(By Tim Funk, The Charlotte Observer). A Christian college in the N.C. mountains that’s long been associated with the Billy Graham family is in turmoil over the school’s insistence that faculty and staff sign and live in accordance with a new document that opposes same-sex marriage and abortion.
Montreat College’s “Community Life Covenant,” which was recently added to faculty and staff handbooks, uses loftier language and includes many widely admired tenets like “be people of integrity” and “seek righteousness, justice and mercy.”
What’s become controversial are those parts of the covenant that expect those who work at the school to affirm “the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman” and the “worth of every human being from conception to death” – phrases that translate into condemnations of same-sex marriage and abortion.
Also an issue with some: The covenant appears to favor a literal interpretation of the Bible, calling the book “the infallible Word of God and fully authoritative in matters of life and conduct.”
Some faculty and staff have refused to sign, effectively ending their employment at the college as of mid-May, when the current semester ends.
The controversy has even riled up some in Montreat and neighboring towns. Black Mountain resident and lifelong Presbyterian Ina Jones Hughs wrote a fiery column for the Asheville Citizen-Times:
“What Montreat College has just done is alarming and disgusting. Demanding its faculty and administration to sign a pledge which … treats LGBT Christians as outside the fold and their relationships as spiritually unworthy; stands opposed to women’s reproduction choices; and declares theirs a literal interpretation of the Bible … Montreat College hard-handed ‘covenant’ …. brings shame to the history and reputation of Montreat as a welcoming community.”
But Montreat College spokesman Adam Caress, in a statememt emailed to the Observer, said the new covenant, as well as the college’s other “core documents” – mission statement, vision statement, and statement of faith – “are rooted in core biblical values that have been central to Christianity for 2,000 years and central to the college throughout its 101-year history. “They do not represent a change in the college’s core beliefs, but are rather an affirmation of what the college – and orthodox Christianity in general – has always believed.”
Some who oppose the covenant are pointing a finger at the conservative Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA), which last month contributed $100,000 to the college’s scholarship fund.
The school and the BGEA both denied that the Charlotte-based ministry – now headed by Franklin Graham, a Montreat College alumnus and an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage and abortion – had any involvement in writing the covenant or insisting that faculty and staff sign it.
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Related article from the Presbyterian Outlook: Montreat College breaks ties with Association of Presbyterian Colleges and Universities