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What We Believe

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As an evangelical Christian university, APU affirms the supremacy of Christ in all areas of life. Our beliefs and values exist at the core of the university. Find out more about where APU stands as a faith community by reading the following documents, and learn more about What We Believe (PDF) (también disponible en Español (PDF)).

Mission Statement

Today at Azusa Pacific University, we work together as a team of difference makers to advance the work of God in the world through scholarship, teaching, and building disciples across all levels and delivery systems of collegiate education. When Azusa Pacific was founded in 1899 in a simple home in Whittier, California, as the Training School for Christian Workers, that modest beginning came with the bold resolve of homeowner Philena B. Hadley and others to forge an educational enterprise that would impact the world for Christ. This foundational understanding of our common purpose finds expression in the Mission Statement as established in 1990 under the leadership of Interim President Ted Engstrom and President Richard Felix, who had just begun his tenure.

The Board of Trustees has adopted the following statement of mission and purpose for Azusa Pacific University:

"Azusa Pacific University is an evangelical Christian community of disciples and scholars who seek to advance the work of God in the world through academic excellence in liberal arts and professional programs of higher education that encourage students to develop a Christian perspective of truth and life."

Statement of Faith

As an educational institution with a Wesleyan tradition at its core, it seems natural to us to embrace a statement of faith that is common among many Christian traditions. APU's Statement of Faith first appeared in 1900, introduced by Philena B. Hadley and Mary Hill as "History and Spirit." It was revisited and clarified in 1956, under President C.P. Haggard. To provide application to these guiding beliefs, "Daily Living Expectations" were added to offer a deeper understanding of the character of the faculty, staff, and administration at APU.

We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative word of God.

We believe that there is one God, creator of heaven and earth, eternally existent in three persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

We believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, and in His ascension to the right hand of the Father, and in His personal return to power and glory.

We believe in the fall and consequent total moral depravity of humanity, resulting in our exceeding sinfulness and lost estate, and necessitating our regeneration by the Holy Spirit.

We believe in the present and continuing ministry of sanctification by the Holy Spirit by whose infilling the believing Christian is cleansed and empowered for a life of holiness and service.

We believe in the resurrection of both the saved and the lost; those who are saved to the resurrection of life and those who are lost to the resurrection of damnation.

We believe in the spiritual unity of believers in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Daily Living Expectations

The following are fundamentals held to be essential, and the university expects faculty and staff not only to believe in them, but to practice them in daily living:

  • a caring, effective love both of God and humanity
  • a Christ-like unity and acceptance between believers
  • a lifestyle dedicated to God’s will in society
  • a growing, victorious state of mind because of the indwelling Christ
  • a daily affirmation of Christ as Lord
  • a willingness to serve the Lord, even when it means sacrifice
  • a desire to be sensitive to the personal work of the Holy Spirit
  • a working faith in God’s promises for all needs and daily life situations
  • a witness for Christ without hypocrisy
  • a firm, committed desire to be God’s person

Our Motto

The earliest declaration of the university motto, God First, appeared in the early part of the 20th century, reflecting the community’s desire and commitment that the institution remain spiritually alive and vitally Christian. An early publication affirms that heartfelt intent, stating, “It is the foremost thought of our every activity, the principal lesson of every class and the utmost desire of every soul.” Our God First approach infuses how we move forward into God’s preferred future, holding fast to our identity, mission, and purpose.

These two words exemplify a guiding principle for us that both captures and focuses our commitment to providing the highest levels of education and service to our students, our community, and the larger world. As an institution of higher education, we see beyond the bricks and mortar and consider our university to be a living structure, composed of competent and compassionate believers who vitalize our mission and purpose with an understanding of the distinct calling Azusa Pacific has to be an excellent academic institution distinguished, too, by our warmth, our relational nature, and our desire to serve the world as Christ followers.

Four Cornerstones 

In the mid-1990s, President Richard Felix introduced the Four Cornerstones. President Jon Wallace later identified Scripture verses that aligned each cornerstone with the Lordship of Christ and the authority of Scripture, and clarified our purpose and values for our community of scholars and disciples.

