ALLIANCE — The University of Mount Union has cut ties with the United Methodist Church over the denomination’s recent bans on gay clergy and same-sex marriage.
Mount Union President W. Richard Merriman Jr. said the board of trustees considered the issue for months before voting Friday to end more than 150 years of church affiliation.
“We want to have a diverse campus where all kinds of people can succeed, so it was difficult to see how our values as a university could be reconciled with the values the church is espousing,” Merriman said.
The General Conference of the United Methodist Church in February voted to keep prohibitions on ordaining gays and lesbians and on its clergy presiding at same-sex weddings.
Mount Union joined four other United Methodist-affiliated universities in Ohio in a statement expressing disappointment with the church’s decision earlier this year.
Last month, Baldwin Wallace University became the first of the group to disaffiliate, while Ohio Wesleyan University’s president announced the school was taking a one-year pause in its relationship with the church. Ohio Northern and Otterbein universities round out the group.
Methodist lay people founded Mount Union in 1846, and the school received full church patronage in 1864. The United Methodist Church didn’t fund Mount Union directly, but some students received financial aid because they attended an affiliated school.
In a letter to the Mount Union community, Merriman wrote the trustees were committed to replacing any financial aid that current students, including those admitted for the fall, might lose due to disaffiliation.
The trustees also authorized a committee to focus on strengthening Mount Union’s campus ministry and spiritual life programs.
Merriman said Mount Union would remain a place where religious questions and spiritual exploration were taken seriously.
About 40 percent of Mount Union’s 2,300 students identify as Protestant, 35 percent haven’t expressed a religious affiliation or indicated no preference and almost a quarter of students identify as Catholic, according to the university website.
The disaffiliation wouldn’t impact Mount Union’s curriculum or the role of the university chaplain, and Dewald Chapel would still offer worship services for faiths in the Judeo-Christian tradition, according to the university website.
University chaplain, Rev. Kyle Woodrow, said Mount Union would continue in the Methodist traditions of inclusivity, equality, equity and non-discrimination, as well as love and grace.
“For me, as the chaplain, my role on campus is to create a space for people to explore faith and identify and kind of wrestle with those big questions of life, and that doesn’t change,” Woodrow said.