Evangelical College Open to Gays

Last year, I asked which evangelical college would be the first to openly accept GLBT students.  It seems that Belmont University is the answer.  Cathleen Falsani reports that Belmont has recognized a gay student association, one that had been twice previously denied standing on campus:

Late last week, the provost of Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., announced that the school officially had recognized its first gay student organization.

The announcement came barely a month after the Christian school changed its anti-discrimination policy to include homosexuals, after a popular women’s soccer coach was forced out last December because her lesbian partner was expecting a child.

The gay student group had twice been turned down for official recognition. Belmont Provost Thomas Burns said the change of mind reflected an “ongoing campus dialogue about Christian faith and sexuality.”

The thing is, that dialogue isn’t just limited to Belmont.

via Cathleen Falsani: On Evangelical Campuses, Rumblings of Gay Acceptance.

  • http://www.knightopia.com/blog Steve K.

    Thanks for sharing the good news, Tony!

  • http://www.belmont.edu Todd Lake

    Belmont is serious about ensuring that thoughtful, Christian perspectives are at the center of campus conversations. The rationale for forming Bridge Builders is to “address the intersection of faith and sexuality, promoting critical, objective consideration of every side of the conversation.”
    Belmont is clear in its understanding that our students are called by God to live a life of celibacy as singles. Our student conduct policy states: “specific behaviors of sexual misconduct include, but are not limited to: sexual behavior outside of marriage…” Bridge Builders exists, according to its constitution, “to promote healthy, respectful exchanges concerning faith and sexuality….Dignifying another person’s humanity and validating their stories as a legitimate part of their journey does not mean that they are affirming or agreeing with everything another believes or states.”
    Belmont Bridge Builders is affiliated with University Ministries, and is based on the work of Andrew Marin, who has helped start Bridge Builders groups on Christian college campuses across the country. His book, Love is an Orientation, was published by InterVarsity Press and has won more awards from Christian organizations than any other book in their history. University Ministries has taken the lead over the past several years in fostering a conversation about faith and sexuality at Belmont, all within the context of Christian conviction.

  • http://bengriffith.tumblr.com Ben Griffith

    Good for Belmont.

    It shouldn’t be overlooked that, while Nashville’s not the MOST conservative city, it is in the South, and it is primarily evangelical.

  • http://charlieschurchofchrist.wordpress.com Charlie’s Church of Christ

    that is big news, and a sign that not all is lost.

  • Julianna

    I keep hoping to see a domino effect here…. But it’s a good start!

  • http://localtheology.com peter lambert

    awesome, thank G-d

  • tom c.

    Yes, this is a promising sign, but what about the women’s soccer coach? Was she offered her job back? It’s appalling that she was “forced out” not just when but because her partner was pregnant.

  • Steve

    Related. This is an underground zine from anonymous GLBT students at Harding University, a conservative Christian university in Searcy, Arkansas:

    http://www.huqueerpress.com/

  • http://dunlopmichael.wordpress.com Michael Dunlop

    so sad… whatever happened to “be holy as I am holy.” Why call yourself a “christian college” lol. Just admit that you are not Christian. That’s my biggest problem with emergent… when you deny everything in christian theology, its stupid to sit around calling yourself “christian”! Its like saying you have a tv in your car… but it doesn’t have a screen, and only gets radio stations.

  • http://whateveryoudo.ca David

    Michael, what is there about the nature of dialogue that requires a denial of “christian theology”? openness and dialogue seems to be very much in line with the context of jesus’ call to perfection.

  • Scot Miller

    Of course, Michael Dunlop, the very real possibility is that “emergent” people are more worthy of being called “Christian” than people who claim to possess and control what it means to be Christian. Because defenders of “orthodoxy” are only defending their conception of right belief, not what it means to practice right belief. “In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female,” [straight or gay], “for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). It is more worthy of Christians to accept and love everyone (Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, straight or gay) than to condemn. Seems like Belmont is finally beginning to live up to the name “Christian” on the issue of homosexuality.

