WASHINGTON (BP) – The Council for Christian Colleges and Universities announced resignations, Sept. 21, of two schools that sparked dissension – and prompted other schools to withdraw from the council – after expanding their hiring and benefits policies to embrace same-sex marriage.
The pro-homosexual policy changes at these two colleges – Goshen College of Goshen, Ind., and Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisburg, Va. – left Bible-believing institutions with CCCU membership, like Southwest Baptist University (SBU) and Hannibal-LaGrange University (HLGU), caught in the middle. Both SBU and HLGU took a wait-and-pray approach to the controversy, hoping that the CCCU would affirm a biblical stance to marriage.
In the latest development of the controversy, the CCCU Board of Directors announced the resignations of Goshen College and Eastern Mennonite University after a CCCU board meeting. The board also appointed a task force to review CCCU categories of association to accommodate the changing face of religious liberty, CCCU President Shirley Hoogstra said in a press teleconference following the board’s announcement.
“What we know is we need new categories of collaboration,” Hoogstra said. “We’re looking to 2015 and beyond, looking around issues of religious liberty, and we think having strong collaborations is the way forward. … What we found is the affiliate category is widely confusing for our association.”
Tennessee Baptist Convention affiliate Union University in Jackson, Tenn., and Oklahoma Wesleyan University in Bartlesville, Okla., weeks ago cancelled their CCCU membership in protest of EMU and Goshen being allowed to retain their membership in CCCU as Christian colleges that allow the employment of homosexuals engaged in same-sex marriages.
While there was no immediate indication whether the resignation of EMU and Goshen would entice Union and Oklahoma Wesleyan to return to the council, Hoogstra said she would welcome such a move.
EMU and Goshen submitted resignation letters Sept. 15 in the midst of CCCU board discussions to consider downgrading the two schools’ status to affiliate membership and robbing them of CCCU voting rights. In contacting the presidents of more than 120 CCCU membership schools, the CCCU found that 25 percent of its members did not support EMU and Goshen having CCCU membership of any kind.
The CCCU clarified its purpose in the statement posted on its website, specifying its advocacy “for the right of each member school to practice its sincerely held religious beliefs in the public square.”
The CCCU also affirmed its biblical stance on marriage.
“As a broad and diverse association, the CCCU has never adopted specific creedal or doctrinal tests for its members and affiliates. Nevertheless, the Council has been and remains dedicated to the advancement of Christian higher education that is aligned with the historic Christian faith,” the group said. “Accordingly, the CCCU has maintained the historic Christian view of marriage, defined as a union of one man and one woman, in its employment policies and student academic program conduct codes.
“As it relates to this topic, therefore, the CCCU only advocates for ‘principles of religious freedom, which allow Christian colleges to hire based on religion and to only employ individuals who practice sexual relations within the boundaries of marriage between a man and a woman” (Board Policies Manual, section 11.2.1).’ Until recently, there had been alignment of hiring policies within the CCCU membership.”
Barry H. Corey, president of Biola University, and Phil G. Ryken, president of Wheaten College, are task force co-chairs, joined by members of the CCCU board, and presidents of member and non-member affiliate schools.
The board is expected to submit its recommendation regarding the task force’s review at CCCU’s January 2016 meeting.