This page presents statements and actions of faculty (as individuals and as collectives) in response to campus conversations and Board actions regarding the employment of LGBTQ+ individuals at SPU and other LGBTQ+ issues. The documents are arranged in reverse chronological order. In cases where the authors are not Faculty Council or Faculty Senate or have not already published their work, we have secured permission from the authors to post their document publicly.
NWCCU Complaint from SPU Faculty Council
On September 27, 2022, SPU’s Faculty Council submitted a formal complaint regarding SPU Board governance to the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, SPU’s institutional accreditor. Copies of the complaint were sent to Board Chair Dean Kato and Interim President Pete Menjares at the same time.
Student, Faculty, & Staff Complaint Against Trustees (Guillot et al. vs. Whitehead et al.)
On September 12, 2022, six SPU students (current and former), five SPU faculty and five SPU staff filed a lawsuit against six individual members of the SPU Board of Trustees (current and former), charging them with breaching their fiduciary duty to the university.
Faculty Op Ed in Response to SPU Lawsuit
On August 21, 2022, Professor of Sociology Kevin Neuhouser, a long-time advisor to the LGBTQIA+ student club Haven and a co-chair of the LGBTQIA+ Work Group, published a Seattle Times op ed in response to the lawsuit SPU filed against the Washington Attorney General.
Faculty Senate Resolution to Endorse the Third Way
On June 3, 2022, the Faculty Senate voted, 80% to 15%, to endorse the “Third Way” option for SPU recommended by the LGBTQIA+ Work Group. The Third Way provides a Christian higher ed model that enables the community to welcome and thoroughly explore all perspectives on LGBTQIA+ issues by declining to take an official position in the ongoing church debates and allowing all Christians, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, to be eligible for employment at SPU.
Professor Rick Steele’s History of SPU’s Statement of Faith
After the Board of Trustees dinner in Upper Gwinn Commons on the evening of May 19, 2022, Professor of Moral and Historical Theology Rick Steele gave a presentation on the history and meaning of SPU’s Statement of Faith. The essay ends with the exhortation that we “strive as a community to keep Christ at the ‘extreme center’ of our life together, while granting freedom of conscience and a measure of lifestyle diversity to those who join us.”
Faculty Chair Address to the SPU Board of Trustees
At the Board of Trustees meeting on May 19, 2022, in lieu of a written report, Faculty Chair Dr. April Middeljans delivered an oral address to the full board, and a copy of the address was provided to the trustees later that day. (The final discussion and vote on the conduct policy took place on May 20.) The address focused on SPU’s identity as a Christian institution of higher learning, the “Third Way” model recommended by the LGBTQIA+ Work Group, and the debate and fears regarding potential disaffiliation from the Free Methodist Church.
Faculty Council Letter Requesting Recusal of Two Board Members
Sometime after the Board received the confidential report and recommendations from the LGBTQIA+ Work Group, two Board members brought a resolution to the Free Methodist Church’s Board of Administration (on which those two trustees also served). As a result, the FMC BOA declared unequivocally that if SPU changed its conduct policy to be out of compliance with the FMC Book of Discipline’s policies on “sexual purity,” SPU would be disaffiliated from the denomination. On May 18, 2022, in response to the actions of these two Board members, Faculty Council asked that these trustees be recused from the Board’s discussion and vote on the conduct policy.
Voices of Campus Survey
In the fall of 2021, the Associated Students of Seattle Pacific (a student governance body) collaborated with individuals in SPU’s graduate psychology programs to develop a campus questionnaire regarding LGBTQ issues and campus climate. The questionnaire was administered November 8, 2021, to January 11, 2022. A summary of just some of the key data is provided here. The Voices of Campus team presented their findings to senior administrators and also to the shared-governance LGBTQIA+ Work Group. Of those surveyed, 75% of faculty, 73% of staff, and 86% of both graduate and undergraduate students objected to the employee sexual conduct policy.
