“We welcome, and have for decades, individuals who wish to study in a Christian environment,” said Bob Kuhn, president of Trinity Western University (TWU), in Langley, B.C. “We desired to clarify that point to people who may have misunderstood, especially over the number of years when there was debate of whether we were welcoming of students,” Kuhn explained, after the school announced last week its decision to make its community covenant non-mandatory.
The covenant, which, until this new school term, students had to sign in order to attend TWU, was the center of a case taken to the Supreme Court of Canada on TWU’s proposed law school. A June 15 ruling upheld the position of two Canadian law societies that the covenant was discriminatory against LGBTQ persons. (See Moving Forward after Canadian Supreme Court’s Law School Ruling)
On August 9, Trinity Western’s Board of Governors passed a motion making the community covenant non-mandatory “with respect to admission of students to, or continuation of students at, the University.” While the recent court ruling was a factor in the decision, it was not the only factor, as the school said the covenant has been the subject of considerable discussion for many years. TWU felt that maintaining the status quo was no longer the best way to fulfill the university’s mission and ministry.
Other Christian universities in Canada also operate without a mandatory contract. At The King’s University, in Edmonton, Alta., faculty and staff sign a faith statement but they do not have a student behavioural covenant.
“I have served in Christian higher education for over 20 years. If there is something I have learned, it is that legislating behavior only gets you so far. The gospel is, first and foremost, an invitation,” said Melanie Humphreys, president at The King’s University.
At Redeemer University College, in Ancaster, Ont., students are also not required to sign a mandatory covenant. But in the admissions process, Redeemer’s undergraduate students do acknowledge that, during their time at Redeemer, they are expected to abide by the school’s statement of life and conduct. This statement is also used by all staff and faculty at Redeemer.
Both The King’s University and Redeemer University College are affiliated with the Christian Reformed Church.
While TWU will no longer require students to sign its covenant, the document itself remains unchanged and will continue to articulate the values that shape their community. “We will remain a Biblically-based, mission-focused, academically excellent University, fully committed to our foundational evangelical Christian principles,” the university’s statement said.
At this time, no decisions have been made regarding further pursuit of the proposed law school. Instead TWU will be managing what it says is exceptional growth in the institution.