At Montreat College, a Presbyterian school in North Carolina, faculty and staff members were recently handed a new “Covenant.” That is, they had to sign off on a new statement of faith in order to keep their jobs.
And this version mandated that they reject marriage equality, something that was never explicitly stated before. Specifically, they have to affirm the “sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman.” (They also have to oppose abortion, affirm “chastity” before marriage, and agree that the Bible is the “infallible Word of God” — which implies that only literal interpretations of the Bible are acceptable.)
That may not sound like a big deal at a Christian school where rejection of same-sex relationships was already heavily implied, but it’s creating a rift among students and teachers.
“A lot of people on my friend group, they’re either transferring or dropping out altogether because the school has just ruined it for them,” says sophomore Bailey Mathews, who was president of her high school Gay-Straight Alliance. “I feel very strongly when they decide to actually write this down and set it in stone the school’s belief. So, I feel like I can’t be apart of that and then, most of my teachers are leaving, so why would I stay somewhere where I can’t get a quality education.”
A faculty member that wishes to remain anonymous sent News 13 a list of eight faculty/staff members who have refused to sign the covenant, thus refusing to continue their employment at the college following the current semester.
The school has 39 full-time faculty members and 142 adjuncts.
What’s odd about the decision is that it seems to be completely unnecessary. What does opposing marriage equality have to do with the quality of education? It’s not like secular universities ever ask potential professors for their opinions on abortion. What matters is the research they do and what they bring to the table academically.Montreat College is essentially forcing staffers to take a position on something even Christians don’t always agree on.
It’s similar to the self-inflicted wound we saw at Bryan College (in Dayton, Tennessee) a few years ago. That Christian school always made professors sign a Statement of Faith saying that God created man. But there was always wiggle room for professors who believed God began the process and evolution took it from there. In 2014, however, the school forced them to sign a clarification to that statement. They had to agree to the following:
“We believe that all humanity is descended from Adam and Eve. They are historical persons created by God in a special formative act, and not from previously existing life forms.”
Believing in theistic evolution was no longer acceptable. You had to believe in Young Earth Creationism… or else. So much for academic integrity.
But, as many Christians (including Ken Ham) will tell you, accepting Young Earth Creationism isn’t on the Good Christian checklist. There are people who will get to Heaven, they believe, even if they don’t buy into a 6,000-year-old Earth.
These statements serve only one purpose: To purge the schools of professors who might dare their students to think even a little bit critically. College should be a place where questions are welcome, and ideas are debated, and doubt is encouraged. Even at Christian schools.
By forcing faculty members to take a particular side in a contentious debate in the Christian world, Montreat College is sending an awful message to students: If you dare to think for yourself and stand outside the Christian majority, even on matters that have nothing to do with your future salvation, you deserve to be punished.
I know a lot of these students don’t have a choice about what school they attend, but I hope the move encourages some of them to transfer to a real university, one where critical thinking and dissent aren’t considered blasphemy.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Rebecca for the link)