Less than a month after the historic marriage equality ruling some Christian colleges have begun responding, favorably. So far, Goshen College, Eastern Mennonite University, and Hope College have amended their policies to include employees in committed, monogamous, same-sex relationships.
By also adding “gender identity,” Goshen College and Eastern Mennonite University are opening their door to the transgender community as well.
“The hiring processes are focused on hiring the best people that enable the college to live out its core values and mission,” read a statement from Goshen College.
These changes affect the schools’ nondiscrimination hiring policies, which now lists sexual orientation and, in the case of Goshen college and Eastern Mennonite University, gender identity, race, color, ethnicity, sex, disability, age, and other legally protected categories.
All these decisions go against the schools’ denomination affiliations. Both the Mennonite Church USA and the Reformed Church of America have stances against same-sex relationships.
The Mennonite Church USA voted last month to uphold their stance against marriage equality but adopted to allow various conferences and congregations to be “faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ in matters related to same-sex covenant unions” – even if it isn’t in accordance to the Church leadership.
“This decision is in keeping with our commitment to non-discrimination and our mission as a Christ-centered, liberal arts academic institution,” said Eastern Mennonite University Board Chair Kay Nussbaum in a statement.
“Our education is grounded in Mennonite/Anabaptist values, and we believe people in same-sex covenanted relationships are valued members of our learning community with equal rights to standard benefits.”
Similarly, Hope College is extending benefits to employees in relationships with the same sex.
“This is a continuation of Hope’s longstanding commitment to our employees’ health and well-being, and a reminder that Hope is best served by recruiting and retaining people based on their ability to contribute to the life of the college and its Christian mission,” said a statement provided by Hope College.
Such a commitment to hiring the best employee for the job — regardless of the person’s sexual or gender identity — sends a strong message not only to LGBT employees of the college but also to current, and future, LGBT students. LGBT students will know their campus cares about them too.
They will know that it is because of their faith, not in spite of it, that they are valued.
In many ways, Christian campuses have always pushed the Christian LGBT conversation forward. While the majority of traditional Christian faith traditions have only discussed LGBT issues on a surface level, the Christian schools have to dive deeper. Most of these campuses have unofficial gay-straight alliances, student-run support groups for LGBT students, and have had to respond to the reality of LGBT students on campus.
Beyond just students, this is perhaps the most Christian thing these Colleges have done for LGBT people to date. In the past, not even ten years ago, some of these same colleges, have fired gay employees.
As Christian educational campuses work to keep their campus Christ-centered, they hire individuals they believe can live up to those standards. Now, they are saying that individuals in same-sex relationships and those who are transgender can live up to those standards. They are accepting them as equals – not only as coworkers but also as Christians.
Three colleges have made this shift in just a month’s time. As we progress into the academic school year, more will have conversations on how to remain true to their belief system while accommodating the changing laws. Some will continue to hold to outdated beliefs that LGBT employees can’t be good Christian employees. Others will come to more Christian stance – one that embraces LGBT persons as employees, but more importantly, as Christians.