Earlier this summer, in July to be exact, Eastern Mennonite University and Goshen University advised the Counsel for Christian Colleges and Universities (an organization of which OKWU is a longstanding member) that they were amending their policies to accommodate same-sex couples as faculty and staff members at their institutions. The CCCU’s response was to tell its member presidents (of which I am one) that it was undertaking a “deliberate and consultative process” to inquire of the entire membership the appropriate course of action in response to the two schools’ policy changes. My reaction to the CCCU’s strategy? I stand opposed to this “conversation.”
Why do I disagree with the CCCU’s action? Put concisely: There are times when a desire for a “conversation” signals a lack of conviction. In other words, sometimes the discussion becomes the offense.
Presumably there are some things within any organization that are not subject to debate. For example, would anyone expect the Anti-Defamation League to entertain “dialogue” as to whether or not Jews are human beings, worthy of the same dignity and rights as Iranians? Would anyone dare challenge the NAACP for its predictable reluctance to “debate” the merits of the KKK’s view of minorities? Would any of us seriously condemn the National Organization for Women because it doesn’t want to “discuss” whether or not women ought to be subjugated to the power and privilege of men?
My rhetorical point is obvious. There are some ideas that are so antithetical to an organization’s mission and identity that the deliberation of those ideas is obviously considered offensive. No one expects PETA to debate the health benefits of eating meat and no one condemns Greenpeace for refusing to discuss the virtues of harvesting whales. In like manner, it would seem to make all the sense in the world that there are certain ideas so far outside the boundaries of orthodox Christianity that any logical observer (religious or otherwise) would simply have to conclude: “Whether I agree with Christians or not, I can certainly understand why this is just not debatable.”
The CCCU’s insistence on discussing, ad infinitum, the merits of membership for colleges and universities who have forthrightly announced that they intend to sanction sexual behavior specifically prohibited in Scripture implies an openness to redefine the subject (i.e. biblical morality) by vote. One might ask the leadership of the CCCU what they will do if their “deliberative” and “consultative process” (their words, not mine) reveals a majority in favor of sanctioning a formerly proscribed act as a moral good? Will such input have any bearing on their final decision? If not, why did they bother asking everyone in the first place? Doesn’t this “deliberation” imply Christianity is at risk of becoming little more than what is in vogue at any given time for any given group?
Once again: There are times when the discussion becomes the offense and this is one of those times. It has unmasked a lack of ontological, theological and biblical conviction that is a much bigger problem for the evangelical church and the CCCU than the debate over sex.
This post is a position paper to the OKWU faculty and staff presented at a community meeting on August 24, 2015. It was also published in Dr. Piper’s op-ed column for the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise.