WORLD Magazine reports that Union University will withdraw as a member of the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU). The decision comes after the CCCU failed to take substantive action in response to a change in policy by two member institutions, Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) and Goshen College, that added “sexual orientation” to their non-discrimination policies. Their new policy allows for the hiring of staff and faculty engaged in unrepentant sexual sin.
After being informed of the policy change the CCCU board decided upon a “deliberative and consultative process” before making any final decision. There is some indication the board may decide to shift the two schools from “member” to “affiliate” status, a half-measure that would only serve to reaffirm the organization’s lack of theological resolve.
This isn’t a hard decision. Why the unwillingness to simply bid farewell to members whose hiring policies are contrary to biblical teaching about the meaning and purpose of marriage and sexuality?
The beginning of an answer may be found in the theme of the CCCU’s upcoming conference: “Diversity, Inclusion and the Christian Academy: A matter of faith, excellence and institutional survival.” A featured speaker is Daryl G. Smith of Claremont Graduate University. Professor Smith is known for advocating diversity as more than merely an important aspect of campus culture, but as an imperative that ought to be integrated into the mission of educational institutions and be considered a core competency for all staff and faculty.
In her 2009 book Diversity’s Promise for Higher Education: Making It Work Smith wrote:
scholarly work has been influenced by the perspectives and experiences of women, persons of color, LGBT faculty, and faculty with disabilities. Most recently, one can see the important contributions of Muslim scholars and others from a variety of religious traditions, without whom many campuses would find their conversations about Islam restricted and inadequate. Indeed, it if had not been for the development of these new forms of scholarship over the past forty years, especially ethnic and women’s studies, many campus efforts to diversify the curriculum would be difficult. It has produced the scholarly base, the books and articles, and the resources more generally to facilitate curriculum transformation.
Is “curriculum transformation” along these same lines also a goal of the CCCU for its member institutions?
A second featured speaker is Elizabeth Conde-Frazier, Dean and Vice President of Education at Esperanza College of Eastern University, who is known for her writing and research on such topics as multicultural education and evangélica feminist theology. In a 2012 interview about her book Listen to the Children: Conversations with Immigrant Families Conde-Frazier was asked, “How would you respond theologically to those who may criticize you for providing helpful information to people who may be planning to do something illegal?”
Organizational events, like organization policies, are a reflection of the values and priorities of an organization’s leaders. The stated mission of the CCCU is “to advance the cause of Christ-centered higher education and to help our institutions transform lives by faithfully relating scholarship and service to biblical truth.” In practice, the Council has come to function as an outlet promoting the same progressive agenda found at most American institutions of higher education, running study abroad programs, and sometimes lobbying. At a time when Christian higher education is facing an onslaught of legal, cultural, and theological challenges from proponents of the LGBT activist movement’s illiberal agenda that poses an existential threat to their very existence the CCCU might better serve its member institutions.
How about a conference focused on religious liberty as the cornerstone of American civil liberties featuring scholars and lawyers explaining and defending the rights of faithful individuals and institutions to live and work according to their most deeply held religious convictions, and able to provide specific guidance for policy and administration? That would be a better, more timely use of scarce resources, and consistent with the values of Christian college students and their parents.
How about a conference exploring the multifaceted topic of human sexuality and implications for Christian higher education? Many students at CCCU schools are struggling with their own sexual identity, and all are struggling to uphold biblical standards for sexual behavior regardless of their orientation. All ought to be wrestling with the theological, political, and ethical questions surrounding sex and marriage. Is there any question faculty, staff, and administrators would benefit from an extended period of learning from experts on these questions?
How about a conference on life? For what reason should students care about the plight of immigrants or the experience of minority groups if not their inherent dignity as beings created in the image of God? And, if understanding the Imago Dei and its implications is foundational, let’s prioritize. Many Christian colleges are engaged in lawsuits against the federal government over the HHS abortion and contraception mandate in Obamacare, while Americans are grappling with the Planned Parenthood videos. Debates over the ethics of euthanasia, in vitro fertilization, stem cells, and the potential for genetic modification are ongoing. Are Christian college students, faculty and staff sufficiently equipped to grapple with these issues, and ensure that ours is the last generation to legally sanction the destruction of vulnerable life?
Christian higher education is vital, but only if it is willing to engage the world fearlessly, confident in the belief that the Creator and Sustainer of the universe and everything in it has given us truths worth sharing. My alma mater, CCCU member Wheaton College, was founded by Christian abolitionists who were undaunted in their application of God’s word to the most pressing issue of their era. We should be compelled to do the same in our own time, and anticipate the same world-changing results.