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The zero-sum game: Christian college may lose accreditation for Christian moral policy

Having accreditation is a big deal to a college. If a college does not have accreditation, students cannot transfer credits from that college elsewhere. Graduate schools and employers are likely to consider a degree from that college to be worthless. Students cannot take National Merit scholarships to that college. Students cannot get student loans or grants to go there. A non-accredited college is worse than a second class citizen in the world of higher education. A degree from such a school may well be considered worse than useless, at least for many purposes.

The threat of losing accreditation is therefore also an extremely big deal.

Now, the zero-sum game moves up to a new level: Christian colleges may start to lose their accreditation with regional accrediting agencies, and one college almost certainly will, if they refuse to allow their faculty and students to engage in homosexual sex acts.

Yep. That's what I said. The moral behavioral standards that, whether consistently enforced or not, are on the books at most remotely serious Christian colleges in the country now present a risk of loss of accreditation.

The attack is beginning with Gordon College in Connecticut. The regional accrediting agency, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, has given Gordon a year to back down on its policy that disallows "homosexual practice." The agency graciously allowed this grace period because Gordon said it would form a "working group" to (re)consider its policy.

Gordon was "outed" when its president signed a statement asking the U.S. government to exempt Christian colleges from an executive order that requires federal contractors not to discriminate on the basis of "sexual orientation." (The concept of "sexual orientation," for you non-initiates, is not confined in such legal contexts to the mere urge to have homosxual sex. It also includes actually doing so.) The college was reported to the accrediting body and has now been given a year to recant.

They may do so. A representative says that he believes the committee will consider that option--scrapping the policy altogether. The mind boggles: Will heterosexual fornication also then be allowed, or will only homosexuals be allowed to fornicate? Since Connecticut has homosexual "marriage" on the books, will homosexuals among Gordon's faculty and students be allowed to have sexual relations only if they obtain a "marriage" license, thus making Gordon entirely on-board in its policies with the charade of homosexual "marriage"? If Gordon has married student dorms, will homosexual couples have to be allowed to live in them? What about heterosexual adultery? If Gordon removes this particular "discriminatory" policy, will it have to allow all sexual sin? Oh, here's a good one: If the "discriminatory" policy against homosexual practice is scrapped, and if Gordon recognizes homosexual "marriage," will it be able to fire a male faculty member if he is "married" to another man and then has an on-going sexual relationship with another other man? Gosh, this business of non-discrimination gets really complicated, doesn't it?

It's to be hoped that Gordon will not cave. But one wants to know why they formed the working group instead of telling the NEASC to take its accreditation and...go pound sand. Perhaps they are hoping Jesus will return or the world will end in the next year and the whole thing will become moot.

Then again, there is this disturbing note: "[S]ome of the faculty members on the working group have been vocally opposed to Gordon College’s life and conduct policy." Wait, so Gordon, while having this policy and while having a president sufficiently bold to uphold it publicly, has faculty who openly support the morality of homosexual practice and oppose the policy? How did that happen? Don't Gordon faculty have to sign a statement of faith, and isn't there anything on it about this extremely urgent contemporary moral issue? How did they end up with this loud-mothed fifth column, all ready and waiting to be put on a "working group" when the accrediting agency put the screws on?

I should pause here and give credit where it is due: Gordon has in fact been standing up for its policy for some time now, under quite a lot of pressure. The college lost a contract that allowed it to use the Salem Old Town Hall. (Yes, the irony is pretty striking: This is a new witch hunt.) The college's student teachers have been barred from doing apprenticeships in at least some local public school districts because of the "discriminatory" policy.

Gordon didn't give up its policy in response to those punishments, so maybe it will stand firm now. But a regional accrediting agency definitely counts as the big guns. What Gordon should be doing as fast as possible is not forming a committee to ponder the policy (i.e., to ponder possibly ditching it) but rather finding an alternative accreditation route ASAP. I suggest they consider TRACS instead. It is the body that accredits Patrick Henry College. Last I checked (but don't quote me on this) TRACS still had some prestige drawbacks vis a vis a regional agency. The regional agencies are the "gold standard." I seem to recall that one can't take a National Merit scholarship at a school that does not have regional accreditation. But TRACS accreditation is recognized by the DOE, and there are definitely colleges that will transfer its credits.

How all of that cashes out with regard to teacher accreditation for education programs I don't know, but there are these verses about gaining the whole world and losing one's soul, so one's teacher accreditation program seems like pretty small potatoes in that context.