  • http://dunlopmichael.wordpress.com Michael Dunlop

    Scot, honestly I don’t know how to reply to that. You would have to be living under a rock to think that emergent theology was closer to the teachings of the Bible than historic, orthodox Christianity. There are surely people who believe wrong things who hold to an orthodox understanding of doctrine (including myself), but its really just silly to think that no one has been right for 2000 years, and then al of a sudden some people start to understand things correctly.

  • Scot Miller

    Michael Dunlop, first of all, it’s a bit of a “straw man” fallacy to mischaracterize the emergent movement as you do. Nobody is saying that “no one has been right for 2000 years, and then al (sic) of a sudden some people start to understand things correctly.” But it’s not so silly to say that orthodoxy is a theological construction of finite and fallible human beings trying to make sense of their religious experience. And it’s not so silly to say that some Christians have confused their finite and fallible concepts with the truth.

    But it IS silly to assume that the finite and historically conditioned human mind can grasp the eternal truths of God without distortion (“… now we see through a mirror, dimly…”). And when I hear Jesus say, ““Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven,” (Matt. 7:21), I think it’s pretty clear that the emergent emphasis of orthopraxis over orthodoxy is far more biblical than having “right belief” (orthodoxy).

    Orthodoxy defended a geocentric universe in the 16th century. Orthodoxy defended slavery in the 19th century. Orthodoxy condemns homosexuality in the 21st century. Orthodoxy has been wrong on these issues.

    The Bible presupposes a geocentric universe because the Bible is historically conditioned. The Bible tolerates the practice of slavery because the Bible is historically conditioned. The Bible appears to condemn homosexuality because the Bible is historically conditioned. Wouldn’t it be better to change the way we read scripture than to defend a particular way of reading scripture which is inadequate when it comes to issues like slavery and homosexuality? And wouldn’t it be even better to actually follow the example of Christ, who accepted the sinners that the Pharisees condemned?

  • http://dunlopmichael.wordpress.com Michael Dunlop

    Scot, orthodoxy comes from a normal understanding of the biblical text as our objective authority. Outside of that there is no reason to be conversing (if we don’t have an objective authority, than we’re just making things up, and its your ideas against mine… no one has the right to say either of us is right).

    Orthopraxi should flow out of orthodoxy (you can see this in the structuring of Paul’s letters). The emergent movement seems to put the horse before the cart here (forgive me if im setting up straw men) by emphasizing orthopraxi, and even letting it define their orthodoxy. That’s backwards.

    any failure of 16th or 19 century “orthodoxy” was because their theology wasn’t “ortho” enough, if you will, not because the Scriptures teach it. The Scriptures must define what is “right” or else we are just making stuff up.

    anyway, I don’t know why I got into a conversation here. I am always tempted to, but they never go anywhere. It’s pointless for two people to argue about something unless they have the same philosophy of knowledge. I guess it all just comes down to epistemology. All I can say is please don’t make things up—God will not judge you according to what you made up, but according to what He revealed.

  • Scot Miller

    Michael: First, I don’t think the problem is that some (orthodox) Christians recognize the objective authority of the Bible whereas other (emergent) so-called-Christians reject the objective authority of the Bible. If someone does not recognize the Bible (OT + NT) to be her authority, she wouldn’t call herself a Christian and wouldn’t care what a traditional Christian or an “emergent” Christian would say, and probably wouldn’t bother to post anything here.

    I think I made it clear that the problem isn’t with the objective authority of scripture, but with how the Christian community comes to interpret scripture. Even you acknowledge that orthodoxy is a work in progress, that it made huge mistakes when it came to interpreting scripture about the geocentric universe and slavery. So the problem isn’t epistemology, but hermeneutics. It is a faulty hermeneutic to condemn homosexuality from scripture because it isn’t consistent with the overall revelation of God in Christ: In Christ there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, straight or gay.

