Can you share some of the specifics from the outcomes of the Working Group and other discussions this past year regarding how Gordon cares for all its students?
The following improvements have been implemented since July and will now be part of our regular services through Student Life:
In addition, the College will undertake the following enhancements over the coming months for implementation in the 2015-2016 academic year (timing and scope dependent on budget and resources available):
What was the purpose of the working group formed last fall?
Gordon established an ad-hoc working group to assist the College’s leadership in thinking through a variety of issues surrounding LGBT students at Gordon. Modeled on a working group of trustees and campus representatives from a decade ago, this group included four representatives from each of the following campus constituencies: students, faculty, staff, administrators and trustees. The individuals chosen also included several Gordon alumni and parents, and individuals who were interested in fully exploring Gordon’s options regarding community standards on sexuality. An outside facilitator led the group during regular meetings, which ran from September through February.
Over several months, the group met with different stakeholders (including alumni and supporters) and discussed various dimensions of Gordon’s current practices and protocols as they relate to homosexuality. The group, along with the full faculty, were invited to read a number of books and articles on various issues surrounding this topic and to consider the insights of outside experts as well. Those trustees and administrators who were part of the group reported back on their observations and experiences with the full Board of Trustees at its winter meeting in February. The primary goal of the group was mutual understanding so that the College’s leaders could think through this complex subject from various perspectives with clarity and integrity. The Working Group hosted several listening sessions with interested constituents, and that may have been some of their most important contribution to this overall process.
How did the Working Group submit its findings and recommendations to the Board of Trustees?
With the guidance of an outside facilitator, the Working Group invited significant input from panel groups of students, staff, and faculty. They also received confidential input from individual members of our campus community. In addition to the information that trustee representatives shared with the full Board of Trustees at their winter meeting, every member of the Working Group was invited to offer their written recommendations and input directly to the full Board. The Board of Trustees paid careful attention to the insights of the Working Group, and College’s leadership team has been grateful for the candor, care, and wisdom that community members provided.
It should be noted members of the Working Group held diverse convictions at the start of the process, and at the end, diverse convictions remained. The Working Group reflected to a large degree the differing positions held by members of the campus community on the topic of homosexuality and Gordon’s policies regarding sexuality, and the larger debate within the broader church community. The Board was sensitive to those varying positions and clearly recognizes that the campus and Gordon’s constituents are not of one mind on this topic.
Did the Trustees discuss the College’s institutional positions regarding traditional Christian theology and teachings on human sexuality?
It is fair to say that Gordon College and its leadership have engaged the issues around sexuality and the College’s voluntary standards for community behavior with a degree of comprehensiveness, thoughtfulness, and intentionality that is unprecedented in our history. Part of the goal of this effort was to enable the Gordon community to more clearly define unity around the convictions we share even as we recognize that differences remain. Moreover, conversations that have taken place over the last nine months will continue as part of a larger educational process that continues to reflect both grace and truth.
The Board did discuss and unanimously reaffirmed the College’s historic, theological conviction regarding biblical teaching around human sexuality and behavior, and did not make a change to the College’s Life and Conduct Statement. At the same time, the Board believes that a fuller statement on the College’s understanding of sexuality should be articulated, particularly as it relates to our mission as a Christian educational institution, and they have begun work toward this objective. Many of the insights gleaned over the last nine months will be incorporated into this statement, but it will be broader and more inclusive of larger issues related to historic Christian teaching and contemporary views of sexuality.