I do not wish to kick Gordon College while it's down, but I want to point out some things here about the attempt to play ball with the homosexual activists and the zero-sum game. Here is a part of a statement Gordon issued previously in defense of its policy (emphasis added):

In our statement of faith and conduct we affirm God’s creation of marriage, first described in Genesis, as the intended lifelong one-flesh union of one man and one woman. Along with this positive affirmation of marriage as a male-female union, there are clear prohibitions in the Scriptures against sexual relations between persons of the same sex.

It is important to note that the Gordon statement of faith and conduct does not reference same-sex orientation—that is, the state of being a person who experiences same-sex attraction—but rather, specifically, homosexual acts. The Gordon community is expected to refrain from any sexual intercourse—heterosexual or homosexual; premarital or extramarital—outside of the marriage covenant. There is currently much debate among Christians about the nature and causes of homosexuality, and about a faithful Christian response to same-sex attractions, but we acknowledge that we are all sinners in need of grace, all called to redeemed humanity in Christ.

We recognize that students at Gordon who identify as LGBTQ or experience same-sex attraction have often felt marginalized and alone, and recognize the pressing need for a safe campus environment for all students.

Notice anything? Yeah, that stuff. Um. First of all, what's with the alphabet soup? Gotta even get that "Q" in there. Does the author of the statement really have some deep meaning in mind for the difference between "queer" (or is it "questioning") and all the others? And what about that "T"? Does Gordon really welcome with open arms biological men who "identify" as women? Does it house them in its women's dorms? Does the act-orientation distinction even apply at all to "transgenders," whose entire identity-forming mechanism turns around how they present themselves to other people and whether or not other people play along with their confusion? Have Christians who unthinkingly mouth both the alphabet soup and the act-orientation distinction even thought about how it could possibly apply to the transgender movement?

Then there's the ritual breast-beating about how "marginalized" these people have felt. Then there's the code phrase "safe campus environment." If you have been breathing and watching the education world for the past ten years you know that "safe" is code for "accepting of open and proud homosexuality."

Now perhaps we know how it happened that Gordon has a faculty fifth column and doubtless loudly dissenting students as well (one of whom appears to be on the committee looking into the policy, though the student's position on the issue is my inference). They didn't understand the zero-sum game. They thought if they made a big deal about the act-orientation distinction, beat their breasts a bit about not "marginalizing" the poor, poor homosexuals, ignored all the problems raised for campus life in residential dorms from "not discriminating" on the basis of a desire to have sex with your roommate (who might prefer not to have a roommate who desires to have sex with him), and used the right code-words to show themselves kind and friendly to homosexuals, they would be left alone, not pressed further, and allowed to keep their policy of not officially endorsing homosexual sex acts.

That's not how it works, though, is it? Meanwhile, all that friendliness was bringing the Trojan horse within the gates.

It's time for Christians and Christian institutions to wise up and to toughen up. They will not leave you alone. So decide what is really right, really wise, and really true and then stick to that. Don't use code phrases. Don't try to be gay-friendly. Don't tailor your policies or even, for that matter, your rhetoric, in a hope of being thought moderate. Don't hire people for your Christian institution who are not on board with your actual policies. Be willing to be thought mean. Get a thick skin. Because they hate you. They are going to hate you until you are no longer recognizably Christian at all. So decide right now that you aren't going to give in at all. You might as well be hung for a sheep as for a lamb. Lean hard on your Christian institutional status (if you have it), make use of the alternative structures (such as alternative accrediting agencies) that have been set up precisely for those who don't follow the zeitgeist, and be willing to be despised and hounded. Because it's going to happen anyway until you give them every last thing they want.

That is the zero-sum game. If you don't get it now, you probably never will.

The heat will be on many, many Christian colleges if other regional accrediting bodies follow the example of the NEASC. A great many Christian colleges, some of them quite conservative, have regional accreditation and have managed thus far to tiptoe through the various minefields and keep their accreditation while keeping their Christian identity. But this will be a make or break issue. Other colleges need to be getting ready to resist, getting other accreditation as backup, and making contingency plans.

Our prayers should be with the principled people who remain at Gordon College.

Comments (9)

It's to be hoped that Gordon will not cave. But one wants to know why they formed the working group instead of telling the NEASC to take its accreditation and...go pound sand. Perhaps they are hoping Jesus will return or the world will end in the next year and the whole thing will become moot.

It is to be hoped that Gordon will do more than simply "not cave." It is to be hoped, rather, that they take the fight to the barbarians instead of waiting timidly inside their ivory walls for the inevitable onslaught.

