ACU president issues response to NY Times story on homosexuality on campus
A front-page New York Times news story last week headlined “Gay Rights at Christian Colleges Face Suppression” featured prominent mentions of two universities associated with Churches of Christ:
At Abilene Christian University in Texas, several students are openly gay, and many more are pushing for change behind the scenes. Last spring, the university refused to allow formation of a Gay-Straight Alliance.
“We want to engage these complex issues, and to give help and guidance to students who are struggling with same-sex attraction,” said Jean-Noel Thompson, the university’s vice president for student life. “But we are not going to embrace any advocacy for gay identity.”
At Harding University in Arkansas, which like Abilene Christian is affiliated with the Churches of Christ, half a dozen current and former students posted an online magazine in early March featuring personal accounts of the travails of gay students. The university blocked access to the site on the university’s Internet server, which helped cause the site to go viral in the world of religious universities.
At chapel, Harding’s president, David B. Burks, told students that “we are not trying to control your thinking,” but that “it was important for us to block the Web site because of what it says about Harding, who we are, and what we believe.”
ACU and Harding are just two of the religious universities included in the story. Baylor University in Waco, Texas, North Central University in Minneapolis and Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., are among the others cited.
In response to the national news coverage, ACU President Phil Schubert wrote an op-ed piece clarifying the university’s position. The piece was published in Sunday’s Abilene Reporter-News. ACU provided a copy of the statement to The Christian Chronicle:
On Sexuality and Serving God: ACU’s President Weighs In on Cultural Controversy
By Phil Schubert, Ed.D., President, Abilene Christian University
There is a growing debate throughout our culture regarding the shifting morés surrounding the issue of homosexuality. Christian universities everywhere find themselves in a precarious spot on this topic, having drawn increasing public criticism. Recently, Abilene Christian University’s stance was discussed in a story in The New York Times.
It’s important to me for you to know where ACU stands, and I hope to make our position clear.
ACU is an institution of higher learning, committed to biblical principles and founded upon a heritage of faith. We believe sex is reserved for the marriage bond between one man and one woman, and that sexual stewardship is expected of each of us: faculty, staff and students.
We do not believe homosexual behavior is condoned in the Bible.
We realize, however, there is a difference between someone who is challenged with same-sex attraction, and an individual who acts upon homosexual desires. This is a complex issue requiring individual care and attention. We are committed to carefully and honestly helping all our students make choices that will honor God in their lives, not just in the area of their sexuality. This does not mean every behavior is acceptable. But it does mean we desire to demonstrate compassion toward everyone, even when we have serious disagreements.
Even as we discuss this issue, the well-being of our students remains paramount. We have a zero-tolerance policy with respect to bullying or offensive speech. We are committed to creating an environment in which each person is protected from abusive behavior. I believe it is vital for us to nurture a spirit of hospitality at ACU, in the name of Jesus.
There are differing opinions about what the Bible says on many subjects. We are a university, and there is no subject under the sun we cannot discuss here. The ability to address differences in constructive and godly ways is crucial to what it means for ACU to be Christian.
Let there be no doubt: We have an overriding desire to love and serve God in all we do and say. We place ourselves under scripture’s authority and will do all we can to be obedient to God in all things.
We don’t believe we should keep our students hidden away from the world, protected and cocooned. We want to be a community of people who are trying to be more like Jesus every day. As believers, we understand that all of us make missteps along the way to what we pray is a better understanding of God’s plan for our lives.
We live in a complex world where people (including Christians) act out every day in ways inconsistent with the teachings of Jesus. It’s the reality of the world in which we live – the one in which we’re preparing students to lead and to serve.
The role we play as a community of believers is to help each other with our daily struggles. ACU is a place where faith foundations can grow and mature. It is not for us to throw rocks and cast judgment. At the same time, we cannot condone behaviors that we believe do not honor God.
We desire to place ourselves under God’s Word. We want to address issues of disagreement in constructive and compassionate ways, serving one another with the grace God has shown us. This is our heart and our commitment.
Harding spokesman David Crouch said the university has no plans to respond to the Times article. Crouch added:
The quotes used from Dr. Burks’ chapel presentation are accurate. I wish they had used more of his statement to put those quotes into the context of his entire message.
Burks’ entire chapel statement is included in the YouTube video below. See an earlier post on Harding defending its decision to block the website.