The CFI was founded in 1994 as the Center for Christian Studies. The original mission was to facilitate conversations within Christian scholarship, and between the Church and culture. Several grants allowed for various initiatives, such as a project on William Wilberforce, a series of Evangelical/Catholic Conversations, an interfaith symposium on Religion in Politics and Society, a conversation on International Public Policy, and the 1998 initiation of the annual Gordon College Symposium.
In 2003, the mission changed to: 1) fostering respectful conversations among Christians who differed on crucial issues; 2) creating programs that would be accessible to students and stimulating to faculty; and 3) managing a grant of $2M from the Lilly Endowment, entitled “Critical Loyalty: Christian Vocation at Gordon College.” This grant, the largest programmatic grant in Gordon’s history, created the Jerusalem and Athens Forum (JAF), and the desire to start a new speaker series: Faith Seeking Understanding (FSU). In 2011, the Center was charged with managing JAF and the FSU lectures, with a broad mandate to re-envision the Center.
In 2016, the Center continued this re-envisioning, changing its mission to “Forming the thoughtful Christian for global engagement”. Further, with the advent of the Global Honors Institute at Gordon College in 2017, the Jerusalem and Athens Forum (JAF) was formally realigned under its auspices as one the new Global Honors Institute’s flagship programs. The Faith Seeking Understanding (FSU) lecture series was redesigned with faculty feedback to form the new CFI Visiting Scholar series. New initiatives – such as Jeffersonian Dinners and published lectures, among others – are being launched alongside the on-going Gordon College Symposium.