In a statement just posted on the website of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU), it was announced that while 75% of CCCU presidents agreed with the board’s recommendation that Goshen College and Eastern Mennonite University be moved to affiliate status within the consortium, the two Mennonite schools decided to leave the CCCU voluntarily:
While EMU and Goshen were supportive of the Board’s consultation and wanted time to also consider the possibility of affiliate membership, both schools have been clear from the outset that they did not want to be the cause of significant division within the membership. Following completion of the Board’s member inquiry and multiple discussions with Council leadership, both EMU and Goshen voluntarily chose to tender their withdrawals from member status with the CCCU. The Council Board acknowledged their withdrawals at its September 15 meeting rendering the question of affiliate status moot. At various points during the process, the CCCU had requested that any institution considering separation from the association delay a final decision until the Board concluded its evaluation.
EMU and Goshen released their own joint statement as well:
“We value the many years of partnership with other CCCU colleges committed to a Christ-centered mission,” wrote EMU President Loren Swartzendruber in his letter to Chip Pollard, CCCU chair and president of John Brown University. With the letter, Swartzendruber also resigned from his position as a member of the CCCU board of directors.
“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,” Swartzendruber added.
Goshen College President Jim Brenneman wrote, “Our 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 departure comes following extensive processing between both institutions and CCCU leadership. “We affirm such a deliberative and careful approach to decision-making — especially around issues of profound difference among faithful believers — as a glorious witness to Christian charity,” wrote Brenneman.
If you’re new to the story… Goshen and Eastern Mennonite this summer announced policy changes that would allow for the hiring of non-celibate gay and lesbian employees. That prompted the CCCU board to spend weeks consulting with the other presidents of CCCU member institutions. Two schools — Union University and Oklahoma Wesleyan University — quit the CCCU in protest that the consortium was taking so long to decide what they viewed as a settled question.
There had been much discussion of doctrinal tests within the CCCU, whose members must be “rooted in the historic Christian faith”: within that context, was marriage a matter of primary or secondary importance? Here’s how the CCCU board announcement seemed to deal with that question:
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. 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.
One final quotation points to the diversity of opinions on this issue within the CCCU:
The Board completed its consultative process in early September, having spoken to all but one member president, due to scheduling constraints. In these conversations, many member presidents expressed their initial observations, rather than settled opinions on this issue, and many had questions about the CCCU’s different associational categories. In general, however, based on the current categories of association available, 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. 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. These numbers reflect that some presidents felt comfortable with more than one option.
Click here for the full CCCU statement.
Stay tuned for more as the story develops. In addition to my own reaction to today’s announcement, this week I’ll be publishing an interview with the CCCU’s new academic vice president, Rick Ostrander.