Azusa Pacific University is an institution built on four cornerstones: Christ, Scholarship, Community, and Service. These four components define why APU exists.

Belief in Christ is central to all that we think and do, and who we are. It is this understanding of God’s love that informs all our pursuits: academic, service, and community.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

Colossians 1:15–18

We are called to scholarship permeated by our Christian faith. We are committed to teaching excellence. The liberal arts are central in the curriculum, for we are dedicated to the education of the whole person. At the same time, we value the role of professional offerings that prepare students for specific careers.

Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them. Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Esteem her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you. She will set a garland of grace on your head and present you with a crown of splendor.

Proverbs 4:5–9

We believe in community. We are a richly diverse people who value the worth of each individual. Our mission is to encourage, equip, and enable each student to fulfill his or her great potential, and in turn, encourage, equip, and enable others.

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

Romans 15:5–7

Service is at the heart of our local and international outreach, missions, and service-learning endeavors. Our students often find these experiences to be among the greatest of their lives.

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Romans 12:9–13

Essence Statement

At Azusa Pacific University, we strive to create an atmosphere that embraces our history and the work of those who helped to build what we enjoy today. Part of this legacy is found in the Essence Statement. Drafted in 1980, under the leadership of President Paul Sago, the statement was created by faculty members and reflects the collegial atmosphere that pervades the campus to this day. It is a philosophical description of the institution and its people—students, staff, faculty, trustees, administration, and alumni—who we are and who we are becoming.

While acknowledging that as individuals we are at different points along the way, we are all nevertheless journeying toward the ideals described in the four perspectives that follow: Christian, Academic, Developmental, and Service.


We are Christians who:

  • believe that God is the origin of all things and the source of the values made known to us in His creation, in human experience, and finally and fully, in Jesus Christ.
  • hold the Bible as the Word of God, the basis of our faith, and the primary record by which these values are made known.
  • rely on the Holy Spirit to help us discover these values, understand them, and live a life consistent with them.
  • live as citizens of the Kingdom of God, who model its values and thereby call into question the values of the world.
  • confess Jesus Christ as Lord of our lives, our university, and our world, and as the final authority for our faith and life.
  • recognize that redemption by Jesus Christ and personal acceptance of His forgiveness are necessary for human wholeness.
  • show love toward God (holiness of heart) and a love toward each other (holiness of life) which express themselves in worship, self-denial, and a special concern for the oppressed, and which encourage us to abandon those distinctions that divide us.
  • practice community among ourselves as members of the one Body of Christ and maintain a nonsectarian openness toward all Christians.


We are scholars who:

  • believe that all truth is of God; therefore, we recognize the importance of each field of study both for its own significance and for its interrelationship with other areas of knowledge.
  • believe that God desires that we pursue excellence according to the standard of His will for us.
  • exhibit intellectual curiosity, flexibility, and critical openmindedness.
  • are able to deal with complexity and ambiguity, and to communicate effectively, weigh evidence and make decisions.
  • recognize that a knowledge of history is key to understanding ourselves, our world, and our future.
  • have a basic understanding of Christianity, the humanities, the social sciences, and the natural sciences.
  • know the language, art, and customs of at least one other culture or know the cross-cultural issues within one’s own discipline in order to develop understanding of, respect for, and cooperation with those of all other cultures.
  • promote and expand the body of knowledge related to our profession or discipline.
  • have a thorough command of the primary courses, methodology and research skills, major issues, vocabulary, and facts in at least one academic field of study, and understand how the skills acquired in this way may be adapted to other fields of endeavor.
  • encourage and make provision for any person to learn at any period of life.


We are persons who:

  • seek to develop a creative Christian lifestyle whose purpose flows from a commitment to God through Jesus Christ.
  • honor our commitments and take responsibility for our personal behavior, decisions, and continuing growth.
  • know from experience that self-discipline, struggle, risk, and confrontation are necessary for growth, and recognize that because of the grace of God we grow even through our failures.
  • have experiences in self-assessment in every dimension of our lives, in values-clarification based on biblical truths, and in planning for continuous individual growth and renewal.
  • understand the capabilities of our physical bodies and are committed to the lifelong nurturing of our physical selves.


