In a move towards diversity and inclusion, Goshen College and Eastern Mennonite University added sexual orientation and gender identity to their non-discrimination policies, expanding hiring practices and benefits that will include employees in same-sex marriages.
Through these new policies, the institutions, both of which have strong relationships to the Mennonite Church USA, are barring discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The new policy, however, will continue to restrict sexual behavior for employees to marriage and uphold Anabaptist/Mennonite values, including celibacy for all unmarried employees.
The conjunct announcements mark the first time two Christian universities associated with the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) have adopted such a rule. The CCCU released a statement welcoming the “transparent process engaged by both of these institutions,” but plans to bring it up to discussion by the Board of Directors and the 121-strong Christian institutions that are members.
Weighing on the dramatic shift, Christian ethicist Rev. Dr. David Gushee told HRC, “I believe these policy changes are not at all moral compromises but instead reflect the deepest Christian moral values -- such as love, justice, and the sacred worth of each person.”
For years, students and faculty have been at the forefront of change pushing the universities to adopt more inclusive policies towards LGBT employees.
“As I’ve spoken on Christian campuses across the country, I’ve met many passionate, dedicated faculty and students who worry that sexual orientation might be used against them as a litmus test to kick them out and bar others from joining,” Justin Lee, executive director of The Gay Christian Network, told HRC. “As a result, many of them live in fear of being outed as LGBT or affirming. For them, a move like this isn’t just about equality; it’s about cultivating an environment of honesty and integrity.”
The new policies come at a key time for LGBT Mennonites. Less than a month ago, the Mennonite Church USA voted against same-sex marriage but granted "forbearance toward conferences, congregations and pastors in our body who, in different ways, seek to be faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ on matters related to same-sex covenanted unions."
As the Mennonite Church USA struggles with extending marriage rights to same-sex couples, Gushee is hopeful. He explained, “These campuses will become much better environments for LGBT people to learn and teach, and will help create the conditions for changes in Christian churches and families in years to come.”