ASHEVILLE, N.C. (BP) — Oklahoma Wesleyan University has become the second institution to withdraw from the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities after two member schools changed their hiring policies to include same-sex couples.
“We believe in missional clarity and view the defense of the biblical definition of marriage as an issue of critical importance,” said Everett Piper, president of the Bartlesville, Okla., school. “The CCCU’s reluctance to make a swift decision sends a message of confusion rather than conviction.”
Oklahoma Wesleyan’s Aug. 31 withdrawal comes six weeks after Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) and Goshen College changed their hiring policies. EMU is a founding member of the CCCU, and its president, Loren Swartzendruber, sits on the CCCU board.
CCCU’s board announced in August it would begin a consultation process with member presidents to “carefully and prayerfully determine” the next steps regarding EMU and Goshen’s membership. On Saturday, the CCCU board announced it would conclude the process on Sept. 21 with a special members-only conference call.
“The process has allowed the CCCU board to consider how to balance the needs of its diverse membership,” the board wrote in a statement. “In the last 30 days, the board has been fervently working to have personal conversations with each member president.”
According to the statement, CCCU’s board has contacted 90 percent of its member presidents so far and plans to talk to the remaining 10 percent in early September.
Member presidents who have already received their official call told WORLD News Service the council is headed toward moving EMU and Goshen to affiliate status — affiliates are non-voting members that pay minimal membership dues. Some schools have indicated this would be sufficient for them to remain in the council, but others have said they would immediately withdraw (the exact number remains unclear).
The Sept. 21 conference call will mark the first time member presidents have gathered since EMU and Goshen announced their policy changes on July 20. Some schools, including Union University, which withdrew earlier this month, had previously requested the opportunity for a group meeting to expedite the process.
Piper said the council has known for months the direction EMU and Goshen were heading, so he views its strategy of engaging in discussion as an unwillingness to defend the biblical definition of marriage. “In doing so CCCU has not adequately represented Oklahoma Wesleyan and our legal interests,” he said.
CCCU’s board acknowledged that not all schools agree with its deliberative process but added that it has “received overwhelming support” from most of its member institutions.
“We understand they must act in their institutions’ best interest and respect that decision,” the board wrote in reference to dissenting schools such as Union. “It is our prayer this issue will not further divide the CCCU, but rather result in clarifying our identity as an association and fostering supportive unity of each other in our respective missions and calling from the Lord.”
Piper called the decision to withdraw a difficult one, but said it was done with the support of the school’s faculty, staff and trustees. He said Oklahoma Wesleyan would confer with other like-minded schools, including Union, to discuss its best path forward.