Some faculty members are threatening to leave the small private Christian college in North Carolina that leading evangelist Franklin Graham graduated from after they were asked to affirm a community statement affirming their opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion.
Montreat College, an inter-denominational liberal arts school which lies about 30 minutes east of Asheville, is insisting that the school's faculty agree to affirm and live in accordance with the school's new "Community Life Covenant," which was recently added to staff handbooks.
The document defines what the school's lifestyle expectations are and the most controversial elements of it is the call to affirm "the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman" and the "worth of every human being from conception to death."
Adam Caress, Montreal's director of communications, told the Citizen-Times that the covenant has been in the works for over two years and the school has held as many as 13 listening sessions on the matter "in which the college listened to and responded to the concerns of faculty, staff and alumni." He added that the changes were made in accordance with their concerns.
However, some students and staff are opposed to any language that condemns gay marriage and abortion, both of which are legal in the United States.
Many who oppose the covenant's language on sexuality and life are blaming the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which is headed by Graham and donated $100,000 to Montreat's scholarship fund in March. Graham is widely known as a conservative commentator who opposes the LGBT and abortion agenda.
Corrie Greene, a professor of English who directs Montreat's writing center, told The Charlotte Observer that she and eight other staff members are leaving the school because of the covenant's language.
"It says we must affirm and uphold the college's specific spiritual stances in our full 24 hour/seven-day-a-week personal life," Greene said. "I can't let somebody else write my personal testimony. In my faith, Christ is constantly showing me something new."
According to the Observer, the BGEA has denied any role in the covenant's creation and implementation.
"BGEA had no role," Graham's spokesman Mark DeMoss told The Observer. "There is a 70-year relationship between the college and the Graham ... family, with many gifts being given over the years from individual Graham family members and the BGEA."
Greene said that even though Graham might not have been the one who came up with the idea for the covenant, "it certainly didn't hurt the relationship between the BGEA and the school."
In addition, a number of students held a protest in front of the college's library last Wednesday to condemn the covenant's language.
"I just don't think the administration should be telling professors what they can and can't believe about Scripture," student Caroline Miller told the Citizen-Times. "I think that's what the covenant is doing. It's kind of forcing people to say something that they don't actually believe, and I'm worried about that."
Sophomore student Bailey Mathews told the Times that she now plans to leave Montreat.
"I do not believe that your statement of faith should be something pre-written," Mathews said. "I believe it should be what you actually believe, and I believe we're going to lose a lot of diversity and a lot of amazing teachers here because of it (the covenant)."
"I was going to stay and I planned on graduating from here, but now, no," she continued.
In a statement to The Citizen-Times last week, the college explained that only two faculty members "have informed the college that the core documents included in the faculty handbook are a primary factor in their decision not to return to the college next year."
The statement added that the college held two open forums in the past six weeks to address the issue with students and to "address misinformation that has been circulating, particularly concerning faculty who are leaving the college."
"We respect students' right to gather and express themselves freely — including protest," the statement reads. "Expressions of diverse thoughts and opinions are part of the intellectual inquiry that is central to the college's mission."