On Friday, May 3, 2019, after the Board of Trustees wrapped up its two-day spring meeting, President Dennis N. Voskuil sent an email to Hope College employees providing an update on the board meeting. In his email, President Voskuil included the following:
You may recall that, one year ago, at its May 2018 meeting, the Board of Trustees affirmed a statement of Hope’s Christian Aspirations, which articulated the college’s aim to be faithful, to be welcoming and to be transformational. In August, at the State of the College Address, I invited the campus community to join me in celebrating Hope’s Christian identity and exploring our three aspirations. I encouraged the Hope community not to flinch from the challenge of living into the new statement. And, over the past year, the Board of Trustees has indeed embraced this challenge. At this week’s meeting, the board had candid, thoughtful discussions about how the college can update policies and practices to better support its work to be faithful, welcoming and transformational. Specifically, the board focused on two aspirations:
- Hope aspires to be faithful. The board voted to remove ambiguity in our faculty hiring policy, so that the language of the policy aligns with current practice. The board’s hiring directive* has been “to strive diligently” to hire Christian faculty, when, in fact, the practice has been not just striving to do so but actually doing so. We explicitly match the two with this board action, which states that the college will hire full-time faculty who are “dedicated to excellence in teaching and scholarship, and who have a mature understanding of and commitment to the Christian faith.” In the spirit of vibrant ecumenism, we will define “Christian” broadly and diversely, recognizing that “the variety of expressions of the Christian faith we hold in common contributes to the vitality of Hope College.” Indeed, Hope will be a place where we “work together with one mind and purpose” (Phil 2:2), even as we have a myriad of perspectives.
- Hope aspires to be welcoming. The board voted to replace the Position Statement on Human Sexuality with the statement of Hope’s Christian Aspirations. With this board action, Hope’s guiding statement on faith will be one that articulates the promise, richness and complexity of our Christian identity, rather than a statement that articulates a position on a single issue. As a college community that seeks to be robustly ecumenical, we acknowledge that faithful and professing Christians across the globe — and on our campus — hold differing views on human sexuality and the definition of marriage. With that in mind, we believe we can both cherish our historic affiliation with the RCA and honor the diversity of perspectives within the global Church. Our institutional focus will be on our shared faith in Jesus Christ, and we will affirm Hope’s commitment to be welcoming to every person. In doing so, we will endeavor in earnest to be “a community where all come together to offer their gifts of understanding to one another.”
* The hiring directive dates back to January 1984, when the Board of Trustees “directed the President, administration, and faculty to strive diligently, whenever persons are recruited to the faculty for tenure-track positions, to identify and recruit persons of outstanding ability and character who are dedicated to excellence in teaching and scholarship, and who have a mature understanding of and commitment to the Christian faith.”