Colleges Exit Christian Association to Avoid Split Over Same-Sex Marriage Policy

Goshen College in Indiana and Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) in Harrisonburg, Va., have voluntarily withdrawn from the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) — an association of more than 120 higher education institutions advocating for faith-integrated learning and religious freedom — to avoid splitting the organization over a policy disagreement.

The two Mennonite colleges have come under fire from the council for changing their policies to allow for the hiring of married or celibate LGBTQ faculty, which conflicts with the organization’s “historic Christian view of marriage.”

Prior to Goshen and EMU’s departure from the CCCU this week, two other member schools — Oklahoma Wesleyan University and Union University in Tennessee — said they would not remain in the organization as long as other member colleges were willing to hire people in same-sex marriages.

Both Goshen and EMU changed their policies in July — after the Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage — to allow the hiring of gay faculty members; at that time, the CCCU conducted a survey of member college presidents to determine how best to deal with the situation. Of the surveyed presidents, 20 percent believed Goshen and EMU should retain full membership in the CCCU, and about 75 percent were open to lowering their status to “affiliate.” Less than 25 percent said they were not in favor of the colleges retaining any level of membership (presidents were allowed to express more than one sentiment).

Despite some support from other member colleges, Goshen and EMU — which submitted separate letters of withdrawal — decided to leave the organization in order to avoid a larger split within the group.

“Our Christian commitments and values have not changed,” wrote Goshen President Jim Brenneman in the college’s withdrawal letter. “And while our desire has been to remain at the table with our brothers and sisters in Christ, we don’t want to cause further division in the CCCU. It would distract us, and the CCCU, from the other important work at hand.”