Moody Bible Institute bucks a trend by staying in the city.

Henry Ward Beecher, the nineteenth century clergyman and editor, was not enamored of Dwight L. Moody’s ministry. “He thinks it is no use to attempt to work for this world,” Beecher wrote. “In his opinion it is blasted—a wreck bound to sink—and the only thing that is worth doing is to get as many of the crew off as you can, and let her go.”

Nearly 100 years later, many people have the same opinion of Moody Bible Institute (MBI), the Chicago Bible school Moody founded. MBI was established in 1886, and the public is yet prone to think the institute’s staff and students try to live in the nineteenth century.

The last time MBI was in the news, for example, was when the school dismissed a professor whose wife openly backed the Equal Rights

Amendment. Reporters marveled not only that a man could get fired for that, but that the school has so many rules: no dancing, no drinking or smoking, and no movies. The dismissed professor admitted that he felt a little silly taking his family to see Star Wars, then sitting in the car while his children—not having signed the Moody pledge—viewed the movie.

The institute does indeed cling stubbornly to rules some people think anachronistic; but what is less widely recognized is a deep commitment of a nature that not many conservative Christians are noted for. It is a commitment to the inner city. MBI is squeezed into the heart of Chicago, surrounded by a wild tapestry of urban variety. Four blocks to the west live the poorest of Chicago’s poor—in a public housing project called Cabrini-Green. Four blocks to the east live the rich—in a neighborhood alongside Lake Michigan aptly called the Gold Coast.

Some 23 distinct ethnic communities ...

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