After 174 years, Baldwin Wallace University has ended its affiliation with the United Methodist Church following a vote by the board of trustees last Friday.
The vote, which officials say was unanimous, came in direct response to a church leadership vote earlier this year that formally banned LGBT persons being ordained as Methodist ministers or the performing of same-sex weddings within the church. The narrow decision went against the church's own Council of Bishops, and has become a divisive issue among the faithful. BW itself joined 92 other Methodist colleges across the United States in calling for a rejection of the so-called "Traditional Plan."
BW Board of Trustees Chair Charles Rotuno issued the following statement on the vote:
"BW’s Methodist founders were committed to inclusion 174 years ago. While we value the relationship that we have had with the United Methodist Church, we’ve concluded that becoming an independent university will allow the BW community to continue to fully embrace and embody the values of diversity and inclusion today and always."
Founded by Methodist John Baldwin in 1845, BW slowly became less attached to its religious identity over the ensuing decades. However, even with the vote to formally end the relationship, the school will not be completely shredding its Methodist roots: The historic Lindsey-Crossman Chapel will remain open and operational on campus, with Rev. John Gordon staying employed as university chaplain. United Methodist scholarships will also be honored for students entering in the fall of 2019.
"BW founder John Baldwin believed in removing any impediment to education for any person regardless of race, gender, creed or social standing," Rev. Gordon stated. "Baldwin invited all to come to his school to build good lives and that continues today."
The trustees vote does not affect a current rule that states 10% of all board of trustees members must be of the Methodist faith, although the school says a governance committee will take up that issue at a later date. University President Robert C. Helmer also proclaimed, "BW is not changing."
"BW values and supports the faith lives of all students," Dr. Helmer said. "We are a campus where all people are welcome, all are valued, all are given the same opportunities and all are supported."