To the editor:
From where I sit as a philosophy professor at Gordon College, it is with the mixed emotions of sadness and relief that I watch the “outing” of my employer’s policy on hiring practices.
I am sad that this policy stands at all and that news of its existence is likely to cause more pain to and isolation in the Christian LGBTQ community. I am sad that while some requests to foster internal dialogue about this issue on our campus have been met, responses on the part of the Gordon administration have been too few and too slow. Rather than initiating such dialogue, too often there has been foot-dragging. I am sad that I work at an institution that believes that not talking about homosexuality and silencing stories of Christians dealing with their sexual identities is the way to bring healing and build community. I am sad that Gordon cannot lead the way amongst Christian colleges by entering into the painful communal work of crafting institutional policy that maintains the integrity of a vibrant, 21st century faith.
At the same time, it is with some relief that our hiring policy has been made public, since this (sadly) seems to be a way to get the administration to take seriously requests for dialogue and clubs devoted to exploring themes of sexual identity within a Christian context. It is also with some relief that those of us faculty who have felt embarrassed to admit to our gay friends that we work for Gordon can now use this opportunity to distinguish ourselves from the policy. Many, many times over the years that I have worked here, I have asked myself whether I should quit in protest over this discriminatory policy. In the end, I concluded that my resignation (or even a handful of resignations) would do absolutely nothing to change the policy. I am convinced that change must primarily come from within.
I am sad that this incident may be the first introduction some have to Gordon College. I would encourage those for whom this is the case to peruse the Facebook pages of onegordon and wearegordon, where you will find many heartfelt testaments of LGBTQ-identified students who have found deep friendships, intellectual growth and spiritual support here. Gordon is a frail community at this point, but not one without pockets of integrity, humanity, love and goodness. I do not expect anyone who does not know Gordon to take my word for it. And I am not trying to gloss over an ugly practice. We have done both our geographical community as well as our spiritual community of LGBTQ Christians harm, and it behooves us to win back the trust.
In the coming years, I am committed to working with students and colleagues to do just that. In the meantime, I ask those outside the Gordon community to do two things. First, please accept the fact that we do not all think alike here. Additionally, I would encourage you to reflect on whether and in what way any ties you currently have with Gordon may be either severed or strengthened.
In fact, I can see reasons for both economic sanctions (so to speak) and for asserting yourself (your views, your money, your actions) more actively into the community — depending on your situation. I am not writing this letter to either plead for your continued support of Gordon or to ask you to boycott the college. While I do not know what the best action you can take is, I do know that all of us at Gordon want Gordon to thrive, regardless of the degree of pain we have suffered working and studying here. Many of us believe that in order for such flourishing to happen, we need to do some humble soul-searching and take difficult practical steps. There are movements stirring within Gordon to do just that. Join us as you can.
Lauren Swayne Barthold
Associate professor of philosophy