Gordon College president D. Michael Lindsay recently revealed the severe backlash the school has received due to its policies regarding homosexuality as an increasing number of religious institutions begin to change their stance on the issue.
The Associated Press reports that the controversy started back in July, when President Barack Obama proposed expanding job protection for homosexuals employed by federal contractors. Under the proposed changes, faith-based charities with federal grants feared "they could lose the right to hire and fire" according to their religious beliefs.
Lindsay, the president of Gordon College, a small Evangelical college near Boston, MA was one of 15 Christian thought and policy leaders who signed a letter asking the White House to allow religious exemptions in an anticipated executive order that could require organizations to hire people regardless of sexual orientation in order to receive federal funding.
"Without a robust religious exemption, like the provisions in the Senate-passed ENDA, this expansion of hiring rights will come at an unreasonable cost to the common good, national unity and religious freedom," the July 1 letter stated.
Although the existing exemption was subsequently left in place, Gordon College was slammed with criticism--from those within and outside the institution.
Not only did the city terminate the college's contract, but the school lost "a key backer for a federal grant, a review by the regional college accrediting agency, and campus protest and alumni pushback over whether the school should maintain its ban on "homosexual practice" as part of its life and conduct standards," reports the Associated Press.
"I signed the letter as a way of trying to show my personal support," Lindsay said during an interview. "Obviously, if I had known the response that in particular Gordon College would receive, I wouldn't sign."
In an attempt to resolve the issue, Lindsay has met with faculty and staff and with gay students and alumni in addition to speaking at teachers' union in nearby Georgetown, which agreed to continue to host Gordon student-teachers, and sent letters to superintendents of other public schools where Gordon students trained.
The AP reports that the school has also formed a working group including trustees, students, administrators and faculty to address some of the concerns raised about the challenges for gay students on campus. The group, which includes a gay student and some faculty who oppose the current life and conduct statement, will meet through February.
Lindsay says that in the future, he will not take a public stand on any hot -button issue.
Sadly, Gordon College is not the only religious institution to exhibit a changing stance on homosexuality.
After receiving criticism for refusing to hire gays, Eastern Mennonite University in Virginia decided this year to delay a decision on whether to uphold the policy, .
Similarly, World Vision, a Christian international relief agency based in Washington State, announced a few months ago that it would allow employees to be in same-sex marriages and then immediately reversed itself after an outcry by donors.
"[World Vision] will certainly defer on many issues that are not so central to our understanding of the Christian faith," said president Richard Stearns at the time.
"But on the authority of Scripture in our organization's work [and employee conduct] ... and on marriage as an institution ordained by God between a man and a woman-those are age-old and fundamental Christian beliefs. We cannot defer on things that are that central to the faith."
According to polling by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute, evangelical support for gay marriage has more than doubled over the past decade. About a quarter of evangelicals now support same-sex unions, the institute has found, with an equal number of those who oppose gay marriage on moral grounds but no longer support efforts to outlaw it.