From the Chair of the Board and the President
Last week a group of current students began a series of peaceful demonstrations on campus regarding a variety of concerns they have about ENC’s relationship with members of the LGBTQ+ community. We respect the right of our students to express concerns freely and commend their commitment to seeking to ensure that the ENC community cares for all its members, as bearers of the image of God. On Monday, May 3, we received a petition that outlines their specific concerns and requests. As word of the student protests has spread to ENC’s broader constituencies, other members of the ENC community have begun to respond with their own stories and perspectives about ENC’s policies and practices related to human sexuality.
This brief letter will not begin to respond to all the concerns or answer all the questions that have been raised. These are complicated issues about which reasonable, well-informed people can disagree. These are complex questions that are dividing the Christian church around the nation and around the world. Even those who affirm the authority of Scripture and the Lordship of Jesus Christ often arrive at profoundly different conclusions about sexual ethics and the LGBTQ+ community. The conversation that our students opened up for us last week is an important one, but it is not remotely unique to Eastern Nazarene College – and it is not one that leads easily or quickly to anything approaching consensus.
In spite of how sensitive these issues are and how difficult the conversations (and ultimately the decisions) may be, we offer these foundational commitments as anchoring points for the dialogue of the coming days:
- Every member of this community matters. Regardless of race, color, creed, gender, political affiliation, theological persuasion or sexual orientation, we affirm every member of the ENC family as a person who is created in the image of God and is loved and died for by his son Jesus Christ. As a result, every member of this community is to be treated with love, respect, and graciousness. Always.
- We will listen to and learn from the experiences of our LGBTQ+ students and community members. We will find ways to understand more fully your perspectives and stories so that we can more fully be a community that demonstrates God’s grace and truth to all. A first step will be the careful consideration of the submitted petition by both the Board of Trustees and the administration.
- As a Christian academic community, we value the exchange of diverse perspectives and ideas. Rather than discussing controversial issues only in our own echo chambers, we welcome the spiritual, intellectual, and relational growth that comes when we hear all sides of a debate, consider and evaluate the evidence, and prayerfully and thoughtfully arrive at conclusions. We will listen to each other. We will honor and respect those who hold different views. We will be teachable and humble.
- As a college that is sponsored and supported by the Church of the Nazarene, we will be grounded in the Scriptures, informed by Christian tradition and history, and accountable to the theological commitments and oversight of our denomination.
We serve this College because we believe in its Christ-centered educational mission and value this diverse community. ENC is not perfect, but we wholeheartedly believe that our mission is still worth pursuing and our community is still worth building. Last week’s student protests and the ensuing conversations have highlighted some important work we need to do. We promise you our best efforts as we guide that work, and ask you to pray that God’s grace will intervene when those efforts are inadequate to the task. We welcome your questions and will do our best to keep you informed as these conversations move forward.
In these challenging days, may we all seek to emulate the encouragement that comes from Scripture: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Colossians 3:12-14).
With a heavy heart for those who are hurting…and resolute hope for our shared future,
Chairperson, Board of Trustees