Dozens of faculty and staff at a Georgian Christian academic institute are resigning over a statement from school officials in which employees must pledge to refrain from activities including drug use, alcohol, adultery, and homosexuality.
Known as the "personal lifestyle statement," around 50 members of the faculty and staff at Shorter University based in Rome, Ga., have chosen to resign rather than renew their contracts at the private school.
Dr. J. Robert White, executive director of the Georgia Baptist Convention, which Shorter is a part of, told The Christian Post that the "lifestyle statement" is consistent with the convention's position.
"We have not taken a specific position related to the 'lifestyle statement,'" said White, "but the history of our convention, which goes back to 1822, has approved many resolutions regarding homosexuality as a sin and alcohol use as ill-advised."
Despite the outcry from some faculty and staff regarding the statement, White did not believe the measure would be overturned.
"I do not believe there will be any changes in the 'lifestyle statement' due to people who are opposed to it," said White. "I think that at any educational institution the faculty and the administration are responsible for following the guidelines set by the board of trustees who provide this whole governance for the university."
Last October, the board of trustees at Shorter adopted a "Personal Lifestyle Statement" for all its employees. According to the document, which faculty and staff were obliged to sign, an employee of Shorter could not among other things take part in drug use, premarital sex, adultery, and homosexuality.
The statement also called for Shorter employees to be active members of a church and be "committed Bible believing Christians." During that same session, the board also approved a new motto for Shorter, "Transforming lives through Christ."
"We love Jesus Christ, and we want people who serve here to love Jesus Christ and be willing to not just sign the document, but enthusiastically endorse that in every aspect of their lives," said Shorter President Donald Dowless in an earlier interview with CP.
"We are an institution that wants to foster a Christian environment ... and that's done by all employees who we hire, not just the faculty but also the staff."
According to Inside Higher Ed, a leading factor in the creation of the "lifestyle statement" was due to the growing influence of the Georgia Baptist Convention since 2005. In 2008, Shorter joined the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, a group of over a hundred evangelical colleges, many of which restrict their hiring to evangelical Christians.
"The integration of faith and learning within a Christian community is a foundational part of Shorter College's strategic planning efforts," said then President of Shorter Dr. Harold Newman in a statement.
"As part of those efforts, we are committed to seeking out partnerships with sister educational institutions and with organizations that share our two-fold commitment to academic excellence and spiritual integrity."