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Goshen and EMU update non-discrimination policies

7.20. 2015 Written By: Goshen College and EMU 2,994 Times read

Goshen (Ind.) College and Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, Va., have updated their non-discrimination hiring policies. The hiring practices and benefits of both institutions will now expand to include employees in same-sex marriages. Hiring processes are focused on hiring the people who best enable the schools to live out their core values and missions.

Goshen College updates non-discrimination policy

This past weekend the Goshen College board of directors met. “After a multi-year review of our current hiring practices, offering prayers for divine guidance, listening to and consulting various constituencies and key stakeholders, and considering relevant legal changes, we voted to update the institutional Non-Discrimination Policy,” said Conrad Clemens, chair of the Goshen College board.

The updated policy:
Goshen College 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, Goshen College 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 college.

The college’s hiring practices and benefits will now expand to include employees in same-sex marriages. The hiring processes are focused on hiring the best people that enable the college to live out its core values and mission.

“As an institution rooted in the Anabaptist tradition, we reaffirm our strong relationship to Mennonite Church USA,” said Goshen College President James E. Brenneman, “and recognize the diversity of interpretation of Scripture on this issue within our denomination and the broader Christian church, a diversity reflected within the board of directors and on our campus as well. We seek forbearance and grace amidst our differences. We deeply affirm the goodness of marriage, singleness, celibacy, sexual intimacy within marriage, and a life of faithfulness before God for all people.

“As a liberal arts college, we strive for an educational environment that encourages critical thinking, loving and respectful dialogue, and continual pursuit of living into our Christ-centered core values. We affirm the equal value and worth of each unique member of our community as a beloved child of God, and we seek to be a hospitable community for all—including those who disagree with this decision—as Christ modeled to us.”

Clemens added, “We acknowledge and welcome that the board of trustees of our sister school, Eastern Mennonite University, is announcing a similar decision today. At the same time, we want to particularly express our deep respect for fellow Mennonite and Christian institutions which make choices different from our own. We know that, like us, each is seeking to be faithful in discerning the best paths forward, and we continue to support and advocate for the freedoms afforded to religious organizations to operate according to their religious convictions.”

FAQs:
Why is Goshen College changing this policy?
This decision is in keeping with our commitment to non-discrimination and our Christ-centered core values.

Who establishes the college’s hiring policies?
The Goshen College board of directors has the authority to set policies for the institution. Many human resources practices and policies are set by the administration. This policy change is within the purview of the board, though it consulted the Mennonite Education Agency (MEA) board of directors prior to making the decision.

Did the recent Mennonite Church USA resolutions at Kansas City have an impact on the board’s process or decision?
Out of respect for the denomination, the board of directors wanted to provide time for the next steps in the church’s discernment process before making this decision. The actions taken by delegates at the convention were taken into consideration in the board’s deliberations.

Did the recent Supreme Court decision impact the board’s decision?
Making decisions about how we relate with our LGBTQ+ students, employees and alumni is something that we at Goshen College have been working at and addressing in various ways for more than 40 years. The board of directors has been considering these questions carefully over the past several years. Though the court’s decisions were part of the board’s considerations, they were not the impetus for this shift in institutional policy.

Eastern Mennonite University updates non-discrimination policy

On July 16, 2015, Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, Va., board of trustees met to discuss the non-discrimination hiring policy that has been under review. The trustees passed by majority vote an update to EMU’s non-discrimination policy as follows:

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.

The university’s hiring practices and benefits will now expand to include employees in same-sex marriages.

The decision comes following a broad-based “listening process” in the 2013-14 academic year. Durin the process, university stakeholders—students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors—engaged in conversation and discernment around the hiring of people in same-sex covenanted relationships. The board decision also follows recent discussion and actions taken at Mennonite Church USA Assembly in Kansas City, Mo.

“As always, EMU’s hiring processes will continue to focus on hiring individuals who are the best fit for the position for which EMU is recruiting, and who are committed to EMU’s mission and core values,” said Kay Brenneman Nussbaum, board chair.

“This decision is in keeping with our commitment to non-discrimination and our mission as a Christ-centered, liberal arts academic institution,” continued Nussbaum. “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.”

President Loren Swartzendruber assured EMU employees at a July 20 gathering: “In making this decision, the board affirmed EMU’s strong commitment to our relationship with Mennonite Church USA even while the denomination continues its discernment.”

Since hiring practices of those who are part of Mennonite Education Agency are left to individual institutions, EMU’s formal relationship with the broader church remains unchanged.

Why is EMU changing this policy?
This decision is in keeping with our commitment to non-discrimination and our Christ-centered core values. Our decision is to update our non-discrimination policy for employment policy and practice.

Who establishes the university’s hiring policies?
The EMU Board of Trustees has the authority to set policy for the institution. Many human resources practices and policies are set by the administration. This policy change is within the purview of the board.

How does this change the hiring policy?
Our hiring practices and benefits will now expand to include employees in same-sex marriages. Our hiring processes are focused on hiring the people who best enable us to live out our core values and mission.

Would EMU be the first Christian college or university to hire persons in same-sex covenanted relationships?
No. Many colleges in the Catholic and mainline Protestant Christian traditions allow for persons in same-sex covenanted relationships to be employed. In addition, some colleges have adopted a “don’t ask, don’t tell” practice.

Did the recent Mennonite Church USA resolutions at Kansas City have an impact on the board’s process or decision?
Out of respect for the denomination, EMU wanted to provide time for the next steps in the church’s discernment process before making this decision. Actions taken by delegates at the convention were considered in the board’s deliberations.

Did the recent Supreme Court decision impact the board’s decision?
In the past several years, the board and president have reviewed our current hiring practices, offered prayers for divine guidance, listened to and consulted various constituencies and key stakeholders, and considered relevant legal changes. From January to June of 2014, the EMU board of trustees engaged in a formal listening process to hear the many and varied perspectives among EMU students, employees, alumni and donors around hiring practices of those in same-sex covenanted relationships.

How does this decision relate to the university’s relationship with the church?
We remain committed to a strong relationship to Mennonite Church USA even as we acknowledge the diversity of opinion on this issue. We are committed to the broader church and seek grace as people with differences of opinion and interpretation of Scripture continue discernment. As a confessional (not creedal) church, Mennonite Church USA has never had, nor demanded, complete agreement on every article in the Confession of Faith.

Mennonite Education Agency released a statement in response to the two institutions’ announcements stating that the actions “place them at variance with the Mennonite Education Agency and Mennonite Church USA.”

However, MEA will remain committed to ongoing conversations and discernment concerning the impact of the institutions’ recent actions.

Click here for the full statement from MEA.

Photo: Eastern Mennonite University photo.

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2 Responses to “Goshen and EMU update non-discrimination policies”

  1. Merv Horst says:

    I have heretofore refused to have the words “Eastern Mennonite University” in my vocabulary, but retained the less evolved and more provincial name “Eastern Mennonite College” and I noted that point whenever I rubbed shoulders with someone from that academic institution. Harrisonburg, VA and Mennonite Church USA has just birthed a UNIVERSITY. Full stop!!

    Mervin Eugene Horst New York, New York The Center of The Universe

  2. […] between Goshen, EMU, and its sister schools in the CCCU all the harder to countenance. In announcing its change of hiring policy in July, […]

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