After years of pressure, Evangelical College Azusa Pacific announced late last week that it would begin allowing LGBT relationships for students on campus.
The student paper, Zu Media, reported last week that officials at the Christian university in California decided to remove language from the student standard code of conduct that had previously prohibited LGBT relationships on campus:
“Students may not engage in a romanticized same-sex relationship,” section 9 of the policy states. Additionally, section 11 of the policy states that “[s]tudents may not engage in unmarried sexual behavior.”
“The university only recognizes the marriage between a man and a woman,” the document reads.
The following statement was released last Tuesday on Zu Media:
“Effective this fall 2018 semester, Azusa Pacific removed language from its student standard of conduct agreement that prohibited public LGBTQ+ relationships for students on campus. As an evangelical institution, APU still adheres to the Biblical principles of human sexuality—the belief that “sexual union is intended by God to take place only within the marriage covenant between a man and a woman” and it remains a cornerstone of the university’s foundation.”
Having called for a change for quite a long time, LGBT activists held a vigil last November for Mahesh Pradhan, a former employee who sued the university for wrongful demotion, claiming having dealt with harassment and assaults by other colleagues who believed him to be gay.
Bill Fiala, Associate Dean of Students, described the changes made to the student code of conduct:
“The changes that occurred to the handbooks around sexual behavior creates one standard for all undergraduate students, as opposed to differential standards for different groups,” Fiala said.
“The change that happened with the code of conduct is still in alignment with our identity as a Christian institution. The language changed, but the spirit didn’t. Our spirit is still a conservative, evangelical perspective on human sexuality.”
“We have been intentional about the program, and want it to be considered a program that comes out of student life and out of the university. We created this in support of the LGBTQ+ students at APU,” Fiala said. “One prong of that is the weekly meetings with Haven. Another aspect of that is educational outreach, and holding events. We are co-creating a program with students.”
The Office of Student Life has hired two student interns who will work with Fiala on the trial run for the pilot program which is partnering with Haven, which holds weekly on-campus meetings on Tuesday evenings.
Erin Green, co-executive director of Brave Commons along with other recent APU alumni who have pushed for the recognition of LGBT groups on campus, said that it was “unfair” for the university to exclude people in gay relationships.
“Queer students are just as able to have romanticized relationships that abide by APU’s rules. The code used falsely assumed that same-sex romances always involved sexual behavior. This stigmatization causes harm to our community, especially those serious about their Christian faith,” Green stressed.
A new pilot program is also in place that is aimed at providing “a safe space for LGBTQ+ students on campus.”
Fiala said the hope is for students to “experience respect, justice, grace and understanding.”
“If you look at our mission, it’s consistent with Christianity. Our values for the pilot program are inclusivity, love, bravery. Our goals are care, connection and conversation. These all seem like Christian values to me,” he continued.
“I believe that our program’s mission is alignment with the values of the university in caring for students and creating conversation about difficult topics.”
Several conservative commentators, such as Orthodox Christian author Rod Dreher, was opposed to the decision.
“They can tell themselves whatever they like about their ‘spirit,’ but it’s self-deception. This is how conservative institutions surrender: by giving up, then telling themselves (and their donors) that they haven’t surrendered. Saving face is not the same thing as saving the institution’s core values,” he wrote in an article published on The American Conservative website on Saturday.
“Azusa Pacific is an important Evangelical school. It will be very interesting to see what the rest of the CCCU (Council for Christian Colleges and Universities) schools do in response,” he added.
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