If NEASC is doing it, then other regional groups are doing it or considering it. So Gordon should be out shaking the bushes to find allies for a counteroffensive. They should attack on multiple fronts, including both clean and above-board tactics and any underhanded tactics that don't involve directly sinning (like finding any personal skeleton-in-the-closet pressure points of members of the NEASC oversight team) as well as the possible counteroffensive claim "this team member is a biased observer (because they are pro-QBLTSGAMBNARC) and should be disqualified". The existence of other accreditation agencies provides a possible backup: what would NEASC do in the face of a mass walk-out in protest from allied schools? Attack the NEASC's own recognition as an accrediting agency, and insist that Gordon's status must "wait until that larger issue is settled." Potential lawsuits: an accreditation agency has to have federal recognition, which means that it has rules IT has to abide by, so it is subject to attack. Find a handy federal judge with the right reputation and bring suit (and again insist that even reconsidering Gordon's status before that lawsuit is decided is "premature"). And finally (but not last in time) the possibility of Congressional action forcing accreditation agencies to drop the issue should be explored (and threatened, even if it turns out not to be very likely. At least get a friendly Senator or two asking pointed questions of NEASC and force them to be circumspect about just how they go about down-checking someone's accredited status based on matters of "diversity of belief").

What Gordon should be doing as fast as possible is not forming a committee to ponder the policy (i.e., to ponder possibly ditching it) but rather finding an alternative accreditation route ASAP. I suggest they consider TRACS instead.

In addition to the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, Accreditation Commission and an "Independent Colleges" agency that might work. There is also Liberal Arts accreditation entity, but I guess they don't have DoE recognition.

Of course, Gordon should immediately remove from their committee any student or faculty member who is even a LITTLE wishy washy about their formal policy on the matter, (using all the appropriate parliamentary tricks possible: Professor X was too busy with other duties. Mr. K's academic standing was not satisfactory to represent the school. Administrator Z went on a well-earned and much needed sabbatical.)

Congressional action would be very interesting, though unlikely. The whole accreditation process is interesting. In theory, the accrediting agencies are private--rather like trade guild qualification organizations. That is the sort of thing I usually prefer to see the least possible government interference with. On the other hand, various federal benefits are already tied to accreditation, as mentioned in the post.

That Gordon would put people openly opposed to its policy on the working group is very troubling. My guess is that perhaps those whose hearts are in the right place are gambling on the outcome in which those people do not prevail in the working group, but their presence on the working group somehow influences the NEASC to believe that Gordon made a "good faith effort" to re-examine the policy and therefore lets Gordon get away with keeping the policy! That is definitely not going to happen. The year's grace period is clearly just to allow Gordon to have time to appear to do this voluntarily, but they are going to be forced to do it or lose accreditation. I think that that is quite clear.

It's a dicey business. Right now the relative independence of regional accrediting bodies is probably working in our favor to allow some pockets of freedom. SACS, the regional agency for the southern states, is less likely than the NEASC to impose this kind of faux "diversity" standard with respect to moral issues. If Congress or the DOE starts interfering more in what the regional agencies must or must not do in the vicinity of this issue, what is unfortunately more likely is that it will go the other way--namely, that the DOE will start requiring all the agencies to act like the NEASC!

Congressional action would be very interesting, though unlikely. The whole accreditation process is interesting. In theory, the accrediting agencies are private--rather like trade guild qualification organizations. That is the sort of thing I usually prefer to see the least possible government interference with. On the other hand, various federal benefits are already tied to accreditation, as mentioned in the post.

I would rather see no government involvement in accreditation. In fact, would prefer to see government get out of higher education almost entirely, with perhaps some slight relaxation of that standard for medical schools. But that's not going to happen any time soon. In light of that, I was thinking more of using a threat congressional action, rather than real legislative fixes. As far as the DoE goes, you are right that pushing an issue there might cause more evil in the long term than it helps in the short term (even if it might solve anything in the short term, which isn't terribly likely).

I haven't any concrete knowledge of how the DoE runs its "recognition" of accreditation agencies, but in theory they must have some sort of "objective" criteria, and one should be able to use those rules to push through a new accreditation entity that specifically includes "diverse" moral, spiritual, and religious views on such matters as gays (or abortion, or using drugs, or whatever). So a smart group of Christian colleges, if they cannot use TRACS, could start their own and (using carefully designed "diversity" words get DoE to recognize them. If and when the application bogs down, a well-placed congressional inquiry or two would keep them half-way honest unless they have DIRECT input from the White House, and that's very rare.

