Bluffton (Ohio) University has become the third Mennonite college this year to leave the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities after expanding its nondiscrimination hiring policy.
The Bluffton board of trustees voted unanimously Oct. 10 to include sexual orientation and gender identity in its employment policy.
Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va., and Goshen (Ind.) College revised their policies and withdrew from the CCCU earlier this year.
Bluffton maintains its right to hire faculty and staff who are committed to Christian faith and Anabaptist beliefs.
“The CCCU made it clear that schools with nondiscrimination statements are ineligible for membership,” said Robin Bowlus, director of public relations, in an emailed statement.
Board chair Kent Yoder said the change was only a clarification of language and didn’t change anything about the university’s hiring process.
“When we hire, our practice has always been to look for the best qualified person for the job,” he said.
Yoder also referenced compliance with the June U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide, as well as some funding sources that evaluated nondiscrimination policies.
He said the withdrawal was at Bluffton’s initiative.
“We didn’t want to be a pot-stirrer or anything,” he said. “That’s not our nature.”
Yoder said the board discussed the decision over the course of several meetings.
“There wasn’t any stress or strife or arguments that went on,” he said. “We dialogued in a very professional manner.”
Bluffton President James M. Harder said in an emailed statement that the change “responds more clearly to direct questions about employment discrimination that we have already encountered since the June Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage. Some academic and professional associations require nondiscrimination statements on these points before accepting position advertisements in their academic journals for faculty appointments. The revised statement also allows Bluffton to meet eligibility screens increasingly used by foundations and other funding sources.”
Colleges ‘at variance’
EMU and Goshen withdrew from the CCCU in September after expanding their nondiscrimination policies to include employees in same-sex marriages. Bethel College in North Newton, Kan., included references to sexual orientation and gender identity in its nondiscrimination policy in April 2014 but was not a CCCU member.
Mennonite Education Agency director Carlos Romero was unavailable for comment, but in a Dec. 4 statement to The Mennonite he affirmed MEA’s July statement that any member institution departing from Mennonite Church USA’s teaching position on marriage would be considered at variance with the denomination and with MEA.