BOARD TAKES STAND ON HIRING POLICY, DIVERSITY

So, I have a blog about internalized oppression in the works (hey, I saw your eyes glaze over! Stop that! It’s exciting stuff!).

However, some news came up, and at the risk of being a one-trick pony, I rewrote the Record Article announcing Goshen’s non-decision decision on the hiring policy.

BOARD TAKES STAND ON HIRING POLICY, DIVERSITY

When the Goshen College Board of Directors met this past Friday and Saturday, the hiring policy was part of their discussions. They decided it would be unethical if they did not make any changes and chose to continue the conversation at their next meeting, especially because channels of conversation are in full swing in a much larger context – the Mennonite Church itself.

Jim Brenneman, GC president, addressed faculty and staff members Monday afternoon to provide a recap and welcome conversation about the Board of Directors’ meeting.

In regards to the hiring policy, the Board “determined that to honor the radical Anabaptist Mennonite heritage of Goshen, it is necessary and just to make a decision to welcome all onto the staff of Goshen,” said Brenneman. “No more restrictions based on sexual orientation or gender identity. We are in the middle of a larger conversation going on in the denomination. It is our firm belief that to make a decision now will contribute positively to the listening and discussion process.”

The executive board of Mennonite Church USA will meet in Harrisonburg, Va. at the end of this week and have promised to issue a statement to the larger church in response to recent activity. It is unclear what parameters that statement will have. Leadership councils in the Church’s area conferences will then meet in March.

“The Board expressed gratitude for the many letters and conversations,” said Brenneman, “with special gratitude toward the students and GC Open Letter, who have worked hard to make known their points of view in deliberate and gracious ways.”

According to Brenneman, every board member shared their personal views on the topic of equality within hiring practices.

He said not one member considered the topic without a personal connection, a face, attached to it, but he and the rest of the board acknowledged that they were still a group of people in positions of power considering policies that affected the lives of people whose voices were not represented.

“For instance, as a straight man,” said Brenneman, “I know that even if I have a friend or loved one who is lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or questioning, I still cannot hope to represent those voices, or understand the impacts of our policies on those in the LGBTQ community’s lives, wallets, homes, bodies, hearts, or health. It is essential for us to acknowledge that power differential and address it when discussing this policy. This is why the board asked several Mennonites who are members of the LGBTQ community to sit on the board and participate in this discussion and vote. It took a lot of bureaucratic work, but it was well worth it. These members will stay on, and the board will examine who else is underrepresented on our board, and work to remedy that. For example, the board will look at income level, education level, race, gender, physical ability, citizenship/documentation, and more. It’s time we really dig in and put our policies, representation, and practice where our hearts and values are.”

The Board of Directors, which meets three times per year, was previously made up of thirteen members from all over the country, including Ohio, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Texas, Florida, Kansas, Massachusetts and Michigan, as well as Goshen, has now added several new members, and will continue to add members.

They plan to revisit diversity in policy, representation, and practice when they meet again in June, and will each do a lot of soul-searching and research between now and then. We want Goshen College to be a positive leader “as more decisions are made in the larger framework” of the church, said Brenneman.

“The moment we choose love, we begin to move toward freedom.” – bell hooks

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4 thoughts on “BOARD TAKES STAND ON HIRING POLICY, DIVERSITY

    • Thanks, Patrick! This writing is so rejuvenating to engage in, yet so difficult, because the actions I write about seem so simple yet exist in a space so far from the current reality.

  1. What is so beautiful about these writings is what no less of a Mennonite hero than Jean Paul Lederach has spoken about in our circles as the role of prophetic imagination in peacemaking. You are able to access such a positive, gentle spirit to write on these deeply wounding topics, setting aside overtones of fear, in a way that clarifies how genuinely welcoming we could easily be, and how powerful that would be. It is the sacrifice of the artist to absorb that “easily” is “so far from reality” and in grace remain faithful to truth, a step beyond the fear and anger and pain. These writings are the long arc of the universe made into a visible path. Prophetic imagination. May it be so.

    • Thank you, Deb, for that reply. You really beautifully named the spirit of my intent. Thank you for reading, and for naming this process so elegantly.

      Especially this: “It is the sacrifice of the artist to absorb that ‘easily’ is ‘so far from reality’ and in grace remain faithful to truth, a step beyond the fear and anger and pain.”

      Much love,
      Jen

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