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Students at the Moody Library. PHoto by Moody Bible Institute.

Moody Bible Institute seeks court protection for its view on women in ministry

Moody Bible Institute in Chicago has asked a federal appeals court to protect its religious beliefs regarding men and women in leadership. It is in response to a lawsuit by a former employee that accuses the institution of discrimination.

The college recently filed an opening brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit with support from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. The brief asks the court to consider whether the federal judiciary should interfere with internal religious disputes and if the former employee’s claims are barred by “the church autonomy doctrine” and “Title VII’s religious exemption.”

Mark Jobe, president of Moody Bible Institute, emphasized in a public statement that the college has trained and helped form men and women of faith for more than 130 years. “This mission is rooted in Christ’s command to announce the good news to all people, and it has served as the bedrock of Moody since our founding,” he said.

Daniel Blomberg, vice president and senior counsel for Becket, explained that Moody Bible Institute requires staff to adhere to its core statement of faith. One of those beliefs is that both men and women are called to religious ministry; however, the church office of pastor is reserved for men.

Janay Garrick was aware of the school’s position when she joined Moody’s faculty, he said, and she signed a yearly application stating that she supported the college’s views because Moody requires its staff to affirm its beliefs each year. Garrick’s actions while employed by the school indicated that she did not share Moody’s views, however. In October 2015 and January 2016, two female students approached Garrick because they wanted to enter Moody’s pastoral ministry program, which is closed to women. The former Moody employee helped one of the students lodge a Title IX complaint against the college.

In addition, Garrick founded “Respect for Women Personally and Ministerially” in 2015, where she announced the Title IX complaint and argued prohibiting women from the pastoral ministry program was discrimination, according to the lawsuit. The school’s faculty eventually met with Garrick in April 2017, expressing concern about whether she supported Moody’s doctrinal statement. Following the meeting, the college decided not to renew Garrick’s contract for the coming year.

Garrick filed a lawsuit in January 2018, which a district court initially dismissed, because the former faculty member’s claims arose from a disagreement she had with Moody’s beliefs about women in ministry, according to Blomberg. However, she later refiled the lawsuit. The senior counsel for Becket also stated that the outcome of the case could have “massive implications” for religious colleges and their ability to operate according to their belief systems.

–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice

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