Olivet University withdraws from membership of National Association of Evangelicals

May 18, 2023

On May 18, 2023, Olivet University informed the National Association of Evangelicals that it has decided to cancel its membership with the NAE effective immediately. The following is the full letter that was sent by University President Dr. Matthias Gebhardt to NAE’s President Rev. Walter Kim:

Dear Rev. Walter Kim,

On July 7th, 2022, the National Association of Evangelicals suspended Olivet University’s membership. However, the NAE did not give OU an opportunity to respond before or after the decision. Multiple attempts by OU to reach NAE by email and phone were ignored and left unanswered to this day. OU was not informed how the decision to suspend its membership was reached. The NAE has not sought dialogue with OU and has not explained to OU what rights it has as a member and what would need to be done for OU to be reinstated.

The NAE has been derelict in its duty by not fulfilling its mandate to serve its member and by acting unilaterally without verifying the evidence. For example, the NAE has never considered the fact that OU in New York was not “shut down” as the media sensationalized. Instead, OU’s Permission to Operate simply expired and was not renewed. Meanwhile, OU’s New York State charter application remains pending.

Furthermore, OU made multiple failed attempts to reach the NAE, including yourself. After that, OU also reached out to the World Evangelical Alliance on July 12, 2022 asking for help in establishing communications with the NAE. Yet here we are, ten months later, and we still have no way to engage with you.

The NAE states about itself that it strives to “make its members strong and effective” and that it seeks to “influence society for justice and righteousness.” OU has been a member in good standing with the NAE for 17 years. How has the NAE served OU in this time of need? When OU was being treated unjustly by a secular state agency influenced by secular media, the NAE did not stand up for justice and righteousness, and instead turned against its own member by suspending OU.

This is in stark contrast to the Association for Biblical Higher Education, OU’s accrediting body in the U.S. The ABHE followed due process and engaged in conversation with OU to address its concerns. We were able to demonstrate with evidence that accusations made were either untrue or strongly misrepresented the facts. Consequently, OU remains a member of the ABHE.

Regrettably, NAE has not chosen to follow a similar process, thereby failing to adhere to biblical principles and the spirit of evangelicalism.

Therefore, as the NAE has refused and continues to refuse to engage in open and honest communication with OU, and with no path provided for OU to present its case and restore its membership, OU’s leadership has decided that it no longer desires to remain part of the NAE and is herewith canceling its membership with the NAE with immediate effect. Due to the NAE’s action, OU has received and continues to receive reputational harm, for which OU holds the NAE legally accountable.

OU remains open to rejoining the NAE in the future if the NAE publicly apologizes for the way it has treated its long-time member and commits to fulfilling its own stated vision, mission, and values. This, we believe, is necessary if the NAE wants to authentically promote membership as a way to “together make a greater impact for the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Sincerely in Christ,

Matthias Gebhardt
Olivet University President



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