    Let me be clear: the dispute is between (A) those who believe that their interpretation of scripture and their understanding of orthodoxy in no way distorts the revelation, and (B) those who believe that their interpretation of scripture and their understanding of orthodoxy can distort the revelation, and that it is necessary to revise their beliefs based on better interpretations and more complete understandings (or, as Paul says in Phil. 2:12, “[to] work out your own salvation with fear and trembling…”).

    Second, I think I demonstrated at least two areas where the orthodox position “made things up,” (i.e., a geocentric universe and the defense of slavery). So I think you should also be concerned that your right beliefs aren’t in error, too. That’s why it’s important to question even orthodoxy, to be sure that the beliefs we hold are adequate to the truth they purport to express. That’s why I think it’s important to follow Paul’s admonition in 1 Thess. 5:20-21: “Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good.”

    Third, I think it’s interesting that you find it so difficult to respond to my posts and arguments. I’ve actually quoted scripture and offered interpretations that are plausible. Instead of addressing my interpretations or challenging my contentions, it appears that you would prefer to throw up your hands and walk away. Maybe the real problem is that you have bad arguments for your contention that Belmont shouldn’t be called a Christian university, and it’s easier to walk away than to defend your (inadequate) position.

  • http://dunlopmichael.wordpress.com Michael Dunlop

    Scot, I do believe that hermeneutics is definitely an issue, but in a lot of ways a person’s hermeneutics will show their view of authority. When people just through around Scripture with wild interpretations, using it for odd proof-texts left and right, it is clear that they have not placed themselves under it, but USE it to prove their own presuppositions or desires.

    I still believe that authority is an issue. McLaren (forgive me if I group everyone who is associated with the ‘emergent’ camp together… i know that there are differences) has clearly denied that the Bible should be an authority (in ‘a new kind of christian). You also said, “The Bible presupposes a geocentric universe because the Bible is historically conditioned. The Bible tolerates the practice of slavery because the Bible is historically conditioned” if you really believe the bible says these things, than you clearly don’t believe it is inerrant (since you don’t follow them today), and therefore cannot fully believe it is authoritative (if you sit over the bible as say “this and this is ‘culturally conditioned’ therefore it is not authoritative” than who is the real authority here? You make the calls).

    Also, adding “straight or gay” each time you quote Gal 3 is more than a hermeneutical issue. Regarding your quotations of Scripture: I didn’t think that the comments section on a blog post was the place to go into long discussions about interpretations of specific verses you casually brought up in your comments. My differences in interpretation would be so deeply rooted that it would take much more than a single blog comment to explain why I thought it was incorrect. Homosexuality finds no support in the nt, only condemnation. It goes against God’s beautiful design for sex and marriage throughout the Scriptures, and goes against the obvious biological designs of the human body.

  • Scot Miller

    Michael — I don’t remember McLaren denying the authority of the Bible in “A New Kind of Christianity.” I’ll have to re-read it to see if that’s true. My hunch is that McLaren said something which indicated that he didn’t understand biblical authority the way you think it should be understood.

    I think that we actually agree that the issue isn’t whether or not the Bible is authoritative (it is), but how we understand the nature of biblical authority. My you clearly locate biblical authority in the inerrant words of scripture, but I don’t. I think biblical authority is discovered and experienced in the community of faith. I experience the Bible as authoritative because God’s saving work of grace has been mediated to me through the Bible. I suppose that’s not good enough for you. (I guess it’s a good thing that salvation doesn’t depend upon what you or I think about biblical inerrancy.)

    I think it’s pretty clear that the Bible was mistaken about the relationship between the earth and the sun in Josh. 10:12-13; Ps. 93:1; Ps. 104:5; Eccl. 1:5; Ps. 19:4c-6. (These were the scriptures used to condemn Galileo). It would be absurd to think that the biblical writers really believed the earth goes around the sun when these scriptures say the opposite. After the scientific revolution of the 17th century, we know that it’s better to read these scriptures figuratively and not literally or scientifically.

