Following several draft attempts and numerous on-campus meetings and feedback sessions, a final proposal was drafted by the task force in the fall of 2009 and submitted to the President’s Council for consideration.
According to the proposal, the school will “allow the practice of using an instrumental version of the national anthem prior to Goshen College varsity sporting events. Spectators would not be asked to ‘honor’ or ‘give allegiance’ but simply be invited to respectfully stand during the playing of the national anthem.”
The proposal goes on to note that attendees would be free to show whatever form of respect they chose, from standing silently to singing the words and placing a hand over their hearts.
It is this proposal that was accepted by the President’s Council on Friday.
“One of the greatest U.S. freedoms is that we can express our faith and love of country in different ways, and we recognize that Christians differ in how to do that,” Goshen College President James Brenneman said of the decision. “We believe this is the right decision for the college at this time. Playing the anthem offers a welcoming gesture to many visiting our athletic events, rather than an immediate barrier to further opportunities for getting to know one another.”
According to Brenneman, one of the major concerns among the Mennonite community about playing the national anthem has been that it places love for country above love for God — a belief that appears to be changing at GC.
“We believe playing the anthem in no way displaces any higher allegiances, including to the expansive understanding of Jesus — the ultimate peacemaker — loving all people of the world,” Brenneman said.
The President’s Council members echoed Brenneman’s comments in a recent statement announcing their acceptance of the proposal.
“Playing the anthem opens up new possibilities for members of the Goshen College community to publicly offer prophetic critique — if need be — as citizens in the loyal opposition on issues of deepest moral conviction, such as war, racism and human rights abuses,” the council stated. “As we made this decision, we continue to — more publicly, boldly and explicitly than ever — declare our commitment to Christ, to compassionate peacemaking, to servant leadership, to global citizenship and to passionate learning.”