Goshen College is not the only Mennonite college without a Mennonite faculty ratio requirement.
Of the five Mennonite colleges associated with Mennonite Education Agency, Bluffton University, Bethel University and now Goshen College don’t have a limit on the amount of non-Mennonite faculty.
The other two colleges, Hesston College and Eastern Mennonite University, specify that 80 percent and 75 percent of their faculties must attend a Mennonite church.
Although there were many factors that led to the board’s decision to take away the Mennonite faculty ratio, Jim Brenneman and Anita Stalter said that some key factors for the change were the difficulty in defining what qualified someone as Mennonite and the college’s mission to be open to diversity.
Since the board made the final decision, faculty and staff don’t get a say in the outcome of the policy that will affect who their colleagues are and what values they will bring to the college.
“The new policy is a big change,” said Kevin Gary, associate professor of education. With the new policy, an understanding of the core values and the Core Value Institute become crucial in order to ensure that new faculty understand the college’s tradition.
The Core Value Institute was created to give further training to faculty, students, staff and board members about the core values and what they mean to the college. One of the purposes for the institute is to emphasize one of the values during a school year and organize chapels and programs around the theme. This year’s theme is servant leadership.
“The good thing about the core values is that they identify the heart of the Anabaptist tradition in language that’s broader and can be understood by a larger constituency,” said Gary. However, because of the broader meaning of the values, Gary said that “education about and formation in the core values becomes of greater importance.”
Some professors are concerned about the change and what it could mean about the long-term direction and Mennonite affiliation of the college.
John D. Roth, professor of history and author of books about Anabaptist-Mennonite theology, said that “part of the Anabaptist-Mennonite understanding of faith is that Christian nurture happens in primarily the context of a community of like-minded believers: we are formed first and foremost by our participation in the life of a local congregation. Thus if it’s important to the college that it retain an identity anchored in the Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition, a significant number of those who are embodying that identity should be active members in Mennonite congregations.”
Furthermore, Roth said that “the composition of faculty is absolutely crucial to a school’s identity. The decision to drop church membership as a criteria for faculty hires certainly seems to fit within a larger pattern of colleges that eventually drop their affiliation with a particular church. I hope that will not be the fate of Goshen College.”