Statement From Briercrest President Michael Pawelke
From the Desk of the President, Michael Pawelke
In the wake of recent press coverage, thank you very much to everyone who has been sending words of encouragement or support.
I am writing in response to a news article that was posted earlier this week regarding stories from former students of Briercrest College and Seminary who claim to have experienced discrimination from our institution based on their sexual identity.
I cannot address specific situations with present or former students because of privacy. We need to protect our students, and while we could make corrections or comments about the details of the articles, we will not.
According to the article, these past students were dismissed callously and quickly. However, I know that in some of these cases, our staff supported and journeyed with these students for years. We will continue to support students sensitively, lovingly, and with biblical teachings as our guide.
Our beliefs have not changed in our rapidly changing culture, but we have been learning and growing in our ability to walk with students through these challenging cultural matters.
It should be clarified that Briercrest has updated its policies in response to the recommendations of the Ministry of Advanced Education, taking cultural and student needs into account. Briercrest has a long history of navigating cultural change and adjusting our practices without compromising our essential biblical beliefs. We have over 23,000 alumni, and like every institution, we have disappointed some in various ways. This is never our intention. We want to remain focused on gospel-centred teaching as we train the next generation.
As for questions of law, we work with our legal counsel to ensure our practices follow federal and provincial legislation. The freedom of religion is afforded to Canadians and is protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Within the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code, section 13(2) protects the right of Briercrest to maintain and preserve its Christian character. Being religious in character is not in violation of the Code but rather is protected by the Code. Allegations that we are acting outside of the law are untrue. We have never been the subject of a human rights complaint, nor have we been found to violate the Human Rights Code.
Let me turn now to some comments that clarify our beliefs, relevant practice, and educational approach.
Our History and Identity
Briercrest College and Seminary has functioned on the Saskatchewan educational landscape since our inception in 1935. We have sought to serve the needs of Saskatchewan and Canada with humility and sacrifice out of simple faith in God. We have been faithful to our biblical roots and our Lord and Saviour. While we have embraced technology, added programs, authorized our degrees, increased our standards, and expanded our influence, we have nevertheless been consistent in our theological and moral principles.
Stance on Human Sexuality
Our stance on human sexuality is laid out in our “Clarifying Statement on Marriage, Human Sexuality, and Gender.” This, as well as our broader statement of faith, can be found here: www.briercrest.ca/about/faith.
Based on these biblical beliefs, we are not going to promote sexual activities that are outside of monogamous, heterosexual marriage. We understand that some people experience same-sex attraction and have deep questions about their identity, but our student conduct code is centered on behaviours consistent with our biblical beliefs.
Ethics and Beliefs
We are an independent, faith-based educational institution. We are transparent about who we are and what we believe. Students attend voluntarily. Our admission requirements limit entry to “practicing and professing Christians.” Each of our schools is dedicated to educating people who claim to be Christians and choose to be a part of this community. Our staff and faculty are required to agree with and support our corporate mission and institutional covenant as a term of employment. This document clearly states our core beliefs and expectations. All college students, upon acceptance, must agree to comply with the Student Responsibilities and Expectations.
Counselling Services are available, but conversion therapy is not practiced. Students seeking counselling services do so voluntarily. We adhere to our policies and keep them current (Anti-harassment Policy, Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Assault Policy, and most recently, Complaints Policy). We have and will continue to cooperate with our accreditors and external partners.
Our commitment is to foster a safe and encouraging culture of a Christian community where everyone is on a journey to grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ and their commitment to live according to the teachings of the Bible.
All feedback or concerns can be sent directly to email@example.com