Dear Members of the Greensboro College Community:
I wish to speak to you today regarding the United Methodist Church’s decision this week not to ordain LGBTQ people or to allow the denomination’s ministers to officiate at same-sex marriages.
First, I understand the pain and hurt that many LGBTQ people in our community, and those who love them, are feeling. It is important that we as a community acknowledge that hurt. It also is important to remember that while we are a college of the church, we are not the church: The denomination’s decisions, whether or not you agree with them, will have no effect on day-to-day life at Greensboro College. The college will remain an open, inclusive, welcoming community that creates a safe space for all of its students, regardless of their backgrounds or orientations. We are motivated to do this because we are a college of the church, not in spite of the fact. All of our students, faculty and staff need to know they are welcome at Greensboro College in the spirit of open hearts, open minds, open doors, mutual respect, and abiding Christian love.
Second, I understand that the decision has raised some questions about the college’s relationship with the United Methodist Church, both now and going forward. As not everyone is familiar with the history and nature of the college’s relationship with the church, which dates back to our founding in 1838, it might help to review quickly. The college’s current strategic plan is based on three “pillars,” one of which is that we are a college of the church. What does that mean? I quote here from the strategic plan, which itself draws on language from the General Board for Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church:
The United Methodist Church is a connectional church, and at the heart of the connection is education. Since the original charge of the General Conference of the Church in 1820 to “establish literary institutions,” United Methodist-affiliated education is non-sectarian, open to all persons without restriction based on gender, race, religious preference, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status, and grounded upon a well-rounded liberal arts curriculum that enables and supports faith exploration but not dogmatic indoctrination. In the words of one of the founders of the Methodist movement, Charles Wesley, “to unite that so long disjoined, knowledge and vital piety.” Recent United Methodist literature uses the description of “Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors.” GC maintains that the institution exists at the intersection of faith and reason. Methodist colleges provide a supporting institutional environment for faith formation to educate and empower those students who of their own free will commit to becoming disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
It might seem difficult to reconcile this language with the denomination’s decisions earlier this week, and so some in our community are wondering whether the college’s relationship with the United Methodist Church can, and should, continue.
The short answer is that we don’t yet know. Greensboro College and all other UMC-affiliated educational institutions have been involved in a continuing discussion on the nature of United Methodist affiliation, and I expect that discussion only to grow in light of this week’s events. Any change in the nature of our affiliation would have to be approved by the Board of Trustees, which likely would do so only after long and careful consideration.
To sum up: While this week’s decisions might affect the nature of the relationship between the college and the United Methodist Church in the future, they will have no effect now or in the future on who we are as a learning community and how we interact with one another. While discussion of those decisions and that relationship continues, I would ask each of you, in the manner in which you are most comfortable, to seek knowledge and wisdom and to engage in the conversation as and when you feel comfortable doing so.
Think critically. Act justly. Live faithfully.
Lawrence D. Czarda, Ph.D.