No federal law, no state agency can compel Goshen College to amend its LGBTQ hiring policy. Only the school itself, in partnership with the Mennonite church, can effect such a change.
The time to explore that possibility is now. For that, you can thank Tabi Berkey.
Berkey resigned from her library job at Goshen College last week. She quit, at least in part, because she’s a lesbian and recently became engaged to be married.
None of that put her employment at risk — as long as she remained celibate.
The college addresses sexuality as part of its community standards. Since the Mennonite Church USA Confession of Faith considers sex “within the covenant of a marriage between a woman and a man,” the school expects employees to abide by church teaching.
So, technically, if you're lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer/questioning you can work at Goshen College and consummate your physical relationship, but only if you’re married to someone of the opposite sex. And only if you refrain from sex outside that marriage.
School leaders understand the essence of human sexuality. They acknowledge it in their community standards, which call sexuality “an integral part of our personalities, reflecting who we are as individuals.”
It continues: “To care for another person includes honoring and respecting that person as a sexual being. Sexuality cannot be separated from the other dimensions of our lives.”
Yet the school’s community standards insist on that very separation — you can teach at Goshen College or work in the campus library, but if you’re LGBTQ, you cannot express your sexuality.
Ultimately, when it comes to hiring, the school’s standards and practices contradict themselves.
That serves no one well. Talented teachers and administrators see the incongruity in the school’s standards and, because they’re LGBTQ, look elsewhere for work. Staff in same-sex relationships, like Berkey, hide something essential about themselves. And students get a warped sense of reality.
Absolutely — a Mennonite school should teach Mennonite beliefs. But at the same time, a liberal arts college should teach students to think critically.
Gay or straight, students cannot fully test their beliefs about sexuality as long as they encounter heterosexual faculty — or, worse, LGBTQ faculty forced to deny their own identities. Those students are in for a shock when they leave the sexually uniform world of Goshen College.
Students engaged the school in a conversation about its LGBTQ policies this spring. Administrators and board members also started watching Goshen’s sister school, Eastern Mennonite University, as it began a “listening process” on its same-sex hiring practices. Which is all good.
But when Tabi Berkey quit her job last week, she made it clear that Goshen College needs to revisit its LGBTQ employment policies now — no matter what happens anywhere else.
Either confirm that you believe there is only one valid form of sexuality, the exclusive, licensed heterosexual relationship advocated by the church, or acknowledge that sexuality takes many genuine forms. Just decide, and adjust your hiring practices accordingly.
Because you cannot legitimately insist that sexuality is integral to our lives, then ask your faculty and staff to deny their sexuality.