My dear friends, colleagues and Goshen College community,

I listened with eagerness then disappointment to President Brenneman’s update of the GC Board’s meeting. The Board has deferred its decision on hiring LGBTQ faculty.

We can lead or follow on hiring LGBTQ faculty; that’s our choice. I suggest we lead. I recognize that the Board wants to care for all the members of our community, and I respect that. But this change will happen; it’s just a matter of when. A hiring change feels like a big move, but in fact it is a baby step in our society’s progress to more equality and justice. Let us take the step together: let us lead.

We can take this opportunity and still lead. Or, we can stand by and be one of the many schools and institutions dragged into compliance with the law, lost in the landslide of social transition and undistinguishable from dozens of other schools forced to recognize the union between two people committed for life. Let us distinguish ourselves.

The Supreme Court just refused to hear the cases that overturned marriage bans for same-gender couples. That means that the Supreme Court of the United States of America recognizes that two individuals who love each other should be able to make a lifelong commitment to each other. They implied, but have not ruled yet, that every USA citizen and government institution MUST legally recognize that commitment.

You may disagree. But you may not legally disagree.

If my lifelong partner was male, and he was in the hospital with a terminal illness, I should have visitation rights regardless of what others believe. If I were female, and my female lifelong partner were giving birth to our child, I should have every right to be there throughout. Fortunately, in most states I do now have this right through civil union and marriage. And in many states, I can visit my partner with our children. (Two women raised my 89-year-old mom. She’s hasn’t understood what the fuss is about on same-gender parents since the 1940s.)

Lifelong partners share joy and sorrow; they support each other in professional and personal aspirations. We, as a community, should be leaders in Christian academia by supporting the legal and spiritual union of any two people. It seems all of us should be able to agree that support and recognition are paths of peacemaking and compassion.

I am sorry if some of my colleagues or GC students disagree with me, or feel I am insensitive to their beliefs. But one day soon, we are gong to start hiring LGBTQ staff and faculty who may or may not be married. My suggestion is that we embrace the beauty and love that our support can represent.

There are many young Christian people who do not know where to turn for a progressive Christian education that includes a voice for the LGBTQ community. We can be a place to turn to: we can be compassionate leaders. Or, we can be seen as another institution forced to change—forced to recognize our society’s baby step toward more equality and justice.

It’s our choice. Let us lead.

(The opinions and statements above do not represent the official stance of Merry Lea or Goshen College.)

David Ostergren, Ph.D., is a sustainability and environmental education faculty at Merry Lea;