Cincinnati Christian University and Kentucky Christian University recently announced they are entering into a parnership to merge the two schools. This is the latest in a series of mergers by independent Christian Church colleges, including Johnson University’s merger with Florida Christian College, Emmanuel Christian Seminary’s merger with Milligan College, and Hope International University’s acquisition of Nebraska Christian College (not to mention whatever is happening with Crossroads College). With this most recent announcement, many applaud the continuing trend of Bible college mergers. One of the celebrated points is the continuation of the proud history of fine institutions that might otherwise be closed and forgotten by history.
Others, however, are quick to point out the dark side of these mergers. Most prominent is the utter confusion thrown upon alumni when asked where their degree was earned. Alma Matter Acquisition Syndrome (AMAS) is apparent with the glassy look that enters their eyes when any questions about their experience at Bible college or seminary arise.
Such stone cold looks have cost several Bible college and seminary graduates potential ministries at their dream churches. The long pauses and stares into space when asked about their educational experience were often interpreted as arrogance. Never mind if the conservative church thought Lincoln Christian Seminary was too liberal, or the hipster congregation thought Cincinnati Bible Seminary was too conservative for the church conducting the interview; the real issue was the unprofessionalism demonstrated by students in their interview process.
One ministry candidate, Peter Kennenicht, described one horrific interview he had at The Frontier, a non-denominational Christian Church meeting at a reclaimed Walmart shopping center in the suburbs of Annapolis, MD. Peter shared this dramatic experience with a Facebook group that acts as a support group for preachers navigating the frustrations of ministry:
“The interview was going great. I wore my best khakis, oxford button down, and the tie with a depiction of Jesus cleansing the temple. The questions posed to me were answered with honesty and wit. The interviewer seemed impressed with my knowledge of the Bible. All of my responses were on point. Then it happened. I was asked where I went to college. Overcome with a crushing sense of confusion, I began to panic. If I declared the name of the school that failed, it would seem like my degree was worth nothing. It would have been anachronistic to say I graduated from the name of the school that took mine over. It would have taken too long to explain the whole history surrounding the takeover. It has been over a month and the church still has not called me back. Does anyone have suggestions for how I can overcome this thorn in my side?”
Failed interviews is only one aspect of AMAS. Another factor is the anxiety induced when ordering a new diploma from the school that took over their beloved institution. On one hand, graduates want to place entries on their CV that have the current name of the school. On the other hand, bitterness from the takeover fills them with anger. Being forced between being relevant and resentment induces additional angst, confounding the symptoms of AMAS.
Some conservative professors lambaste these so-called sufferers of AMAS and see them as mere symptoms of the lack of emotional fortitude of Millennials. However, for students suffering from this disheartening disorder, and the social stigma attached to it, it causes them to seek the comfort and refuge in the safe space of their parents’ basement.