EMU Updates Non-Discrimination Statement

On July 16, 2015, Eastern Mennonite University Board of Trustees met to review the non-discrimination statement that has been under review. The trustees passed by majority vote an update to EMU’s non-discrimination statement as follows:

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, EMU 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 university.

The university’s hiring practices and benefits will now expand to include employees in same-sex marriages.

The decision comes following a broad-based listening process in the 2013-14 academic year. During the process, university stakeholders – students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors — engaged in conversation and discernment around the hiring of people in same-sex covenanted relationships. The board decision also follows recent discussion and actions taken at Mennonite Church USA Assembly in Kansas City, Missouri.

“As always, EMU’s hiring processes will continue to focus on hiring individuals who are the best fit for the position for which EMU is recruiting, and who are committed to EMU’s mission and core values,” said Kay Brenneman Nussbaum, board chair.

“This decision is in keeping with our commitment to non-discrimination and our mission as a Christ-centered, liberal arts academic institution,” continued Nussbaum. “Our education is grounded in Mennonite/Anabaptist values, and we believe people in same-sex covenanted relationships are valued members of our learning community with equal rights to standard benefits.”

President Loren Swartzendruber assured EMU employees at a July 20 gathering: “In making this decision, the board affirmed EMU’s strong commitment to our relationship with Mennonite Church USA even while the denomination continues its discernment.”

Since hiring practices of those who are part of Mennonite Education Agency are left to individual institutions, EMU’s formal relationship with the broader church remains unchanged.

Frequently asked questions

Why is EMU changing this policy?
This decision is in keeping with our commitment to non-discrimination and our Christ-centered core values. Our decision is to update our non-discrimination statement for employment policy and practice.

Who establishes the university’s hiring practices?
The EMU Board of Trustees has the authority to set policy for the institution. Many human resources practices and policies are set by the administration. This policy change is within the purview of the board.

How does this change hiring practices?
Our hiring practices and benefits will now expand to include employees in same-sex marriages. Our hiring processes are focused on hiring the people who best enable us to live out our core values and mission.

Would EMU be the first Christian college or university to hire persons in same-sex covenanted relationships?
No. Many colleges in the Catholic and mainline Protestant Christian traditions allow for same-sex persons to be employed. In addition, some colleges have adopted a “don’t ask, don’t tell” practice.

Did the recent Mennonite Church USA resolutions at Kansas City have an impact on the board’s process or decision?
Out of respect for the denomination, EMU wanted to provide time for the next steps in the church’s discernment process before making this decision. Actions taken by delegates at the convention were considered in the board’s deliberations.

Did the recent Supreme Court decision impact the board’s decision?
This decision comes out of careful discernment following many years of conversations and particularly as a result of our listening process. From January to June of 2014, the EMU Board of Trustees engaged in a formal listening process to hear the many and varied perspectives among EMU students, employees, alumni and donors around hiring practices of those in same-sex covenanted relationships.

How does this decision relate to the university’s relationship with the church?
We remain committed to a strong relationship to Mennonite Church USA even as we acknowledge the diversity of opinion on this issue. We are committed to the broader church and seek grace as people with differences of opinion and interpretation of Scripture continue discernment. As a confessional (not creedal) church, Mennonite Church USA has never had, nor demanded, complete agreement on every article in the Confession of Faith.