimal.

“It didn’t change the mission of the college,” Whalen said. “It’s clar­i­fying what was already there.”