Dear Shenandoah Community,
Yesterday, a meeting of 864 delegates from around the world approved by a narrow margin a plan to enforce restrictions on same sex marriage and the ordination of LGBTQ+ individuals in the United Methodist Church. The plan is widely viewed as unconstitutional under church law, so in the days and weeks ahead it will be critically reviewed and may be overturned. In any circumstance, no changes will go into effect until 2020. Until these matters are clarified, churches and church-related institutions are encouraged to remain focused on our missions and ministry.
Here, at Shenandoah, that means we will remain focused on welcoming and educating in an equitable and inclusive environment.
Let me take this opportunity to clarify Shenandoah’s relationship with the United Methodist Church. Shenandoah reflects and resonates with the church’s long-standing commitment to education, critical thinking, open dialogue, and global partnership. We are proud of this heritage. The UMC does not determine the bylaws, budget or hiring practices of Shenandoah. Shenandoah’s non-discrimination statement is unequivocal and fully embraced by our board of trustees. Our campus values are clear and deeply treasured. Shenandoah is widely known for its culture of compassion, responsibility, advocacy and justice. Yesterday’s vote will not erode our deep and long-standing commitment to full inclusion and diversity.
I am proud that Shenandoah students, alumni, staff and faculty were at the global conference this week joining voices for full inclusion. It is who we are. It is who we will remain. I am confident that many in our Shenandoah family will look for ways to make a positive difference in their own faith communities and networks of influence.
I’m reminded that it was our United Methodist tradition that taught Shenandoah the “three simple rules,” which I use in decision making every day as your president. “Do no harm. Do good. Practice your purpose with passion.” I invite you to join me in applying these simple guides as you navigate the compelling and complex issues of your daily life. I encourage you to reach out to anyone you believe may be feeling harmed by the recent decisions of the UMC General Conference, and be a source of unwavering warmth and welcome to them.
Here, at Shenandoah, let us be the portals, noble and inspiring, a champion for the inclusion of all people.
President Tracy Fitzsimmons