    In the same way, the texts that “condemn” homosexuality seem located in a historical situation that is entirely different from our situation. It would be a mistake not to take the historical context into account. Christians in the 19th century used the Bible to defend the practice of slavery in the US. I believe it’s fair to say they misused scripture and misunderstood the truth. In the same way, I think that using scripture to condemn homosexuality is to misuse scripture and misunderstand the truth.

    I’d be curious to know if you thought I was just throwing scripture around “with wild interpretations, using it for odd proof-texts left and right…” If so, which scripture did I misuse? Looking back, the only plausible candidate for a “wild interpretation” was my addition of the phrase “straight or gay” to Gal. 3:28. But is that addition really so “wild” or contrary to the meaning of the text? Do you really think that Paul’s list is the exhaustive list of the dualities that are overcome in Christ? My interpretation clearly makes you uncomfortable, but I don’t know if it’s so wild. Either you believe what Paul says, that “all one in Christ Jesus,” or you don’t. I think Paul is right at this point.

    Michael, I also agree that our approaches to scripture and to the issue of homosexuality are so different that we will never come to an agreement. You’re not changing my mind, and I’m not changing yours. And that’s a good thing! These kinds of differences help clarify the issues. But it would be a mistake for either of us to conclude that one of us is a true follower of Christ and the other isn’t. It’s more likely that we’re both partially right and partially wrong.

  • http://dunlopmichael.wordpress.com Michael Dunlop

    Scot, the McLaren quote I was referring to is from page 52 in ‘a new kind of christian’ (not ‘christianity,’ i have not read that).

    “Relax, Dan, I’m only saying what the Bible says. That oft-quoted passage in Second Timothy doesn’t say ‘All Scripture is inspired by God and is authoritative.’It says that Scripture is inspired and useful–useful to teach, rebuke, correct, instruct us to live justly, and equip us for our mission as the people of God” (52). Of course this is not actually McLaren talking, but a character. Nevertheless I think its safe to say that he was expressing his belief.

    First of all the passage says that the Word is profitable for “teaching, reproof, for correction, and training…” so I would ask ‘if you have a teacher, who is allowed to rebuke you, to correct you when you are wrong, and to train you, would not that person be considered an authority?’ Secondly, and most importantly, how low does your view of God have to be to say that the Words (graphe) that He breaths out are not an authority over you?

    When I spoke of “wild interpretations, using it for odd proof-texts left and right” I wasn’t talking about anything you said. Im sorry if I made it seem that way.

    “biblical authority is discovered and experienced in the community of faith” This just seems so subjective to me. Ephesians 4 tells us to build each other up “so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” From my experience with emergent Christianity there doesn’t seem to be any effort not to be “carried about my every wind of doctrine”…. the opposite seems to be true. No doctrine seems to be viewed with skepticism (except for anything orthodox or ‘fundamentalist’).

  • Scot Miller

    Michael, I appreciate your thoughtful response! And thanks for the McLaren reference. I don’t think it’s saying what you think it does, but at least I hear where you’re coming from. I also appreciate your concern that the “emergent” movement (for lack of a better term) seems to have gone off the rails on right belief about matters like homosexuality.

    I can understand why you’re unhappy with what appears to be my “subjective” approach to authority. Unfortunately, I am a finite human being, and I can only understand the infinite reality of God in finite, human ways. So I would say your understanding of orthodox Christian belief is every bit as “subjective” as mine, unless you think the thoughts of human beings can be coextensive with God’s thoughts, and human beings can understand God’s word without any distortion. Orthodoxy itself is “subjective,” because it amounts to the collective wisdom of people of faith in a particular place in a particular time given the best information they have. I think it’s better to acknowledge our human limitations (“… now we see through a glass, darkly…”) than to assume that our “right beliefs” are adequate to the truth. Whether or not the Bible is inerrant or God changes, it is a fact that I change, that I live through time, that my understandings can be better and worse.

