Bethel senior Lydia Aultman made the decision to disagree with the Covenant for Life Together when she applied to finish her degree after taking a year off from school. | Photo by Sofia Noethe

Choosing not to sign the Covenant

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In her reapplication process to Bethel, senior Lydia Aultman clicked no, that she did not agree to Bethel’s Covenant for Life Together.

By Mady Fortier

Senior Lydia Aultman reapplied to Bethel after taking a year off between her junior and senior year. The readmission application is filled out online through the registrar’s office and ends with Bethel’s Covenant for Life Together, highlighting Bethel’s standards of a biblical lifestyle. Also included is a section to click yes or no: “I agree or do not agree to abide by the guidelines of the Covenant.”

Aultman clicked no.

“I read the Covenant, and however disturbing it sounded, I signed it,” Aultman said of her first time filling out the application for Bethel.

She had agreed to the Covenant at the beginning of her first three years at Bethel because she didn’t know there was another option. But on the application, both for first-time students and students who are reapplying, there is an option to agree or disagree with the Covenant.

According to Bret Hyder, director of admissions, it is a choice to be a part of this covenant community, and because of that there is a committee led by Dean and Vice President Deb Sullivan-Trainor to ensure that all students who apply to Bethel understand the Covenant and what they are choosing to join.  

It is a requirement for students to agree to the Covenant before they are accepted to Bethel. It is a rare occurrence that a student disagrees, Hyder said, so it has not proven to be an issue for the admissions office. But in the rare situation where a student does disagree to abide by the Covenant, the student’s application gets sent to a committee for review.

My main reason (for not agreeing) is that I’m a queer woman.

One student was accepted to Bethel last year despite his decision to not sign the Covenant. He brews beer as a part of his livelihood, and because of that he could not agree with the Covenant, according to Hyder.

The application that Aultman submitted went through the registrar’s office and not the admissions office. Applications are reviewed during the acceptance process, but it was most likely an oversight, Hyder said.

My main reason (for not agreeing) is that I’m a queer woman,” Aultman said.

The Covenant states that sexual activity is reserved for heterosexual marriage.

“I’m homosexual, so anything I do is homosexual behavior,” Aultman said. “I didn’t think I’d ever come out in my time at Bethel, and now that I am out I would feel very offended if I had to sign it (the Covenant).”

Aultman’s reasons for disagreeing with the Covenant were not solely based on its section about marriage and sexuality, but also the name “covenant.” Aultman believes that a covenant is something initiated by God, a promise made between himself and his people.

It would make more sense to call it a contract, Aultman said. She refers to the Bible where serious consequences were the result of a covenant being broken and views that as a precaution to signing a covenant.

Campus Pastor Laurel Bunker spoke in chapel Aug. 28 about the importance of the Covenant and how it allows students to be connected with each other.

“It doesn’t mean that we’re gonna be perfect,” Bunker said. “It’s not about condemnation, it’s not about worry, it’s not about fret – it’s about an aspirational and inspirational goal to love one another as Christ loves us.”

According to Hyder, a student can only receive disciplinary action from violating policies in the Student Handbook, not the Covenant. Although the two work in tandem, students cannot be disciplined for breaking only the Covenant. 

“Whether a student abides by the Covenant is irrelevant,” Hyder said. “It exists for a very good reason. Not disciplinary action.”


Editor’s note: The final quote from Bret Hyder in a previous version of this article did not provide adequate context, which may have distorted the meaning. We have updated the article to include more context from Hyder. We regret the ambiguity and are grateful to our sources for the follow-up.

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