News (USA)

Harrisonburg’s Eastern Mennonite University expands non-discrimination policy to include married LGBTQs

Christian Parks said his group, EMU's Safe Space, was pivotal in changing the school's policy.
Christian Parks said his group, EMU’s Safe Space, was pivotal in changing the school’s policy.

Two American Mennonite universities, one of which sits in the foot hills of Harrisonburg, have updated their non-discrimination policy to include same-sex couples and transgender folks.

In an email sent out to all students today, Kay Nussbaum, Chair of Eastern Mennonite University’s Board of Trustees, and Loren Swartzendruber, EMU’s University President, said the policy change came after months of listening sessions with input from students, alumni and employees.

“… as we affirm the goodness of singleness, celibacy, and sexual intimacy within the context of a covenanted relationship (marriage) – our hiring practices and benefits will now expand to include employees in same-sex marriages,” read the email. ”The Board of Trustees and EMU leadership believe this is the right decision for Eastern Mennonite University as an institution at this time.”

Below is a copy of the updated hiring policy:

Eastern Mennonite University does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national or ethnic origin, sex, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity or any legally protected status. As a religious institution, Eastern Mennonite University expressly reserves its rights, its understandings of, and its commitments to the historic Anabaptist identity and the teachings of Mennonite Church USA, and reserves the legal right to hire and employ individuals who support the values of the college.

In the early 90′s, an employment policy was in place barring the hiring of people in same-sex relationships at the private institution, a legal policy because, as a private institution, they have the right to deny employment based on unprotected classes like LGBTQs. But at a recent national Mennonite gathering held in Kansas City, MI, a new policy for the broader faith opened the doors to a more accepting hiring practice for the school, albeit at odds with some in the faith.

At the convention, faith leaders agreed to continue their policy prohibiting pastors from performing same-sex marriages, but they also issued a resolution of Forbearance “that recognizes the diversity of perspectives in our church, and calls on us “to live in grace, love and forbearance” with one another.”

Andrea Wenger, Director, Marketing and Communications for EMU, explained it as the faith being asked to stay united while the broader faith-population continues to wrestle over the LGBTQ acceptance.

“There were people on both sides of the issue who had been raising concerns to leadership for years,” she said.

But it’s not just those who oppose LGBTQ equality within the faith that EMU is bucking against. The Mennonite Education Agency (MEA), an umbrella organizing group for Mennonite schools, continues to have an employment policy lacking protections for those in a same-sex relationship.

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