Goshen College Board of Directors ask for alternative to playing the national anthem

GOSHEN, Ind. — The Goshen College Board of Directors announced today that it has asked President James E. Brenneman to find an alternative to playing the Star-Spangled Banner that fits with sports tradition, that honors country and that resonates with Goshen College’s core values and respects the views of diverse constituencies.

The Board took the action during its regular meeting, June 3-4, and today released a Decision Statement, which is available at www.goshen.edu/anthem.

The Board expressed a strong commitment to advancing with President Brenneman the vision for Goshen College to be an influential leader in liberal arts education with a growing capacity to serve a theologically, politically, racially and ethnically diverse constituency both within and beyond the Mennonite church. The Board concluded that continuing to play the national anthem compromised the ability of college constituents to advance the vision together.

“The Board has a diversity of views on this issue as reflected throughout the process of considering the anthem,” said Rick Stiffney of Goshen, the chair of the Board. “The Board itself struggled with significant differences and conflicting perspectives, so this decision was not easy and took many hours of discernment and prayer. Our resolution represents our best effort to find a path of wisdom that we could endorse together.

“We recognize that some people may not be satisfied with this decision, but we believe it is the right one for Goshen College. We also believe this decision will enable the college and the board to move forward and prepare with joy for the 2011-2012 academic year.”

Responding to the decision, President Brenneman said, “I am convinced that Goshen College is on a challenging and rewarding journey toward becoming a more diverse institution that serves an increasingly diverse community. I am hopeful that this resolution will help Goshen College move forward together, and focus on finding new ways to welcome students from our local and regional community.”

Carlos Romero, executive director of the Mennonite Education Agency and an ex-officio member of the Board, affirmed the decision and the message he said it will communicate to the college’s constituents, Mennonite Church USA members and other people of faith.

“Goshen College has been and remains a ministry of Mennonite Church USA with an enduring peace tradition,” Romero said. “The Board’s decision reflects a belief that faith and honoring country can co-exist without disturbing higher allegiances to God and that Goshen College will become increasingly diverse and will welcome diverse viewpoints.”

Romero also commended the Board, President Brenneman and the President’s Council for carefully studying, discussing and prayerfully deciding the anthem issue. “The willingness to listen and learn from one another has indeed modeled a process to the wider church and community about how to engage difficult issues. In today’s polarized culture, that is indeed an important gift,” he said.

Goshen College had not played the Star-Spangled Banner prior to sporting events, since beginning to participate in intercollegiate athletics in 1957, although it was never officially banned from campus. The U.S. tradition of performing the national anthem before baseball games began during World War II.

In January 2010, the Goshen College President’s Council, led by President Brenneman, decided to allow the college’s Athletic Department to play an instrumental version of the national anthem prior to some sporting events beginning that spring.

In mid-February 2010, the college’s Board of Directors affirmed the decision of the President’s Council and asked the college’s leadership to create opportunities for thoughtful and prayerful discernment in ongoing structured dialogue, especially with those beyond the college community (alumni and others). The Board also decided at that time that the decision would be reviewed in June 2011.

Goshen College is a ministry of Mennonite Church USA, an historic peace church. The denomination does not have an official position on the playing of the national anthem, and there are varying practices regarding the anthem among the other four Mennonite colleges and universities.

—Written by Richard R. Aguirre

Editors: For more information about this release, to arrange an interview or request a photo, contact Goshen College Director of Public Relations Richard R. Aguirre at (574) 535-7571 or rraguirre@goshen.edu.

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Goshen College, established in 1894, is a residential Christian liberal arts college rooted in the Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition. The college’s Christ-centered core values – passionate learning, global citizenship, compassionate peacemaking and servant-leadership – prepare students as leaders for the church and world. Recognized for its unique Study-Service Term program, Goshen has earned citations of excellence in Barron’s Best Buys in Education, “Colleges of Distinction,” “Making a Difference College Guide” and U.S. News & World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges” edition, which named Goshen a “least debt college.” Visit www.goshen.edu.

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