Faculty LGBTQIA+ Task Force Letter to the Board of Trustees
On November 15, 2021, the Faculty LGBTQIA+ Task Force established by Faculty Senate invited the Board of Trustees into further conversation and shared labor, with the goal of modeling a loving Christian community and working toward a solution of the crisis in which SPU’s connection to the Free Methodist Church as well as its historical ecumenicism could both be honored. The institutional model suggested here is a precursor to the Third Way developed by the shared-governance LGBTQIA+ Work Group. Once the Work Group was formed in January 2022, the Task Force suspended its work on board engagement.
Faculty LGBTQIA+ Task Force Established
On May 6, 2021, Faculty Senate approved a motion to establish a task force (eventually called the Faculty LGBTQIA+ Task Force) to pursue the steps of engagement requested of the Board in the faculty’s Statement of No Confidence. The task force included some members of Council as well as faculty outside of Council, including a faculty member who identifies as conservative on human sexuality issues.
Faculty Op Ed on How the Sexual Conduct Policy Impacts the Hiring Process
On April 23, 2021, former faculty member Dyana Herron published an opinion piece in The Seattle Times, arguing that SPU’s conduct policy, despite being legal, sets up ethical quagmires that make it difficult to conduct a transparent and fair hiring process.
Faculty Statement of No Confidence in the SPU Board of Trustees
On April 12, 2021, Board Chair Cedric Davis announced in an online employee forum that “to remain in alignment with the board’s understanding of SPU’s statement of faith and to remain affiliated with the Free Methodist Church, the board declined to change SPU’s employment policy related to human sexuality.”
In response, Faculty Senate passed a Statement of No Confidence in the SPU Board of Trustees on April 19, 2021. With 90% of eligible faculty voting, 72% voted in favor, 21% against, and 6% abstained.
The Statement outlines four points of faculty concern and suggests steps the Board can take to restore faculty confidence.
Message from School of Theology Faculty to the SPU Board of Trustees
After the Board announced on April 12, 2021, that it would maintain the sexual conduct policy, two faculty members in the School of Theology emailed a message to the SPU community on April 14, 2021, arguing that by restricting the meaning of the terms “orthodox” and “Wesleyan,” the decision “causes the carefully balanced integrity of our Faith Statement to collapse.”
Faculty & Staff Letter of Lament to the Board
On February 11, 2021, some SPU faculty and staff wrote a letter of lament to be shared with the SPU Board of Trustees at their February meeting, seeking “to build bridges of understanding, shared pain, and healing, as well as to advocate for silenced voices and effect change in SPU’s written policy and institutional practices regarding human sexuality.” By the time the letter was submitted on February 19, it had garnered 1,256 signatures of support from faculty, staff, students, alumni, and donors, as well as various other groups.
Department of Clinical Psychology Comment on SPU’s Statement on Human Sexuality
On January 20, 2021, the Clinical Psychology graduate program sent a letter to President Dan Martin and all university faculty, outlining how empirical data and expertise in the field of psychology supports their recommendations to 1) remove the Statement on Human Sexuality or revise it to reflect theological diversity on this issue and affirm the value of LGBTQ+ individuals, 2) endorse inclusive hiring practices, 3) revise the non-discrimination policy to include gender identity, sexual orientation, and marital status, and 4) remove the sexual conduct policy.
The document shown here was edited slightly in February 2021 for a Clinical Psychology Facebook post, and then again in June 2022 to remove the names of individual signatories.
Faculty & Staff Human Sexuality Survey
News of the Jeaux Rinedahl suit against SPU sparked much discussion in SPU’s internal faculty and staff email forums. In a Faculty Senate on January 14, 2021, President Martin asked faculty to communicate their positions on the LGBTQ issues facing the community. On January 19, 2021, Faculty Council developed a survey for both Faculty and Staff with 7 quantitative and qualitative questions regarding the sexual conduct policy and the Statement on Human Sexuality. The document to the right contains a summary of the quantitative results for both faculty and staff, along with a copy of the 7 questions.