And, if worse comes to worse, an outright public campaign by Gordon and similarly situated schools to denigrate "accreditation by NEASC" with a mantra like "we wouldn't want to belong to any organization that doesn't believe in diversity enough to allow Christianity as a permissible standard" might help. We may indeed have to bite the bullet and admit that Christian schools are going to operate without federal grants and loans, without all the helps that accreditation gives, and just accept that in this arena being Christian means giving up first class citizenship until society can be brought to see its error.

Here's an ironic story about DoE recognition: There is an entity called the AALE, which is an alternative accreditation spin-off of the National Association of Scholars. It was specifically meant to avoid various forms of craziness that were feared in the 90's from regional accrediting agencies in areas like affirmative action and forcing schools to lower their academic standards. Patrick Henry College pursued both TRACS and AALE accreditation. The AALE refused to accredit them because of their "creationism" requirement for their faculty and because it was not satisfied that their faculty would have enough academic freedom. In other words, for more mainstream and (in a sense) secular academic reasons. TRACS accredited them. Subsequently the AALE got involved in a tussle with the DoE. By my recollection it was something to do with all the assessment nonsense, and my sympathies were wholly with the AALE. (I think they weren't on-board enough with the assessment craze.) The DoE derecognized them, while meanwhile TRACS, which was willing to accredit far more "narrow" Christian colleges, peacefully went on being recognized. AALE has never gotten back its DoE recognition.

Just one of the oddities of history.

By the way, I have thought of something that Christian colleges should do to try to avoid this situation where they hire people with allegedly only homosexual "orientation" who then become aggressive advocates of the agenda. In addition, obviously, to language in the statement of faith (which faculty must sign) condemning homosexual activity, they should include something like this:

"Our inclinations to sin do not form our identity. No one should form his identity around his particular inclination to sin, whatever it may be, including homosexual orientation."

Then, if someone "comes out" in an interview, draw his attention to that portion of the school's statement of faith and make it clear that, if hired, he will be expected to sign the statement in good faith and hence _not_ to go around telling everyone that this is his identity, that we need to show how accepting we are to people like him, and so forth. Tell him that more than simply refraining from actual homosexual acts is expected. It is also expected that he will not promulgate "gay identity" concepts or make a grievance towards the school out of the fact of his own sad affliction.

Then enforce that.

I remembered the AALE, but I did not know why they lost their DoE recognition.

I agree with your point about "Our inclinations do not form our identity" point. I would take the work-up against homosexual infection into the college and make it proactive in as many ways as possible. For one thing, in my opinion a Christian school ought to be able to say "as a teacher (or administrator), your employment here rests on your teaching and behavioral conformity to Christian standards, because "actions speak louder than words" and "when he is finished, the student will be like the teacher." Therefore, the college reserves the right to fire a teacher for behavior that has the appearance or is reasonably taken by members of the college community to be in conflict with Christianity. I.e. impose a "appearance of a conflict" standard. This employment rule would supercede any tenure.

Secondly, professors should not be getting tenure until they have been with the institution a LONG time. In this day and age, with facebook and other social media, as well as everything else that is available, it seems to me virtually impossible that you will have more than about a 0.1% rate of gays that do not "out" themselves during the non-tenure period. It just seems unlikely that a person who spends day in and day out for years in TODAY's generally accepting world, without once letting their true position come through around ANYONE connected to the college.

If Gordon thinks they are going to get a committee result that threads a narrow needle between accepting gays but not affirming immoral behavior that will satisfy NEASC, they are barking up the wrong tree. If, however, they are using their year to formulate an attack on the NEASC position itself, such as a frontal attack on the NEASC standard as violating diversity, (or any of 10 other approaches), that's a better strategy. Not likely to win, of course, but better anyway. They should also be using the time to plan what to do without NEASC accreditation.

Never heard of Gordon before this, but it seems to me that they are choosing an easy target to go after. Gordon on the face of it sounds like they're a much more traditional university than a 800lb gorilla like Liberty which, among other things, doesn't hesitate to fire professors who violate its moral code (which this accreditor would probably call closer to the Taliban than New England mainstream).

The best defense for Gordon would be a good offense. They should reach out to Liberty and other large universities with huge alumni bases and ask them to raise Hell with them in the media, Congress, etc. I bet they'd even go into a lawsuit with Gordon if Gordon were committed.

I think it's time for Christian schools to organize an alternative national accreditation association, one that would accredit (or not) schools from religious traditions across the board.

Michael B., what do you think of TRACS?

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