We are servants who:

  • are able to follow joyfully Jesus’ example of service in the world and pour out our individual and corporate lives for others because of God’s love in Christ for us.
  • share our faith unashamedly, disciple other Christians, participate in missionary endeavors, minister to the needs of all persons regardless of their agreement with our beliefs, and affirm the unique worth of every individual as one created by God, as one for whom Christ died, and as one who has been given individual gifts and talents to be discovered, developed, and directed toward service.
  • are faithful stewards of our time, talents, and resources, and who welcome and seek opportunities for service as a means to clarify and practice our faith and knowledge.

Statement of Academic Freedom

The freedom found in following Christ invites us to cultivate and support an environment that promotes true learning and scholarship because we seek to reflect the light of Truth. As a university, we value excellence in our service and in our scholarship and see it as an expression of our identity in Christ. The Statement of Academic Freedom adopted in 1992 and then revised in 2010 depicts this shared understanding and challenge for our scholars.

At Azusa Pacific University, we believe that all truth is God’s truth. Furthermore, God has made it possible for humankind to access, discover, and understand truth. We also affirm that the knowledge of truth will always be incomplete and that people, including those with educational credentials, are fallible and may interpret data and ideas imperfectly. Academic freedom, therefore, from a Christ-centered perspective, must be carried out with civility, mature judgment, and the awareness of the broad representation of Christian faith that exists within this institution. Accordingly, Azusa Pacific University affirms its commitment to freedom of inquiry and expression in academic endeavors.

The university recognizes that academic freedom has historically been defined both by broadly accepted academic standards, and by the mission and character of the institution in which it is practiced.

Azusa Pacific University seeks to maintain an academic community in which faculty are free to engage in rigorous scholarly inquiry and expression within an intellectual context shaped by the evangelical Christian tradition. In addition to this freedom, Azusa Pacific University seeks to pursue scholarly inquiry and expression in a way that extends and enriches the academic disciplines out of the unique resources provided by our institution’s identity.

Thus, at Azusa Pacific University, academic freedom is defined both by the commonly accepted standards of the academy and by those commitments articulated in the documents that are central to the university’s identity as a Christian university. These documents articulate the central commitments that shape the academic community, and thus the practice of academic freedom, at Azusa Pacific University: a belief in God as the creator of all things, in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, in the Holy Spirit as teacher and guide, in Scripture as God’s authoritative and infallible revelation, and in the Christian community as an expression and vehicle of God’s redemptive work in this world.

The university follows these principles in its practice of academic freedom:

Faculty are entitled to the rights and privileges, and bear the obligations, of academic freedom in the performance of their duties. Specifically, faculty are free to pursue truth and knowledge within their disciplines in the classroom, in their research and writings, and in other public statements in their field of professional competence. At all times faculty should strive for accuracy, exercise appropriate restraint, and show respect for the opinions of others.

Faculty are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject. Faculty should be careful not to introduce into their teaching controversial matter that has no relation to the subject.

While faculty are members of the global community, as scholars and members of the Azusa Pacific University community, faculty should remain cognizant that the public will form perceptions of their profession and their institution by their utterances.

In the practice of the academic vocation, complaints against faculty may be generated. Faculty shall be protected from any request to retract or modify their research, publication, or teaching merely because a complaint has been received. Only complaints alleging faculty violations of professional standards of the discipline or of advocating positions incompatible with those commitments articulated in the documents that are central to the university’s identity as a Christian university and then only when the evidence supporting the allegation is more substantial than rumor, inference, or hearsay shall be given consideration. Alleged violations of the academic freedom policy should be referred to the dean of the school in which the faculty member teaches. The dean may recommend a sanction appropriate for the case at hand including counseling, disciplinary action, or termination of employment.

In the event that a faculty member believes his or her academic freedom has been unduly restricted, he or she may pursue resolution of this issue through the existing faculty grievance procedure as articulated in the Faculty Handbook.