Many Christian universities ask students and staff to uphold and agree with a statement of faith or other type of doctrinal statement. They also usually ask students and staff to abide by a conduct policy that prohibits general immorality and behavior inconsistent with a life of holiness. Many of these conduct policies address sexual behavior and prohibit homosexuality.
A Canadian Christian university was denied law school accreditation by various law societies because of its conduct policy that prohibits students from engaging in sexual behavior outside of a marriage between a man and woman. Now, Trinity Western University is removing its Community Covenant; its policy directing student behavior. While TWU does not directly tie its decision to remove its conduct policy with their desire to have an accredited law school, the move seems obvious. This is a school that has existed for at least 50 years, and they are not the only Christian university that has lowered the bar for expected behavior. Just look at how Wesleyan University has resources on queer student life. And how Seattle University allows a student drag show, that occasionally “goes too far“.
But this is nothing all that new. Schools like Princeton University were once dedicated to training Christian ministers but slowly allowed their curriculum to be modernized and secularized. We may just be seeing another wave of modernization overtake traditional Christian schools.
“In furtherance of our desire to maintain TWU as a thriving community of Christian believers that is inclusive of all students wishing to learn from a Christian viewpoint and underlying philosophy, the Community Covenant will no longer be mandatory as of the 2018-19 Academic year with respect to admission of students to, or continuation of students at, the University.”
“Inclusiveness” is generally the motivation that is given regarding these types of changes. But it seems obvious that schools make these changes to maintain their value in an increasingly anti-Christian culture. These schools know that people view traditional values on gender and sex as antiquated. And they know that their policies’ ability to be upheld legally is in jeopardy. One can hardly blame them for wanting to simply keep their doors open.
It may be that the only way to maintain a Christian liberal arts university in the 21st century is to secularize its student body, while trying to foster some sense of the Christian holiness and morality. But many students and parents of students advocate for a fully religious Christian university because they believe the campus to be an environment set apart for developing Christian discipline and spiritual formation, and not necessarily to proselytize a non-Christian student body.
So, I want to ask: who will support the schools that wish to remain faithful to their convictions regarding sex and gender. Which schools will hold their commitment to their identity as a Christian school in the face of large costs?
Likewise, which schools will follow TWU? Which schools will not see their Christian heritage as worth fighting for. Which schools will be so desperate for the approval of our culture that they will mold their identity to the desires of the LGBT regime.
Within the last 12 months there have been student groups (sometimes meeting in secrecy) that have called for universities like Biola University and Azusa Pacific University to remove their conduct policies that, they allege, discriminate against LGBT students. It does not seem that the push to further secularize Christian schools is losing steam any time soon.
As I said before, I don’t blame a school for wanting to keep its doors open. I just pray that schools that wish to maintain their beliefs and identity will get the support of the Church. While a Christian university may legitimately believe it must secularize to fulfill its mission, I am afraid many will simply act on coercion. At the same time, I hope many Christian universities see the value in maintaining a community committed to holy living and doctrinal stability, even in the face of social nonacceptance. There is no doubt that Christian education is needed. And the Church must support Christian education in all its forms: K-12, home school, college, university, and in local churches.