The King's College surprised many higher education observers by choosing Dinesh D'Souza, widely identified as a Roman Catholic, as president of the New York City school. As a best-selling author and Christian apologist, D'Souza brings prominence and a network of influential leaders to the position. But King's decision to put a Catholic at the helm could create tension within a historically evangelical institution.
"I'm quite happy to acknowledge my Catholic background; at the same time, I'm very comfortable with Reformation theology," D'Souza told Christianity Today. "I'm comfortable with the evangelical world. In a sense, I'm part of it."
D'Souza's wife, Dixie, is an evangelical, and the family has attended Calvary Chapel, a nondenominational evangelical church in San Diego, for the past 10 years. He has been invited to speak in several churches and colleges, including Rick Warren's Saddleback Church and Jerry Falwell's Liberty University.
"I do not describe myself as Catholic today. But I don't want to renounce it either because it's an important part of my background. I'm an American citizen, but I wouldn't reject the Indian label because it's part of my heritage," D'Souza said. "I say I have a Catholic origin or background. I say I'm a nondenominational Christian, and I'm comfortable with born-again."
He said that his views align with the Apostles' Creed and C. S. Lewis's Mere Christianity.
"A lot of times, Christians spend a lot of time in intramural type debates and squabbles: Are you a Catholic or Protestant; if you are Protestant, what type are you; are you pre-millennial or post-millennial; what position do you take on Genesis 1?" D'Souza said. "I would comfortably describe myself as a born-again Christian, but I don't feel it is necessary to renounce anything. I am not doing Catholic apologetics, that's for sure."
Meeting in rented space in the Empire State Building, King's describes itself on its frequently asked questions page as a nondenominational school whose "roots are in the Protestant evangelical tradition." King's closed in 1994 after financial troubles but reopened in 1998 under Campus Crusade for Christ's ownership. It has about 450 students.
King's, which is not among the 110 members of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, seems to be using a different leadership model than other Christian colleges, said David Dockery, president of Union University.
"Dr. D'Souza is a wonderful apologist for historic Trinitarian faith. It is an appointment that surprised many people," said Dockery, who authored The Future of Christian Higher Education. "It sends a signal that King's wants to function within the framework of historic Trinitarian Christianity, but I'm not sure what it says about its evangelical identity. They're redefining The King's College within a broader umbrella of theistic commitments and conservative social and worldview commitments."
Most major Christian colleges hire only evangelical Protestant faculty and administrators, Dockery said.
"There are differences theologically about questions related to justification, the meaning of baptism, the Lord's Supper," Dockery said. "As one's teaching would touch on those matters, it would raise complex questions."
Marvin Olasky, provost at The King's College, said that D'Souza brings a particular set of gifts that impressed the board.
"I don't think the board was making any general statement. It was a particular hire, a specific hire," said Olasky, a Presbyterian Church in America elder who is a member of Redeemer Presbyterian Church. "A president of a college who can reach out and speak to new audiences for King's and help to give us a financial footing is doing a very good job of what these days is the key role of the president. I think that's the logic of it."