Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) and Goshen College, both Christian schools, do not discriminate against faculty or staff on the basis of sexual orientation. That means they allow employees to enter into same-sex marriages.
That also means they are no longer part of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) — voluntarily.
When EMU and Goshen first announced the changes to their nondiscrimination policies earlier this year, two other schools (Union University and Oklahoma Wesleyan University) quit the CCCU, certain the organization could no longer “defend the rights of Christian colleges if its members were no longer united on what biblical sexuality entails.”
But after they left, there remained the question of what to do about EMU and Goshen:
The CCCU board of directors predicted that most of its 120 North American members would agree that EMU and Goshen’s new positions on homosexuality “placed them outside the bounds of the CCCU’s membership.” But it also believed that a demotion to affiliate status would be a permissible level of partnership.
However, the two Mennonite schools decided to voluntarily withdraw from membership in order to spare “significant division” within the consortium. This “render[s] the question of affiliate status moot,” the CCCU announced today.
Member schools mostly thought the schools should be demoted to affiliate status, but it turns out that the suggestion of a tiered system created more confusion than anything. But now, the CCCU has to figure out what to do if this happens again:
Given that “lack of clarity, purpose, and common understanding” about its membership categories, the CCCU has formed a task force led by Biola University president Barry H. Corey and Wheaton College president Phil G. Ryken. The task force will “explore how the Council will remain rooted in historic Christianity while also fruitfully engaging with other institutions seeking to advance the cause of Christian higher education or religious freedom.”
If any other CCCU member “changes its hiring policies relative to the historic Christian view of marriage” before the task force finishes its work in January, the school will be moved to a “pending” status of membership.
If you’re curious, here’s how EMU and Goshen announced their important changes:
“We seek forbearance and grace amidst our differences. We deeply affirm the goodness of marriage, singleness, celibacy, sexual intimacy within marriage, and a life of faithfulness before God for all people,” Goshen president James Brenneman stated in announcing the school’s new policy. “… We affirm the equal value and worth of each unique member of our community as a beloved child of God, and we seek to be a hospitable community for all — including those who disagree with this decision — as Christ modeled to us.”
“This decision is in keeping with our commitment to non-discrimination and our mission as a Christ-centered, liberal arts academic institution,” EMU board chair Kay Brenneman Nussbaum stated in announcing the school’s move. “Our education is grounded in Mennonite/Anabaptist values, and we believe people in same-sex covenanted relationships are valued members of our learning community with equal rights to standard benefits.”
This outcome is more ironic than anything. Four colleges left the group voluntarily, two for fear of rocking the boat and two in protest that the boat had already been rocked.
Maybe things will settle for a little while, but there’s definitely a change coming: member schools have already begun to disagree on “what biblical sexuality entails,” and that’s not going to stop. CCCU already knows it.
(Image via Wikipedia)