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Hiring Policy Statement

Whitworth Board of Trustees Votes on Hiring Policy Committee Recommendations

June 29, 2023

Dear campus community,

Whitworth University is unwavering in its commitment to being a Christ-centered institution. Since its founding in 1890, Whitworth has occupied a place in higher education that is lightly populated but offers unmatched learning opportunities. We are a university that elevates rigorous, open intellectual inquiry and the integration of Christian faith and learning as complementary rather than competing goals; that requires faculty and staff to be committed Christians with an active faith and welcomes all students wherever they are on their faith journeys; that affirms essential beliefs in the triune God, incarnate and resurrected Christ, and authority of Scripture while being open to employees from a broad range of Christian traditions; that draws from reformed, evangelical and ecumenical traditions without being restrictively denominational or doctrinal; that welcomes diverse perspectives, tough questions and respectful dialogue as stepping stones rather than stumbling blocks to faith; and that affirms Christ's witness and teaching as essential to the fearless pursuit of truth.

As stewards of Whitworth's mission, the Whitworth Board of Trustees decided at its April 2022 meeting to take up the question of adding "sexual orientation" to the classes of employees protected from discrimination in university hiring. At a special meeting in August 2022, the board appointed an advisory committee, comprised of eight trustees and three university employees, with a charge to bring a recommendation to the board for its discernment and a vote. The advisory committee met weekly between mid-September and mid-January, and the full board reviewed and discussed the committee's work at its January 2023 retreat, at its April 2023 meetings and in specially called meetings since April. The advisory committee invited written input from Whitworth faculty, staff and students; consulted lawyers specializing in Washington state employment law and constitutional law; met with students, staff and faculty; reviewed diverse theological perspectives; and studied similar processes at other Christian universities. 

After careful consideration of this broad input, the board voted yesterday to resolutely uphold the Christ-centered commitments required of Whitworth staff and faculty; safeguard the campus environment to allow for civil discourse on topics about which faithful Christians disagree, including God's design for sexual expression; and add "sexual orientation" to the university's list of protected classes, which already includes color, gender, ethnicity, social or economic class, and nationality.

The board recognizes that Whitworth already has an established practice of providing equal opportunity for all persons, regardless of sexual orientation, with respect to hiring, continued employment, promotion and tenure in accordance with applicable non-discrimination laws. Aligning our hiring policy language with our practice achieves integrity in this area. The board also agrees that not all manifestations of sexual expression are appropriate for a Christ-centered institution. We affirm that God's design for human flourishing is for sexual activity to be reserved for those in a committed and monogamous covenant relationship.

In this complexity, and through our decision, we are not settling the theological differences between faithful Christians who disagree on biblical positions related to sexual orientation and expression. As fallen creatures, we must practice humility to guard against easy presumptions of certainty. And as Christ followers, we must practice mutual forbearance in loving our colleagues who hold different views on important theological issues. In a context where all community members are recognized as beloved image bearers of God, respectful expression of diverse viewpoints can be an opportunity to live, learn and love across our differences and need not be an occasion for division, censorship or oppression.

We believe that, as a Christian community, we are called to provide an environment of mutual respect, hospitality and graciousness – of shalom – where all who commit to Whitworth's mission may flourish. Our board, and indeed our community, is comprised of members who hold a variety of views on marriage, divorce and sexuality. As has always been true at Whitworth, we embrace a generous orthodoxy that allows employees to be united around their shared commitments to Christ and our mission even if there is no uniformity of views on particular issues. Christ calls us to love one another and to follow his example of inviting all to experience his extravagant grace. 

How can we live in the uneasy tension on this matter and so many others that have the potential to divide us? We can, and have hope and confidence that we will, remain a Christian community that is stronger because of the diversity of perspectives that enrich student learning, inside and outside of the classroom, even as we affirm university employees' shared vocation to embrace and advance Whitworth's Christian mission. This is not only a contractual obligation but a sacred trust employees hold with students. As a community united in Christ and calling, we move forward together to equip students to honor God, follow Christ and serve humanity.

In Christ,

Brian Kirkpatrick, Chair, Whitworth University Board of Trustees
Scott McQuilkin, President, Whitworth University