Meeting Our Affiliated Chaplains – Heath Bradley
This summer, the Office of the University Chaplain and Religious Life welcomes our new Affiliated Methodist Chaplain to campus, Rev. Heath Bradley. Rev. Bradley comes to us from Little Rock, Arkansas where he was the Pastor of Preaching and Christian Education at Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church. Bradley received his MA in Philosophy from the University of Arkansas and is the author of Flames of Love: Hell and Universal Salvation, an exploration and defense of Christian universalism. We welcome Rev. Bradley to Vanderbilt as he comes to work with our Wesley/Canterbury Fellowship.
How did you first get involved with campus ministry and what has your experience been like?
It has been about a decade since I was involved in campus ministry, first as a student intern and then as an assistant director. I first became involved as a freshman when I was struggling to figure out who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do with my life. Ministry had never really been on my radar, but through a series of experiences and events with the college ministry, I discovered my gifts and calling for leadership in the church. I am thankful that I now have the chance to lead the type of ministry that had such a powerful impact on me.
What role do you think faith plays in the lives of college students today?
College is a crucial time in the faith journeys of many young adults. My own anecdotal experience and national studies suggest that college is either a time when young adults own their faith for themselves, or they leave it behind, perhaps to pick it up later in life. In order to really “own” your faith, you have to be willing to question, explore, and discuss so that the content of your faith isn’t just something passed down to you, but instead is something you personally participate in and construct for yourself. Campus ministry can be a place where college students who want to go deeper and further in their faith can find friendship and guidance for their journeys, and for that reason I am glad to be a part of it.
In your book Flames of Love, you discuss universalism and its relationship to traditional views of salvation. What role do you think this plays with today’s college age students?
Many young adults leave the church, not because they are apathetic or rebellious, but because they have significant moral objections to some of the church’s teaching. The traditional doctrine of hell has, in my view, placed an unnecessary obstacle to Christian faith in the path of many thoughtful young people. I think part of the church’s responsibility in engaging young adults is to listen to their questions and to offer alternatives to dominant perspectives. In the book, I use Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience to offer an alternative that I believe is a more coherent and compelling vision of God’s love and God’s justice, and I hope this work might be helpful to those who are wrestling with this issue.
What about Vanderbilt are you most eager to experience?
As a huge college baseball fan, I am excited about getting to watch Vanderbilt next season! I am also thrilled to be at a top-notch university that includes a Divinity School. I guess I am most eager to begin meeting students and getting to know them. I was blessed to have a campus minister who took the time to get to know me and genuinely care for me, and I hope to be able to offer that to Vanderbilt students.
You can follow Heath’s blog at https://thesundaydrivehome.blogspot.com/