Church of God Executive Council Review—Lee University

Cleveland, TN–Since its beginning, the Church of God has been identified as a movement committed to the authority of Holy Scripture for faith and direction with the Great Commission as our mandate. We are a church that is Christ-centered, people-oriented, and need-sensitive in all its programs and ministries. Church of God doctrinal affirmation states that we are a church that stands for the whole Bible rightly divided, and for the New Testament as the only rule of faith and practice. The Church of God Declaration of Faith and Doctrinal Commitments remain the definitive statements of our beliefs and core values.

As we witness a changing world, there are profound challenges that we face. Challenges of compromise run rampant throughout society. Core values are eroding and significant issues can create fragmentation within churches and denominations. The importance of commitments and doctrine are being deluded by cultural alienation, secularization and government influence. Signs of the times indicate that in society today there is a distrust of authority including the authority of Christ and Scripture.

The convergence of numerous issues are demonstrating significant impact upon society and the church. These include a global pandemic, cultural shifts, secularization, polarization of values, and a new normal of how we manifest church. When in March of 2021, a non-faculty speaker in a Lee University chapel service failed to include in his message the need of God’s redemptive power for anyone in a LGBTQ+ lifestyle, there was a response of significant concern among Church of God constituents. The International Executive Committee responded immediately to the compromising encroachment upon Church of God doctrine. With cooperation of Lee University leadership, the Executive Committee initiated immediate action addressing issues of marriage and sexuality predicated upon a sound Biblical perspective and church doctrine. The beliefs and commitments of the Church of God are non-negotiables and should be clearly taught based upon the authority of Scripture.

This event began a process of review with the Executive Committee, Council of 18, and Lee University leadership to address the matter. The purpose was to affect any clarifications and necessary modifications to affirm the Biblical foundation of Lee University and the Church of God regarding our opposition to homosexuality. Our commitment is to the Word of God and in its clear prohibition of LGBTQ+ lifestyle.

Recently, the Lee University Board of Directors in their November 5 meeting unanimously adopted and documented in their minutes a motion of affirmation to Church of God doctrine. “It was moved, seconded and carried that the Lee University Board of Directors unanimously affirms Lee University’s commitment to the statement of faith and the doctrines of the Church of God.”

The document that follows this preamble entitled REVIEW: Church of God Executive Council—Lee University articulates the process and proactive steps taken to address the issues and affirm our commitment to Church of God core doctrine, commitments, and values. These are stated in the latest edition of the Minutes of the Church of God General Assembly—the Church of God Book of Discipline, Church Order, and Governance.

As we move forward with this review process, our commitment to Christian higher education must be founded upon Biblical authority, doctrinal integrity, and academic excellence. Together, we join hearts and hands to be “The Church on Mission!”

REVIEW: Church of God Executive Council—Lee University

In its September 2021 meeting, the Church of God Executive Council reviewed information concerning recent challenges confronting Lee University. This review, called by the General Overseer and the Executive Committee, focused on topics related to the denomination-sponsored school.

The Executive Council devoted significant time in deliberation and discussion of questions related to the status of Lee’s exemption under Title IX, as well as protection for the school from a LGBTQ+ agenda and other pressing cultural challenges. These issues are an encroachment and attack of a godless culture upon everything sacred, including government, homes, churches, and religious liberty.

The Executive Council reviewed correspondence from the Lee University Board of Directors responding to the aforementioned issues, as well as addressing Lee’s continued commitment of academic engagement in a manner consistent with Scripture and Church of God doctrines and practices. As a church-sponsored university, all of these beliefs are contained in Lee’s stated policies. The correspondence provided specific responses to the questions and issues, and Lee’s ongoing commitment and efforts to address new challenges facing Christian institutions today.

In their correspondence, the Lee University Board of Directors stated the following: “Under the oversight of the Board, Lee University is undertaking a comprehensive review of all policies. The President’s Cabinet has been engaged throughout summer 2021 in a wall-to-wall review of all our policies to produce an improved way of dealing with students or faculty [or staff] who might engage in any conduct that violates our standards. The Cabinet’s review is a work in progress, as it is leaving no stone unturned even including a detailed theological statement on human sexuality and gender that is doctrinally sound.”

According to Lee’s correspondence, Lee University is exempt from Title IX to the extent that its requirements conflict with our biblically-and denominationally-based policies and practices. Concerning Title IX, which applies to both public and private colleges and universities receiving funding through financial aid programs for students, the Lee board stated, “There are many aspects of Title IX, such as providing equal opportunities for members of both sexes that Lee fully supports and complies with. To the extent that Title IX, (or any other federal law) is interpreted to require actions that violate Lee’s religious tenets, we will not comply.”

As a matter of clarity, Congress enumerated nine separate exemptions from the Title IX requirements. One is for “educational institution(s) controlled by religious organizations if the application of [the law] would not be consistent with the religious tenets of such organization.” Further, an educational institution may assert the statutory religious exemption without making a formal request for recognition by the U.S. Department of Education. Even so, the institution may obtain a formal assurance by submitting a written statement from the institution’s highest ranking official.

The Lee statement asserts, “For more than a century, Lee University has been committed to training and equipping the next generation of Christian students to go anywhere and everywhere—whether in ministry, business, medicine, or other fields—and live out the Gospel in its fullness. Our mission has been, and will continue to be, accomplished in a manner that is consistent with Scripture and the doctrinal teaching and commitments of the Church of God. The Board of Directors of Lee University (each appointed biennially by the International Executive Committee) takes our appointment to this position seriously, recognizing that we are stewards of the University, its mission, its faculty and staff, and—most importantly—each and every student enrolled in our institution.”

The Lee Board of Directors concluded their correspondence by stating, “We fully support and affirm the mission of Lee University as established by the Church of God, the work of the Board of Directors over many decades of service, and of the leadership of President Walker and President Conn throughout the years we have served with them. We know there is always more work to be done, and we pray that we will continue to have the full support of the Executive Committee and Council as we accomplish that work. We further hope that the Committee and Council will continue to fully express your support of Lee, its leadership, and its Board to the denomination as a whole.”

Following a review of the questions and issues facing Lee University the Executive Council received the information presented. In an effort to assist Lee in its ongoing commitment to address new challenges, the Executive Council commits to continued dialogue with President Walker and representatives from the Lee Board of Directors.

The Executive Council states its appreciation of Dr. Mark Walker, President of Lee University, and Dr. Paul Conn, former president and current Chancellor of the university, for their commitment to Christian higher education, training students to impact the world for Christ. Further, the Executive Council goes on record as expressing its support in prayer for Lee University as Lee strives to fulfill its mission and vision.

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