Conservative Christian colleges, once relatively insulated from the culture war, are increasingly entangled in the same battles over LGBT rights and related social issues that have divided other institutions in America.
Students and faculty at many religious institutions are asked to accept a "faith statement" outlining the school's views on such matters as evangelical doctrine, scriptural interpretation and human sexuality. Those statements often include a rejection of homosexual activity and a definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Changing attitudes on sexual ethics and civil rights, however, are making it difficult for some schools, even conservative ones, to ensure broad compliance with their strict positions.
"Millennials are looking at the issue of gay marriage, and more and more they are saying, 'OK, we know the Bible talks about this, but we just don't see this as an essential of the faith,' " says Brad Harper, a professor of theology and religious history at Multnomah University, an evangelical Christian institution in Portland, Ore.
LGBT students at Christian schools are also increasingly likely to be open about their own sexual orientation or gender identity.
Staff and faculty at these Christian schools have to balance a need to attend to their students' personal and spiritual needs with a commitment to their schools' faith statements or official positions on sexuality.
"You've got those two values," says Mary Hulst, senior chaplain at Calvin. "We love our students. We love our church of Jesus Christ. We love Scripture. So those of us who do this work are right in the middle of that space. We are living in the tension."
"Someone from the LGBT community will say, 'If you will not honor the choices I make with my life, if I choose a partner and get married, then you're not actually honoring me.' I can understand that," Hulst says, grimacing. "I can see how they might come to that conclusion."
In addition to changing social and cultural attitudes, conservative religious schools face a changing legal environment regarding LGBT issues. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of "race, color, religion, sex, or national origin."
Though the language does not refer to sexual orientation or gender identity, some courts have interpreted Title VII as protecting LGBT individuals and the recent trend has been in a pro-LGBT direction.
As with Title VII, the question of whether "sex" under Title IX should be interpreted as referring to sexual orientation is hotly debated.
In April 2015, during a Supreme Court argument over the constitutional rights of LGBT individuals, Justice Samuel Alito noted that Bob Jones University in South Carolina had lost its tax-exempt status because of its prohibition on interracial dating and marriage.
"Would the same apply to a university or a college if it opposed same-sex marriage?" Alito asked then-U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr.
"It's certainly going to be an issue," Verrilli answered. "I don't deny that."
The exchange alarmed officials at conservative religious schools, for which the loss of tax-exempt status or federal funding would be devastating. Their anxiety deepened a year later, when the Obama administration notified colleges and universities that it interpreted Title IX as prohibiting discrimination "based on a student's gender identity, including discrimination based on a student's transgender status." Christian schools saw that letter as threatening a loss of federal funding if they refused to accommodate students who identify as transgender and want to be housed with other students who share their gender identity.
Upon taking office, the Trump administration rescinded the Obama directive, but some leaders at Christian schools still fear the cultural and legal trends are in favor of expanded LGBT rights on their campuses, which could mean their policies on sexual behavior could face serious challenges.
Educational institutions can currently apply for an exemption from the nondiscrimination provisions of Title VII by demonstrating that those provisions contradict their religious beliefs, but opinions vary on whether those exemptions will protect Christian colleges that seek to maintain strict student and employee policies relating to sexual orientation.
Other Christian college leaders, however, fear that the application of civil rights law to LGBT individuals could eventually jeopardize religious exemptions.
"Four years down the line, eight years down the line, depending on the makeup of the Supreme Court, depending on who is president, I can see the gay/transgender issue being pushed in a way that would seek to make Christian colleges either surrender their federal funding or change their position and conform with the wider consensus," says Carl Trueman, a professor of church history at Westminster Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania.
Brad Harper of Multnomah University, which affirms that "sexual relationships are designed by God to be expressed solely within a marriage between a man and a woman," says he has seen growing anxiety about the future of federal aid at like-minded schools in recent years.
"The fear is so large in many institutions because 40 or 50 or maybe even 60 percent of their budgets are really coming from the federal government," says Dale Kemp, the chief financial officer at Wheaton College in Illinois and the speaker at the CCCU session. "To think they could survive without that [funding] would be catastrophic."
They should, though. You don't want money if it ends up costing you your salvation.
"Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose hope is the LORD" (Jeremiah 17:7).