The Mennonites are Leading the Way Toward Inclusion among Christian Colleges

The Mennonites are Leading the Way Toward Inclusion among Christian Colleges July 21, 2015

Yesterday, two Christian colleges, Eastern Mennonite University and Goshen College, made a big announcement: They will now include sexual orientation in their anti-discrimination hiring policies.

Eastern Mennonite University
Eastern Mennonite University

Eastern Mennonite, in particular, underwent a widely-known “listening process” regarding this issue throughout the 2014-2015 year. That process, which–as their press release notes--involved  discussion with “university stakeholders – students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors” culminated in a majority of the trustees voting in favor of the inclusive policy change. The new policy reads:

Eastern Mennonite University does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national or ethnic origin, sex, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity or any legally protected status. As a religious institution, EMU expressly reserves its rights, its understandings of, and its commitments to the historic Anabaptist identity and the teachings of Mennonite Church USA, and reserves the legal right to hire and employ individuals who support the values of the university.

This change makes these schools the first schools in the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities to adopt LGBTQ-inclusive policies.

The CCCU is an association of 181 schools in North America, and 60 “affiliate” institutions in other parts of the world. Most of the member schools are Protestant, and most–if not all–of those would identify as evangelical. All of them agree with the CCCU’s mission: “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.”

The CCCU responded to the announcement of the policy changes by these two schools. Here is their response:

 The CCCU is a voluntary membership association that advances the cause of Christian higher education institutions whose missions are rooted in the historic Christian faith and are informed by deeply held Christian thought, belief, and practice. Eastern Mennonite University and Goshen College have made the CCCU aware of the change in their employment policy. The CCCU is grateful for the transparent process engaged by both of these institutions.
The CCCU meets regularly both as a board of directors and as a full membership to discuss association business, and it will discuss these changes at these regular meetings.  The CCCU has a 40-year history of being fully committed to Christ-centered higher education. We remain unwavering in that commitment. 

I suspect there will be some very interesting conversations in these upcoming meetings.

Those of us who have been or are currently involved in a CCCU-related institution immediately recognize that this change is a big deal. Eastern Mennonite and Goshen are minority institutions now, on this particular issue, within the CCCU and likely will be for some time. However, it is very probably only a matter of time, before the minority position becomes the majority position; even among conservative Christian institutions like those of the CCCU.

The arc of history does indeed bend toward justice–and inclusion. More and more people–and by consequence the institutions they shape–are recognizing that it is not only possible to be inclusive in order to be “Christ-centered,” it is also necessary.


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