The University of Mount Union was founded by Methodist lay people in 1846. The institution is rooted in the Christian tradition as expressed in the American Methodist movement of the 19th Century. An important part of this movement was an effort to advance social progress through the establishment of academically rigorous institutions that were non-sectarian, as well as racially, ethnically, and gender inclusive. Mount Union was founded as an institution “where men and women could be educated with equal opportunity” and “where there would be no distinction due to race, color, sex, or position.”
During the recent General Conference of the United Methodist Church, the church confirmed and committed to enforcing rules that prohibit gay and lesbian persons from serving as clergy and that prohibit United Methodist clergy from officiating at same-sex weddings. This decision is at odds with the University’s historical and current commitments to welcome and support all people who wish to participate in our programs.
The University chaplain, Rev. Kyle Woodrow, recently held two campus roundtable discussions about these issues. He also invited alumni, students, and employees to respond to a questionnaire and express their views. This effort to elicit community views, to which more than a thousand people responded, was undertaken in preparation for the spring meeting of the University’s Board of Trustees and was designed to inform the Board’s discussions about Mount Union’s commitments to diversity and inclusion and the University’s affiliation with the United Methodist Church.
Last Friday, the Board held its third extensive discussion this academic year about Mount Union and its connection with the United Methodist Church. The Board’s discussion focused on two matters:
- The first concerns how the University should express its Methodist and Wesleyan heritage and how campus ministry and spiritual life programs can advance the University’s commitment to educating the whole person.
- The second, related matter concerns whether an on-going formal affiliation with the United Methodist Church is essential to Mount Union’s commitment to providing programs and an overall campus environment for learning that values and supports the exploration and expression of religious faith and spirituality.
Two decisions followed these discussions:
- First, the trustees authorized the creation of a special committee, to involve members of the Board, the University chaplain, faculty members, administrators, students, and alumni, in a planning process focused on strengthening the University’s campus ministry and spiritual life programs. The committee will focus on how Mount Union can continue to provide to community members valuable opportunities to explore issues of faith and spirituality, both through the academic study of religion and through involvement in campus ministry programs.
- Second, the Board of Trustees decided to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church, while affirming the importance, for the University’s future, of vibrant campus ministry and spiritual life programs. Practically, this means the University will no longer maintain accreditation by the University Senate of the United Methodist Church and will not state in its publications or on its website that Mount Union is affiliated with the United Methodist Church. The University will continue to emphasize its Methodist and Wesleyan heritage and commitments. The University does not receive direct financial support from the United Methodist Church, but some of our students receive financial aid/scholarship support because they attend a school that is affiliated with the United Methodist Church. The Board of Trustees has committed to replacing for current students, including those admitted for the fall of 2019, any financial aid for which they are no longer eligible because of the disaffiliation decision.