Back in June, Trinity Western University, a Christian institution seeking to establish a law school, lost a Supreme Court case regarding whether provincial law societies could deny it accreditation due to its requirement that all students sign a covenant committing them to abide by biblical teaching on sexuality. Yesterday, in a “stunning decision,” TWU’s Board of Governors has decided to remove the requirement that students sign the covenant—although faculty and staff will still be required to abide by it.
While TWU has not formally indicated whether it intends to reapply for accreditation of its prospective law program, this decision seems to be a preparation to do so. TWU explains the change as an “operational decision.” To use the Vancouver Sun’s words, it “does not signal a shift in TWU’s values: [i]t stands behind the religious perspective behind the covenant.” It remains to be seen whether this change will be enough to satisfy the three law societies that denied TWU accreditation in the first place, and that question will surely be tested in court.
No doubt there will also be many reactions from the Christian community in the coming days concerning the wisdom of this change, both positive and negative.
For the moment, though, I think it very important that Canadian Christians take note of the immediate response of TWU’s critics. The Sun reports that LGBTQ groups which were active in opposing TWU’s first decision have already responded by characterizing the governors’ move as “a welcome first step, but one that did not go far enough.”
A revealing comment comes from Michael Mulligan, a Victoria lawyer: “is this in the public interest to grant approval to an institution with policies like this?” A “gay, Catholic” critic was cited in the article expressing concern that TWU still maintains “something like this engrained in the school for so long…sharing the mentality in terms of discriminating against folks who may want to express their identity….” Of course, respect for the desire of evangelical Christians to express their identity in Christ as a community seems hypocritically absent on the part of TWU’s opponents.
In other words, regardless of whether TWU’s decision is, as a tactical move, wise, or successful in circumventing the legal obstacles to obtaining accreditation, the very fact that the university continues to profess biblical teaching about sexuality in any way remains unacceptable to its critics. And those critics are not merely in the legal community; I think it telling that the Sun didn’t even bother to obtain a comment from any supporters outside TWU, presenting only responses from its critics. Unless TWU completely capitulates, it can expect continued opposition.
This, then, should remind us to “count the cost” of following Jesus Christ (Luke 14:25-33). As long as Gospel-believing Canadian Christians continue to uphold God’s definitions of gender, sexuality, and marriage, even privately and in our own communities, we will be opposed and ostracized.
We cannot expect any concessions or accommodations we make to diminish the world’s revulsion at our message. Rather, we must be reminded: “Put not your trust in princes” (Ps. 146:3); like Asaph, we must rather look upward for lasting justice: “Arise, O God, and judge the earth!” (Ps. 82:8). And until that day comes, we need to pray for courage to preach the whole counsel of God “in season and out of season” (1 Tim. 4:2), and for grace to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour with our good deeds (Titus 2:10) and answer our opponents with “gentleness and respect” (1 Pet. 3:15).