This past summer, the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people were discussed on both a local and national level. The Goshen College Board of Directors met on July 17 and 18, and voted to update the institutional Non-Discrimination policy.The updated policy states, “Goshen College does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national or ethnic origin, sex, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity or any legal protected status.” It also states that Goshen College “reserves the legal right to hire and employ individuals who support the values of the college.”
Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) voted to update their hiring policy on July 16, just one day before Goshen College.
According to a press release on GC’s website, employees in same-sex marriages will now be included in the hiring practices and benefits of the college. “The hiring processes are focused on hiring the best people that enable the college to live out its core values and mission.”
The press release also stated the decision to update the policy “is in keeping with [the college’s] commitment to non-discrimination and [its] Christ-centered core values.”
Conversation and discussion has been an active part of Goshen College’s campus for the past forty years. Brenneman expressed his gratitude and pride for the work done by recent GC graduates Stefan Baumgartner and Abby Deaton, as well as Ardys Woodward, a junior and Hannah Beachey, a senior. “In many ways they exemplified for me a spirit of creativity, of forbearance and still in the midst of advocating their point of view,” said Brenneman.
Earlier this year, Mennonite Church USA, via the Mennonite Education Agency, had asked both EMU and Goshen College to wait on making any changes “out of respect for the church we are a part of,” said GC President James E. Brenneman. “What the Mennonite general assembly clarified for us is that while the church still passed the executive board's resolution on upholding the church’s teaching, they also strongly endorsed a forbearance resolution that asked us all to bear with each other. It sends a message to me that we find forbearance of each other’s opinions.”
“I want to recognize that not everyone on this campus agrees with this decision,” said Brenneman. “In my mind that’s how it should be. We can’t all agree on everything. The Mennonite church’s decision sent me the message that we must find forbearance or tolerance of each other’s opinions. I hope we can do that here on campus.”
According to Ross Peterson-Veatch, Academic Dean at GC, “There has been pretty positive feedback on the change from the community as a whole.” Peterson-Veatch estimated there is a five-to-one ratio of positive to negative feedback, which is what he anticipated.
Looking toward the future, Goshen College plans to continue their conversation with the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU). Goshen College, along with Eastern Mennonite University and Bluffton University, is one of many members of this international association that according to their website works to “advance the cause of Christ-centered education.”
The updated policy sparked question among the CCCU in regards to its alignment with membership requirements. Under the employment policy, the CCCU notes that “Member campuses must have a continuing institutional policy and practice, effective throughout membership, to hire as full-time faculty members and administrators (non-hourly staff) only persons who profess faith in Jesus Christ.”
Since Goshen College and EMU’s decisions to update their policies, other Christian colleges and universities are considering withdrawing their membership from the CCCU. Union University in Jackson, Tennessee became the first to withdraw in mid-August, followed by Oklahoma Wesleyan University this past Monday, August 31.
Despite this, Brenneman expressed his certainty that Goshen College’s changes align with the requirements of membership to the CCCU. More information about the ongoing conversation will be available within the next month or two. To see the full version of the updated policy, visit www.goshen.edu.