This week's edition of The 3, offering three stories of relevance to the Christian community, explores some new regulations for a consortium of Christian institutions of higher learning, stemming from controversy in the aftermath of the Supreme Court's ruling on so-called "same-sex marriage." Also, a large Christian ministry that is oriented toward college student has been in the news recently regarding its affirmation of a Biblical view of marriage as one man for one woman. And, a large group of United Methodists have met to affirm a Biblical view of sexuality.
3 - Body representing Christian colleges and universities revises membership policies
In attempting to resolve a controversy that was set in motion following the U.S. Supreme Court's Obergefell decision, the Council on Christian Colleges and Universities, which was formed, according to an article on the Baptist Press website, "four decades ago in common commitment to Christ-centered education and to preserve their right to hire only professing Christians," has issued new guidelines for membership.
The policy, proposed by a membership task force, includes six criteria that will be used by the Council to place schools in one of three categories: governing membership, associate membership, or collaborative partnership. Those in the governing membership category, which are the only ones who can vote, are those who hold to six tenets, according to the article: "Christian mission, institutional type and accreditation, cooperation and participation (dues), institutional integrity (financial ethics), employment policies, and Christian distinctives and advocacy." In that final area, there are four sub-points: "a required belief in God as Earth's creator (and a sustainability mandate), marriage as between a man and a woman, the worth of every human being, and the need for racial reconciliation."
The story states that, "Associate members must meet all requirements except for the second one -- meaning the category is for seminaries, Bible colleges, non-accredited schools, and undergraduate institutions without a full curriculum in the arts or sciences." Finally, collaborative partnerships must meet the first four criteria, but not the last two, so that type of schools will be allowed to change hiring practices to include people in same-sex marriages.
Board chairman Charles Pollard, president of John Brown University, wrote to CCCU presidents: "We believe that this document rightly articulates both the core and the breadth of the CCCU in a way that will make us the most effective witness and advocate for Christian higher education."
2 - Large Christian ministry affirms its support for Biblical views on sexuality
There have been some confusing developments over the criteria for employment of those who work for a large Christian organization, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, USA. A story on the WORLD Magazine website attempts to clear up the confusion, which was exacerbated by a TIME Magazine report that said that employees of InterVarsity were being fired for not adhering to Biblical beliefs on traditional marriage.
The ministry had released a document that affirmed its beliefs on a variety of areas concerning sexuality. According to the article, a policy paper was developed four years ago from students’ questions on the biblical perspective on homosexuality. The story says, "...InterVarsity leadership recognized that first step was insufficient and began work on the current document, which, Jao said, encompasses the whole of God’s design for human sexuality. In addition to the issue of same-sex attraction, the policy paper addresses premarital sex, divorce, sexual abuse, and more." "Jao" refers to Greg Jao, vice president and director of campus engagement for IVCF.
This policy statement is essentially a reaffirmation of beliefs on sexuality, according to Jao:
“We have always expected employees to reflect the ministry’s theological beliefs,” Jao said in a press release. “We recognize employees who disagree, or whose beliefs have changed over time, will leave employment because we have reiterated our beliefs.”He also pointed out that the TIME story was incorrect, since it had reported that employees were being fired for holding beliefs contrary to the policy.
Ed Stetzer, who holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College, and who is co-host of Breakpoint This Week, is quoted as saying, "But why is it news that evangelicals think their ministry staff should hold mainstream evangelical beliefs?” He added, “It’s because there is a new orthodoxy, and the old one just won’t do for many. The new orthodoxy says that you have to bend your beliefs to fit it. But InterVarsity has a different view—the mainstream evangelical view. And, such views do cost you today.”
1 - Well over 1,000 United Methodists meet and address sexuality issues
More than 1,700 United Methodists gathered in Chicago this past Friday in the inaugural meeting of the Wesleyan Covenant Association, which, according to UMC.org, is a new evangelical group of United Methodists, which "urged bishops and other church leaders to find a way to hold clergy accountable on matters of sexuality or prepare for a denominational split."
The article said that the "Association affirmed a statement by saying 'Amen' en masse." Some came to observe and did not vote.
The story states:
The association’s statement is addressed to the Commission on the Way Forward, which the Council of Bishops is still forming to review church polices on homosexuality and work toward church unity.
“We believe it is imperative for the commission to propose a plan that calls for accountability and integrity to our covenant, and restores the good order of our church’s polity,” the association’s statement said.
If the commission decides such a plan is impossible, the association says the group “should prepare a plan of separation that honors the consciences of all the people of the church and allows them to go forward in peace and good will.”The UMC's Book of Discipline continues to state that "homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching." However, when you look at the timeline, you can see that there are some in the denomination who do not respect that standard. The article outlined several flashpoints just this year:
Multiple conferences and two jurisdictions in the United States, which this summer passed non-binding resolutions urging United Methodists to ignore the Book of Discipline’s bans on same-sex unions and “self-avowed practicing” gay clergy.
Also, in June, the New York Conference commissioned and ordained four openly gay clergy.
And, bishops in the U.S. Southeastern Jurisdiction described such of acts of noncompliance as “divisive and disruptive.”
Plus, the Western Jurisdiction elected an openly gay bishop who is "married" to a deaconess.
The identity of who will serve on the Commission on the Way Forward, which was announced at this year's General Conference, in lieu of a vote to continue to affirm the Book of Discipline's statement on homosexuality, could be known soon, according to the article, which said, "The Council of Bishops executive committee announced Oct. 5 that it is notifying eight bishops, 13 other clergy and eight laity of their nomination to serve on the commission."