Eastern Mennonite University announced this afternoon that it will postpone deciding whether to change its hiring policy regarding people in same-sex relationships.
EMU's Board of Trustees discussed a proposed policy change to allow employees to be in monogamous, covenanted - or legally or religiously-recognized - relationships, but did not reach a consensus.
Currently, most employees and all students at EMU have to sign a "Community Lifestyle Commitment," which includes a promise to refrain from sexual relationships outside marriage. Same-sex marriage is illegal in Virginia, pending a decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond
In a press release issued around 2:45 p.m., the university said it will continue to suspend personnel actions regarding the current hiring policy until a formal decision is made. Those actions have been suspended since November, when the university started a six-month listening process to gauge public and community opinion on a potential policy change.
More than 7,000 people responded to EMU's surveys, according to BJ Miller, director of institutional research, the release said.
The Board of Trustees made the following official statement, passed by a strong majority vote, regarding its decision to postpone formal action on its hiring policy:
"We reaffirm EMU’s mission—to prepare students to serve and lead in a diverse global society—and EMU’s role as a university that fully engages the difficult questions of our time and welcomes diverse perspectives and experiences into the conversation. Out of respect for EMU’s relationship with Mennonite Church USA and its ongoing discernment of human sexuality, we defer action on formally changing EMU’s policy on hiring employees in covenanted same-sex relationships. The November 2013 board decision to suspend personnel actions related to the current hiring policy will remain in effect as the discernment process continues."
There is no time frame for when the Board of Trustees may discuss the issue again, or for when they may make a final decision.