From a post earlier this month (Nov.8, 2011) Dr.A. Mohler compares and contrasts the recent directions of two colleges with traditional ties to Southern Baptist conventions. While one college (Mercer Univ.) has moved further away from its Christian roots, the other (Shorter Univ.) has moved closer to its Christian roots. And the issue that has occasioned these moves? What else but homosexuality. Mohler not only reports on these interesting trends, but draws out some important lessons as well. They are important not just for Christian higher education but also for all levels of Christian education. Here are just a few of his comments. Read the full post at the link above.
Shorter University and Mercer University are institutions of higher education in Georgia, and both have been historically related to the Georgia Baptist Convention — the state’s largest Baptist group. Both schools have been in the news in recent days over the issue of homosexuality. Seen together, the actions taken by the schools point backwards to critical decisions made in the past, forward to issues that will be faced by every college, and directly to the present, where the future is taking shape before our eyes.
At the end of October, the trustees of Shorter University, located in Rome, Georgia, adopted a series of statements intended to protect the Christian commitments of the university. Faculty are to operate within the guidelines, which include both articles of faith and a “personal lifestyle statement” that includes an affirmation that the Bible forbids “premarital sex, adultery, and homosexuality.” Shorter President Donald Dowless said that the statements represent “a continuing affirmation of our Christ-centered mission.”
Within days of that decision, the administration of Mercer University, located in Macon, Georgia, announced that it was changing its personnel policies to allow for coverage of domestic partnerships involving homosexual employees. Mercer President Bill Underwood said that the new policy “brings Mercer into line with other leading private universities in our region, including Emory, Duke, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest, Tulane, Furman, Rollins, Elon, and Stetson.”
3. The issue of homosexuality now presents an unavoidable test of conviction for Christian institutions of higher learning. The pressure to normalize homosexual relationships and behaviors will be strong, and the cost of resisting this pressure will be steep.
The moral revolution on the issue of homosexuality has occurred with unprecedented speed. In a single generation, this moral revolution has produced nothing less than a moral reversal. What had been condemned by society (homosexuality) is now officially normalized, and what was previously normalized (the moral judgment against homosexuality) is now condemned. Adherence to the Bible’s authorization of only one context for sexual activity — monogamous heterosexual marriage — is now considered a radical and regressive moral judgment.
The pressures faced by Christian colleges and universities (along with seminaries and private Christian schools of all sorts) will come from the academic guilds, accrediting agencies, student advocates, and the government, among others. Capitulation on this issue will be the admission price required for full acceptance by the secular academy, and the shape of full capitulation is not yet even clear. Where same-sex marriage is legalized, a host of other challenges will come. Over time, the issue of homosexuality may well represent the greatest challenge to religious liberty of our times.
Mercer University and Shorter University represent opposite trajectories on the landscape of American education. Given the decisions made by these two schools in recent days, Mercer will receive the applause of the secular world, while Shorter will bear derision. The church had better take a good look at these two trajectories and understand what is at stake.
What comes quickly into view is the tragic cost of losing one school, and the necessary cost of recovering another.