Gordon College Gay Rights Stand Causes Uproar

Dr. Michael Lindsay signed a letter on hiring practices which affected relationships on campus, with nearby cities, and the regional college accrediting agency

The school is grounded in conservative Christian beliefs. At the campus entrance, on a sign between two granite pillars, the school spells out its mission to instill “Christian character” in students. “I’m OK in civil society for there to be civil unions, insurance rights, domestic partnerships, all those kinds of things,” Lindsay said. “But the difference here I think we need to pay attention to — this is a religious institution that presumably might be asked to betray one of its core convictions.”

 

WENHAM, Mass. (AP) — D. Michael Lindsay thought he was on safe political ground when he signed the letter.

President Barack Obama was about to expand job protection for gays employed by federal contractors. Under the proposed changes, faith-based charities with federal grants worried they could lose the right to hire and fire according to their religious beliefs. Religious leaders flooded the White House with pleas to maintain or broaden the exemption.

Among them was one endorsed by Lindsay, president of Gordon College, a small evangelical school, and 13 evangelical and Roman Catholic leaders.

In the end, Obama left the existing exemption in place. But it was no victory for Lindsay.

His stand last July came at a cost — to him and the school — that he never anticipated: broken relationships with nearby cities, the loss of a key backer for a federal grant, a review by the regional college accrediting agency, and campus protest and alumni pushback over whether the school should maintain its ban on “homosexual practice” as part of its life and conduct standards.

“I signed the letter as a way of trying to show my personal support,” Lindsay said during an interview at the Wenham campus, about 25 miles north of Boston. “Obviously, if I had known the response that in particular Gordon College would receive, I wouldn’t sign.”

Lindsay had learned the hard way just how much gay rights had been dividing members of his own community and driving a wedge between his school and local communities.

Gordon is among the many conservative religious institutions struggling to find their place in a landscape rapidly changing in favor of gay rights. Their view of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is being challenged not only from outside, but also from within their own faith communities, and once-comfortable partnerships with public organizations are being re-evaluated according to new terms.

After coming under fire for its ban on hiring faculty in same-sex relationships, Eastern Mennonite University in Virginia decided this year to delay a decision on whether to uphold the policy, which means it won’t be enforced for now. World Vision, a Christian international relief agency based in Washington State, said last March it would hire employees in gay marriages, but quickly backtracked after drawing condemnation from evangelical leaders and losing thousands of donors. At several evangelical colleges, students have formed advocacy groups for gay acceptance, such as OneWheaton, at Wheaton College in Illinois.

Lindsay’s support for an exemption from a civil right for gays unleashed long-simmering campus tensions over the school’s assertion that it has created a safe place for lesbian and gay students, while maintaining a conduct policy that singles them out. The school bars sex outside of marriage for everyone in the Gordon community, while also specifically banning “homosexual practice.” OneGordon, a group for gay students, alumni and their allies, is now pressing the college to eliminate the language.

“There should be the same sexual ethic for LGBT and heterosexual students,” said Paul O. Miller, an alumnus and co-founder of OneGordon.

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