Two neighboring evangelical Christian colleges in suburban St. Paul, Minnesota, have resolved unrelated disputes with two professors they fired.

Neither professor—Kenneth Gowdy, who taught at Bethel College in Arden Hills, nor Walter M. Dunnett, who taught at Northwestern College in Roseville—will be returning to his former position. The provisions of each severance agreement are to be kept confidential, parties involved in the two unrelated cases have agreed.

Gowdy, 56, an associate professor of sociology who was on the Bethel faculty for 21 years, was terminated because of his views on homosexuality.

Dunnett, 68, who was professor of Bible and theology at Northwestern for 16 years, was dismissed because he was ordained an Episcopal priest.

The agreement involving Gowdy and Bethel, which is operated by the Baptist General Conference, was reached through use of the college’s grievance procedure.

The settlement involving Dunnett came after he filed a lawsuit in Ramsey County District Court against Northwestern, a nondenominational college, and a Northwestern pastor, Kyle Wilson, accusing them of religious discrimination.

A statement signed jointly by Bethel president George Brushaber and Gowdy said the issue in Gowdy’s termination “pertained to Gowdy’s belief that monogamous homosexual relationships are in some circumstances appropriate for Christians—a belief that the college administration held inappropriate and impermissible for a faculty member.”

In the end, the joint statement said the committee concluded that “the past cannot be undone or replayed as if nothing had happened. It is instead a matter of attempting to bring to closure a tragic and unfortunate episode.”

Dunnett’s complaint

In the Dunnett case, his court complaint charged that Northwestern, “by discharging Dunnett because of his status as an Episcopalian and/or as an Episcopal priest, engaged in an intentional unlawful employment practice,” violating state and federal laws.

Wilson, the college pastor, was named a defendant in the suit because of an open letter he wrote to Dunnett in January 1992. In it, he said:

“There is no way you can sign a priest’s ordination vows in the Episcopal Church and also sign the Doctrinal Statement of Northwestern College and be honest before God and these separate organizations.” He said the doctrinal differences are substantial.

Dunnett’s suit asked for reinstatement to his former position, back pay, and damages. He currently is serving as priest-associate-in-charge at Messiah Episcopal Church, St. Paul. Gowdy belongs to that church, as do the attorneys who represented the two men in their disputes. Northwestern College was once headed by Billy Graham as president. It was then located in Minneapolis.

By Willmar Thorkelson in Minneapolis.

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