Conservative Christian colleges stuck between fear of laws around LGBTQ discrimination and fear of change
According to a recent NPR report, some conservative Christian colleges are feeling pressured by a potential interpretation of Title IX that would include sexual orientation or gender expression in its clause regarding the right of students to not be discriminated against on the basis of sex. Most of these colleges have been requiring students to adopt their statements of faith, which may outlaw same-sex relationships on their campuses or mention the belief that God created humans as gendered.
However, due to their growing anxiety about potentially losing federal funding and the pragmatic desire to remain open, some of these schools, like Eastern Mennonite University and Goshen University, are amending their policies to allow same-sex relationships on their campuses.
A recent convening of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, an association of around 179 college institutions which profess to be conservatively Christian, revealed this growing anxiety. A January meeting entitled “Is Government Funding Replaceable?” was one of the most attended sessions, including representatives from 130 of their member institutions.
In addition, Carl Trueman, a professor of church history at Westminister Theological Seminary in Pennslyvania recently wrote an article titled “Preparing for Winter,” arguing that conservative Christian colleges should plan on not having federal funds or a tax-exempt status.
But it won’t be easy for a complete culture shift that would make it safe for LGBT students who attend them. When Wheaton College created a “ministry associate for spiritual care” position and chose openly gay blogger Julie Rodgers to head it, it was successful, but alumni and donors were extremely critical. Rodgers later chronicled her experience after resigning following only one year at the position.
Justin Lee, the executive director of the Gay Christian Network describes the tension to The Atlantic this way:
Romance and self-identity get lumped in with sex, and just tossed in the same pile… And it leaves a lot of students wondering: Even if I don’t have sex, am I going to get expelled or disciplined in some way if I come out, or if I have a relationship—even if it’s a non-sexual relationship?
Lee also says that when he asks administrators that question, they say, “No, of course we wouldn’t expel a student for this. We would never do that.”
“But it’s not that clear to the students, the students live in fear.”