College accreditation: Please God - or please man?

Friday, October 3, 2014
Michael F. Haverluck (

Accredited or not accredited … that is the question. Keeping to its biblical code of behavior as a Christian college since 1889, Gordon College has now been given an ultimatum by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC): be an accredited academic institution by accepting “homosexual practice” or stick to its Christian teachings on sexual behavior and be unaccredited.

Gordon College and NEASC verticalGordon College will be trying to convince the NEASC over the next 12 to 18 months during a review period that its policy conforms to the new thinking sweeping the education system — one that embraces and normalizes homosexual behavior on campus.

Prepping for its September 2015 meeting with the NEASC, a “working group of 20 representative trustees, faculty, administrators, staff and students” will prepare and submit a review of the process and its outcomes, which includes indoctrinating campus members in the “proper” way to respond to homosexual behavior. The document to be issued to the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education must primarily prove one thing:

“[The review must] ensure [Gordon College’s] ability to foster an atmosphere that respects and supports people of diverse characteristics and backgrounds, consistent with the Commission’s Standards for Accreditation,” reads a joint statement produced by the Wenham, Massachusetts-based college and the NEASC.

Scrutiny of campus worldviews and attitudes toward the LGBTQ community escalated fairly recently after Gordon College president D. Michael Lindsay signed a letter along with other academic and religious leaders asking for a religious exemption from President Barack Obama’s executive order that banned discrimination based on sexual orientation. Repercussions were immediate, as the town hall in Salem quickly canceled Gordon College’s contract to use its facility when they found out about Lindsay’s request.

According to the NEASC, it assured Gordon College that if it doesn’t alter its policy, “the organization won’t be rushing to withdraw the school’s accreditation;” however, the NEASC controls whether federal funding will be made available to the college.

Related commentary by Dr. Michael L. Brown:
Gordon College, don't sell your soul for secular accreditation 

Putting things into perspective

Stand to Reason, led by founder and president Greg Koukl, gets to the bottom of this accreditation issue.

The organization dedicated to equipping Christians to share God's wisdom and values in the public square made it quite clear exactly what’s at stake.

“If they do not change the standards for sexual behavior in their ‘life and conduct statement’ (which prohibit ‘sexual relations outside of marriage’ and ‘homosexual practice’) they will lose their accreditation,” explained Stand to Reason's Amy Hall.

According to a joint NEASC-Gordon College statement, the association’s higher education commission met last week and “considered whether Gordon College’s traditional inclusion of ‘homosexual practice’ as a forbidden activity” is in violation of the commission’s accreditation standards. It states that the review will be conducted “to ensure that the College’s policies and procedures are non-discriminatory.”

Attempting to explain the 18-month period allotted to Gordon College, the NEASC higher education commission president said it was given because the college’s policy is “deeply embedded in the culture of the college” and such things “don’t change overnight.”

Hall does not believe that this timeframe is as generous as it’s been described when taking the policy’s roots into consideration.

“How reasonable of the commission to give Gordon College 18 months to come to terms with overturning the thousands-of-years-old Christian view of acceptable sexual behavior,” Hall jests. “This 18-month reprieve is nothing but theater, of course. Gordon College will not convince the commission their standards are ‘non-discriminatory.’”

Hall believes Gordon College is exercising an act of futility in its attempt for accreditation.

“Gordon College will explain the difference between behavior and identity, between a person with same-sex attractions who agrees with the biblical standards and one who doesn’t, and the difference between banning a person because of his sexual orientation and banning particular behaviors among all students that go against the biblical view,” Hall argues. “And then the commission will reject it.”

Hall is quite sure that this will be the course of action taken and explains why.

“How do I know this?” asks Hall, who is based in Stand to Reason's headquarters in Signal Hill, California. “Because this is what happened earlier this year when Gordon College publicly argued for the ‘right of faith-based institutions to set and adhere to standards which derive from our shared framework of faith.’ That controversy ended with the termination of their city contract to maintain Salem’s historical Old Town Hall and their student teachers being removed from public schools.”

Discrimination redefined

At the time the college was banned from the town hall it stated its beliefs, which it considered non-discriminatory.

“In our statement of faith and conduct we affirm God’s creation of marriage, first described in Genesis, as the intended lifelong one-flesh union of one man and one woman,” Gordon College officials maintained. “Along with this positive affirmation of marriage as a male-female union, there are clear prohibitions in the Scriptures against sexual relations between persons of the same sex.”

Gordon College went through lengths to assure that it does not treat homosexuals any differently than heterosexuals when it comes to sexual sin.

“It is important to note that the Gordon statement of faith and conduct does not reference same-sex orientation — that is, the state of being a person who experiences same-sex attraction — but rather, specifically, homosexual acts,” the college pointed out. “The Gordon community is expected to refrain from any such sexual intercourse — heterosexual or homosexual; premarital or extramarital — outside of the marriage covenant.”

It acknowledges the hot-topic social issues tied to homosexuality.

“There is currently much debate among Christians about the nature and causes of homosexuality, and about a faithful Christian response to same-sex attractions, but we acknowledge that we are all sinners in need of grace, all called to redeemed humanity in Christ,” the statement continues. “We recognize that students at Gordon who identify as LGBTQ or experience same-sex attraction have often felt marginalized and alone, and recognize the pressing need for a safe campus environment for all students.”

Hall contends there’s no satisfying the NEASC.

“That wasn’t enough then, and it certainly won’t be enough now,” Hall asserts. “But it should be. Setting standards or sexual behavior is not the same as discrimination against people because of their sexual orientation — it’s not discrimination against singe people because of their heterosexual orientation, and it’s not discrimination against gay people because of their homosexual orientation.”

She insists that there is a definite double-standard going on — one that is rarely reported by the mainstream media that embraces the LGBTQ community.

“Consider this: I can think of three names off the top of my head right now of people who have same-sex attractions (and are open about it) who support the boundaries Christianity sets around sexuality and write for esteemed and popular conservative evangelical Christian ministries and/or whose books I recommend: Nick Roen, Sam Allberry, and Wesley Hill,” Hall shared. “No one is interested in kicking them out of anything because of their same-sex attractions, because that is not the issue. The issue is whether or not they subscribe to and live by the biblical view of sexuality, not their sexual orientation. There is a relevant distinction between the two.”

Hall contends that part of the strategy behind the homosexual agenda is to blur the lines of the argument so that the LGBTQ community continues to get special legal privileges in the names of tolerance, anti-discrimination and civil rights.

“Therefore, just as having a sexual behavior standard for people with opposite-sex attractions is not an act of discrimination against heterosexual people, so having the same standard for people with same-sex attractions is not an act of discrimination against homosexual people,”  Hall reasons. “But the commission won’t see this because our culture is no longer capable of making a distinction between ‘sexual identity’ and behavior.”

According to Hall, it’s all downhill for Christian nonprofit organizations, as he believes they will continue to have their beliefs and Christian traditions trampled as LGBTQ “rights” turn into privileges.

“If Stand to Reason still has tax-exempt status within five years, I will be very, very surprised,” Hall concedes.

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