Gordon College President Says Campus Issues Go Deeper Than “Homosexual Practice”

Image: Jason Grow
Image: Jason Grow

Since July, Michael Lindsay, the 42-year-old president of Gordon College near Boston, has faced the firing line. Due to public allegations that his college supports discrimination against LGBT students and faculty, Lindsay spent much of the past five months defending Gordon’s long-standing policy calling students and faculty to refrain from sex outside Christian marriage.

Earlier in 2014, Lindsay and other Christian leaders signed a letter supporting a religious exemption from the presidential executive order prohibiting employment discrimination for sexual orientation and gender identity in the federal government and for federal contractors. The executive order closely mirrors the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a bill that has been hung up in Congress since Senate approval in November 2013. ENDA includes a broad exemption for religious organizations. President Obama’s executive order, signed in July, does not.

After the letter to Obama became public, the Massachusetts cities of Salem and Lynn severed ties with Gordon. Lindsay was subject to extensive criticism, including from Gordon alumni. The college’s accrediting association began asking questions about its ban just as Gordon launched a new campus-based working group to hold dialogue on its policy. Lindsay spoke recently with Timothy C. Morgan, CT senior editor of global journalism (and a Gordon alumnus), about the working group, how Gordon responds to LGBT students, and leading in the crux of crisis. (Lindsay sits on Christianity Today’s board of directors.)

What’s motivating this new working group about your policy on homosexual behavior?

We need a way in which we as a community can talk about this issue and how Gordon ought to respond. The working group is not being asked to produce recommendations or reports. The group will enable us to : Are there changes to the practices and protocols of the college that would allow us to affirm our evangelical identity and be as pastorally sensitive as possible?

Why did you sign the letter asking for a religious exemption to a federal ban on workplace discrimination?

For a long time, Gordon has supported the right of faith-based organizations to set the conditions of employment at their institutions. Gordon is not a federal contractor. I signed in support of faith-based organizations that are federal contractors. I’m gratified that President Obama maintained the 2002 executive order, which allows faith groups with federal contracts to use religious belief in hiring. It was put in place by President Bush and basically gave the right to faith-based organizations to “hire for mission.”

The Gordon statement in question uses the term “homosexual practice.” Does that cover everything, including handholding by same-sex couples?

Gordon has never been a place that has a master list of dos and don’ts. The wider question being asked is, Does Gordon theologically treat same-sex sexual union as sin? The answer is yes. We don’t see a place in the Bible where God appears to bless same-sex sexual union. The language of homosexual practice is really speaking to the arc of a relationship that leads up to sexual consummation.

We take seriously the challenges of our brothers and sisters who have same-sex attraction. We uphold the idea that same-sex attraction is not to be acted upon in the life of the Christ follower. Some within American evangelicalism and even within the Gordon community don’t share that conviction. But that is the theological position of the institution.

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SOURCE: Christianity Today
Timothy C. Morgan