Well that didn’t take long. Not long at all.
In fact it took a depressingly short period of time. Blink and you’d miss it.
Trinity Western University blinked after all.
Faced with the dilemma of its law students no longer being recognised as accredited by their professional organisations, Trinity Western University, Canada’s largest private-funded Christian tertiary institution, has dropped its requirement that its students sign a covenant to maintain biblical sexuality standards while in attendance.
In a report yesterday in The Christian Post the university’s board announced it would scrap the requirement for its four thousand students.
TWU recently lost a Supreme Court case in Canada in which the Law Society of Upper Canada’s refusal to recognise the qualifications of TWU’s students, on the basis of its covenant agreement, was upheld.
The society cited concerns that TWU’s sexuality covenant would hinder: “equal access to the legal profession, diversity within the bar, and preventing harm to LGBTQ law students”.
In other words, TWU’s law students would be denied access to the public square in any official capacity within the legal profession, given the university’s stance.
The society claimed that students who wished to attend TWU – and could only attend TWU,(a dubious proposition in itself) – would be hampered in their quest to become lawyers, by their refusal to sign the covenant.
So, faced with a moral dilemma, one which would have cost them greatly, there was little surprise in what happened next.
But be reassured (or not), by the words of university President, Robert Kuhn:
“Let there be no confusion regarding the Board of Governors’ resolution; our Mission remains the same. We will remain a Biblically-based, mission-focused, academically excellent University, fully committed to our foundational evangelical Christian principles. We will continue to be a Christ-centered community; one that is defined by our shared pursuit of seeking to glorify God by revealing His truth, compassion, reconciliation and hope to a world in need.”
Kuhn went on:
“But let’s be clear. This thing is too big to fail. If we hold to our position our staff could lose their livelihoods, their mortgages would be under threat, and our ongoing relationship with an ever increasingly hostile and secular state would be untenable.”
Actually I made that last bit up. But underneath the cant of Kuhn’s official piety, that reality lurks like an iceberg, ready to sink every Christian education organisation that fails to sign up to the Sexular Age.
There will be plenty of glee among those who are positioning themselves for further pushes against private Christian organisations in these areas.
And plenty of dismay among many of the four thousand students who signed up to the covenant because they believed, against their better instincts as they now discover, that there was a swathe of brave, mature, strong-spined Christian leaders heading their university who could show them a way to navigate an increasingly hostile culture.
Turns out there is not.
And turns out it could be a pyrrhic victory anyway.
For while the board is busy patting itself on the back that it’s both managed to save its skin in the face of a hostile culture, and stay faithful to its witness (anyone spot the problem?), the attorney who pushed for TWU to lose its accreditation says the issue has not gone away.
In praising TWU’s decision as “a very positive move” Michael Mulligan, according to the Post report, cautioned that “if teachers and staff at the proposed law school are still required to sign the covenant, it could still pose a threat to accreditation”.
“To the extent that the university would still wish to fire or discipline staff members for being involved in consensual same-sex relationships, they may still have a serious issue about whether it would be in the public interest to grant them approval.”
Ah, the old (false) idea that if you throw a sop to a tyrant he will leave you alone. That’s plainly not going to be the case at TWU. If you take any warmth from the guy who tried to shut you down calling your latest plan “a very positive move”, then you shouldn’t be on the board of any organisation.
For a while there TWU was held up as an example of what a Christian organisation would look like if it refused to blink in the face of the Sexular Age. For a while.
Look, I’ve never attended a Christian educational institution, and I foresee that it’s hard to hold to such covenants in our modern, individualistic age. But if you’ve built your reputation on it, and it’s an issue of conviction, it looks pretty shabby, and not the least bit cowardly, to cave in just because the state threatens you.
What happens next? Well, for one, don’t get killed in the stampede as other organisations follow suit. This simply proves that when the culture says “Jump!” those Christian organisations with the most to lose (in this life at least), will say “How high?”
President Kuhn concluded by stating:
“The decision will successfully position us to better fulfil the TWU Mission. That mission is to ensure the financial and social success of the university, the career and individual fulfilment of our students, and to keep the government off our backs for the time being at least.”
Actually, I made up the second sentence of that statement as well. Only the first sentence is what Kuhn said.
But I bet you didn’t blink when you read it.