In a joint release on Tuesday September 21, both Goshen College (GC) and Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) announced they are voluntarily withdrawing their membership from the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU).
After GC and EMU decided to update their non-discrimination policies and allow hiring of married queer faculty this past July, the CCCU board expressed concerns and decided to consult with all member presidents regarding the possibility of changing EMU and Goshen to affiliate status. The CCCU board requested that all members wait to withdraw until the conclusion of the listening process.
According to a CCCU press release, the listening process showed “75 percent of members agreed in full or in principle with the Board’s recommendation to consider moving EMU and Goshen to non-member affiliate status. Nearly 20 percent of the member presidents felt that EMU and Goshen should continue in full membership, while less than 25 percent did not support either member or affiliate status.”
The two schools submitted separate letters of withdrawal on September 14. That same day, the CCCU board met and accepted the withdrawals. “We spent [the time between then and the 21st] preparing to announce it,” said Jim Brenneman, president of Goshen College.
“We decided to withdraw rather than see a pretty major riff in the association had we stayed,” said Brenneman. In a recent press release, Brenneman also stated that, “[GC’s] Christian commitments and values have not changed, and while our desire has been to remain at the table with our brothers and sisters in Christ, we don’t want to cause further division in the CCCU. It would distract us, and the CCCU, from the other important work at hand.”
“The [member schools in CCCU] who are left are still going to have to decide what the criteria are [for being an affiliate of the CCCU],” said Brenneman. “The irony is that there are currently affiliate schools with non-Christian faculty. Somehow being a gay or lesbian married Christian is a more important criteria than being just a Christian faculty.”
Both EMU and Goshen left with regret and appreciation for the CCCU.
“We value the many years of partnership with other CCCU colleges committed to a Christ-centered mission,” said Loren Swartzendruber, president of EMU, in a recent press release. “EMU remains fully committed to our Christian mission and will do so as an institution rooted in the Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition which attempts to reflect Jesus’ call to peacemaking and justice.”
According to CCCU President Shirley V. Hoogstra in a recent press release, the decision of the two schools to leave the CCCU did not create tension within the board. “There were numerous presidents who expressed appreciation for Eastern Mennonite University and Goshen College as institutions,” said Hoogstra. “They always said from the beginning they didn’t want to make division. I have the highest regard for EMU and Goshen.”
Brenneman feels the decision was in the best interest of all parties involved. “[Our withdrawal] is in keeping with our commitment to peacemaking and social justice,” he said.