Christian universities face mounting concerns over homosexuality [Part Two]
Christian campuses, including Biola, are figuring out how to guide students through the issue of homosexuality. Todd Clayton, the Associated Student Body director of spiritual life at Point Loma Nazarene University, recently confessed his struggles with homosexuality to his peers. Clayton was raised in the Nazarene church and his parents are both pastors. In addition, his mother serves on the PLNU board of trustees.
Because of his leadership in a spiritual position on campus, there was concern from administrators. However, he was not asked to leave his position but stepped down several weeks later for personal reasons.
Point Loma supports struggling students
“We consider ourselves to be a work in progress,” said Caye Smith, vice president for student development at PLNU. “We desire to support our students regarding all matters that are of concern to them and sexual orientation is certainly one of those issues and we’re looking for the best, healthiest way to do that.”
In the past, Point Loma has held special chapel sessions concerning this issue and invited specialists to speak on campus. Smith said because the school year is almost over, they are not currently looking into starting any type of formal support group or programming.
However, she did say administrators at PLNU are discussing the most appropriate way to help and support students struggling with sexual orientation.
“We do have a current situation and so we’re obviously right at the end of our semester, so we’re not attempting any formal programming at the moment,” Smith said. “But, we’re certainly available for conversations,” she said.
Like at Biola, PLNU has administrators available to sit down with students and walk with them through their struggles. They also have a counseling center and are able to direct students to available resources off campus.
SPU initiates conversations through student groups
Also working through this issue are administrators at the Christian university: Seattle Pacific. For about five years, a student-initiated club called Haven has met on campus. According to their Facebook group, they exist “to first welcome all, and then engage in uplifting, respectful and educational discussions on human sexuality.” SPU Administrators allow the group to meet on campus as long as members adhere to the university’s community standards.
SPU also has a women’s group that does a program called “Let’s Talk about Sex” on campus once a year. A similar program is also done for men. These programs give both men and women an opportunity to discuss sexuality.
Along with chapels dedicated to the topic, SPU has taken another step toward facilitating this conversation among the student body by starting a human sexuality advisor group. The purpose of this group is to include faculty, staff and students in discussions once a month about sexuality in general.
“We’re trying to do an incredible job of addressing what our students face in regards to the issue of sexuality and many different facets of that,” said Jeff Jordan, dean of student life and associate vice president of academic affairs. “I think that’s one of the things that we’re trying to do with all that.”
Reacting to homosexuality
Chris Grace, vice president of Student Development and university planning, said some students attempt to rationalize their struggle and deny it while others try to fight against it and still others begin to distort their image of God. And along with these personal reactions, Grace says homosexuals must face the reactions of those around them.
“There are still socially acceptable sins and then there are some that are less, that are more prone to condemnation,” said Grace. “Probably born out of fear and uncertainty for some reason we Christians find some sin more bad and disgusting than other sins when in reality it’s all sin, and it’s not according to God’s will for us.”
Biola addresses sexual sins
These two universities are not the only ones concerned about student groups following community standards. The administration at Biola, while wanting to provide a safe environment for students to discuss the issue, also has concerns.
“If there’s a group on campus that’s now advocating for values that go against Biola, well, there’s going to be some conflict there,” Danny Paschall, dean of students, said. “Any group on campus that’s acknowledging we are broken, I need help, I need a safe place to work this out –– wonderful, great. We want to help you in that journey.”
Students that struggle with homosexuality are not asked to leave Biola but the administration does ask that they are genuinely willing to work toward healing and strive to live out the university’s community standards.
Grace said it is rare, or not all that common, that the university has to ask a student to leave because of their struggle with sexual behavioral sins. If a struggling student has a sincere desire to work through it, he said the student would not be not asked to leave.
“It doesn’t happen very often,” Grace said. “Again, because this is one of these issues that may be hidden and that people struggle with privately. It’s rare that someone struggles with this and attempts to knowingly and explicitly challenge or violate the policies, which would lead to dismissal. So it’s just rare.”
Understanding student struggles
While Biola does not require counseling for students struggling with same-sex attraction, there are resources available on and off campus for students seeking help. Paschall said Student Development is a good place to start that search.
Student Development can also help students find someone on campus, either in the department or another faculty member, who is willing to listen and help without condemnation. There are also support groups facilitated through Student Development, Paschall said.
One available resource is the Biola Counseling Center, where students can meet with a therapist to work through their struggles.
Paschall said those who work in Student Development want to journey with students through this and any other struggle, and he acknowledged how hard it is for students to talk about something like same-sex attraction.
“That’s vulnerable. That’s hard, and we acknowledge that too, like that’s not easy to share that,” Paschall said. “And, we have room to hear you and room to journey with you and walk with you in it.”