    I’m not convinced that the orthodox interpretations of scripture about homosexuality are adequate to the total reality of God. You seem to be convinced. You obviously think I am misunderstanding the Bible; I think your interpretation is mistaken. I think I’ve given good reasons why I disagree with your approach to biblical authority, which I think is as “subjective” as mine.

    It may be the case that one is either a Christian or not a Christian (C or not-C). But I think it’s also the case that there are degrees of being Christian, that one can hold beliefs and actions that are more or less worthy of Christ. We both feel that our positions are more worthy of Christ than than the other. I think it is more Christlike to treat real, concrete human beings as real persons, and not objects which can be dismissed as “homosexuals.”

    So long as the relationship is purely voluntary, so long as there is no deception or coercion, so long as the relationship leads to human flourishing, it should not matter if the relationship is heterosexual or homosexual. There is no good reason to object to homosexuality (in my judgment), and I think that being open and accepting of everyone regardless of their sexual orientation is more Christlike than condemning them. That’s why I initially said that Belmont is moving in the right direction, why they are beginning to act in a way that is worthy of being called “Christian” than excluding (or condemning) someone for their sexual orientation.

  • http://dunlopmichael.wordpress.com Michael Dunlop

    Scot, thanks for your response. I think that once again it comes down to our view of the Bible. If i viewed the Bible as you do, than you would be correct in saying that my view of authority is just as subjective as yours.

    “Orthodoxy itself is “subjective,” because it amounts to the collective wisdom of people of faith in a particular place in a particular time given the best information they have. I think it’s better to acknowledge our human limitations”

    I don’t believe that the limitations of finite men limited the revelation that God mediated through them.

    “And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

    Of course believing in verbal plenary inspiration takes faith, and faith has an element of subjectivity to it, but I would rather place my faith in the proven, trusted words of Scripture, than the interpretations of the community of faith. I don’t believe that God has left us alone with the Scriptures, for us to decide what is true, and where the author’s limitations crept in. This opens the door to deny anything. I believe (faith) that the Scriptures are right when they teach He will preserve them for us without error. I know that’s foolish and ‘fundamentalist’ by today’s scholarship, but that doesn’t bug me too much.

    Regarding homosexuals: I am not saying that we should hold up signs saying “God hates homosexuals” or act like they are less than human, any more than I think we should do the same to people who struggle with pride or lust (as I do). I believe that homosexuality is a sin, and we should call it what it is. But we should do this out of love and seeking the good of that person (“speaking the truth in love”). I am also a sinner, and if I struggled with obvious anger (or name a sin), and was unwilling to repent of it and take the necessary steps to be freed from it, I would hope that no Christian college would admit me either. Its a matter of taking the first steps to living a set-apart christian life… before those are taken one should not be moving to higher training for Christian service.

    Thanks for your comments. Ill be working 12 hour shifts the next few day, so probably wont be able to respond if you post. -Michael

  • http://dunlopmichael.wordpress.com Michael Dunlop

    PS. sorry about my poor writing/sentence structure/run-ons in my posts. I need to get in the habit of writing better/proofing even in these little things.

  • http://cjbanning.dreamwidth.org Cole J. Banning

    Scientific authority is discovered and experienced in the community of scientists–critiquing and reviewing and improving upon each other’s work–but science is not subjective. Indeed, it is exactly its dialectical processes which allows to be objective. I think Christian community works the same way, with a historical dialectic driven by the Spirit which improves our understanding across time. And since the Triune God exists in dialectic with Godself, this seems appropriate.

  • Scot Miller

    Michael — I’ve enjoyed our little exchange. Best wishes on what looks like a hard work week.

    Cole — What a great analogy! And just as science is self-corrective, good theology should be self-corrective, willing to examine its assumptions, revising beliefs based on better evidence and better arguments. While I don’t think theological “evidence” is similar to scientific evidence, it does seem to be the case that rational arguments work in both disciplines. Always go with the better argument! (And I do agree that this more dialectic assessment of theology is more adequate to a Triune God than a more dogmatic and static understanding of theology.)