Nestled in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri, Evangel University will no longer evoke the Middle East—or the Middle Ages.
Since 1955, the flagship Assemblies of God institution has cheered on its Crusaders, replete with helmeted knight and steed. Now the knight is gone, and Evangel will root for Valor, represented by a horse.
“The evolution from a Crusader riding a horse to the horse itself was an intentional shift,” the university announced September 22. “The horse is a vehicle used to share a message, just as God inspires Evangel students to share the good news of Christ.”
The university considered almost 300 submitted suggestions—including 77 animal names, 69 military names, and 38 biblical names. The change was made in light of the school’s 55,000 alumni serving internationally.
“The world has changed significantly since the 1950s, when the Evangel community, intending to depict strength, honor, and commitment to the faith, first identified a Crusader as the school’s mascot,” stated interim president George O. Wood in March, when the decision was made to drop the name.
“Today, we recognize that the Crusader often inhibits the ability of students and alumni to proudly represent the university in their areas of global work and ministry.”
For some alumni, the change is a long time coming. The review process first began in 2007.
“When you want to share the love of Christ, you don’t want to identify with something that shuts down conversation,” said Emily Greene, class of 2008. “It is the equivalent of saying ‘jihadist’ to a US Christian, evoking a cruel persona.”
Greene grew up as a history-loving missionary kid in Muslim-majority Kazakhstan. But her father sat her down when she first encountered the Crusades, and told her plainly: We don’t use that word here.
As she studied more deeply, Greene discovered that the Crusaders were not necessarily the good guys. But at Evangel, the imagery was everywhere. The campus newspaper was called The Lance. The cafeteria was “The Joust.”
In her senior year, Greene signed a petition against the Crusader name.