CCCU Struggles Against Potential Split Over LGBTQ Rights

On Sept. 21, the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU) convened to evaluate the memberships of Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) and Goshen College after the two Mennonite schools became the two first CCCU member institutions to include the categories “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” in their non-discrimination policies. Though the CCCU reports that “approximately 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,” both EMU and Goshen left the CCCU voluntarily.

Two other schools—Oklahoma Wesleyan University (OWU) and Union University—also left the CCCU voluntarily due to their convictions that they could not remain members of the CCCU “as long as some member colleges were willing to hire as faculty members people in same-sex marriages,” according to Additionally, various other member institutions threatened to leave the CCCU if Goshen’s and EMU’s memberships were maintained. The CCCU also added Point University and several other institutions as members on Sept. 22.

As a CCCU member institution, Eastern is also affected by these events. In an interview, Dr. Duffett expressed his disappointment with the situation, saying “I wish the other schools hadn’t left … I wish they had stayed in the tent.” While there are ethical disagreements at Eastern, in the CCCU, and in the Church at large regarding sexual ethics for LGBTQ people, Duffett stated that he doesn’t “want to see a dilution of Christian education.” Duffett continued, “I don’t see anything coming out of separation.” After saying “I think you can be a Christian and be LGBTQ,” Duffett added that he thinks an institution can be Christian and still hire LGBTQ faculty. According to Duffett, Eastern has no desire to leave the CCCU, nor is there any exit strategy for Eastern to do so.

“The Weather Vane,” EMU’s newspaper, reports that EMU’s president Loren Swartzendruber stated, “All along, even when the process started back in July… I said at several points along the way, ‘I am ready to voluntarily withdraw, because I do not want to contribute to a split. [sic]” While the CCCU’s mission is “To advance the cause of Christ-centered higher education and to help our institutions transform lives by faithfully relating scholarship and service to biblical truth,” there are no requirements for member institutions to discriminate against LGBTQ faculty or students. Swartzendruber continues to affirm EMU’s commit to a Christian education: “We are a Christian university—that’s in our mission, we aren’t changing that—and, currently the policy is full-time, tenured-track faculty members must be Christians. So, in my mind, we met the criteria, but I also knew that some people would disagree.” “The Weather Vane” also reports that Swartzendruber said “For me, the most disappointing thing about that is, I don’t think the Christian witness is served very well when we keep drawing boundaries.”

Likewise, Goshen’s “The Record” reports that the president of Goshen, Jim Brenneman, said “We decided to withdraw rather than see a pretty major riff in the association had we stayed.” Additionally, Brenneman stated in a press release 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.” Brenneman also said “[Our withdrawal] is in keeping with our commitment to peacemaking and social justice.”

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