Azusa Pacific, a Christian university in southern California, recently announced that they were removing their restriction on same-sex relationships between students. The move comes after pressure from student groups who demanded a change in the regulation.
ZU Media, “The Student Voice of Azusa Pacific University,” said the change in the code of conduct does not reflect a shift in the university’s commitment to a biblical sexual ethic. “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.”
The conduct agreement still requires all students to abstain from sexual behavior. Erin Green, an Azusa Pacific graduate and Co-Executive Director of Brave Commons, a Christian LGBT advocacy group, told ZU Media, “We thought it was unfair to single out queer folks in same-sex romantic relationships while it is impossible to enforce or monitor [whether other students are remaining abstinent],” Green said. “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.”
Azusa Pacific’s Associate Dean of Students, Bill Fiala, said they changed the language in the conduct code for the sake of “equity” and that it better reflects Christian values. “The changes that occurred (sic) to the handbooks around sexual behavior creates one standard for all undergraduate students, as opposed to differential standards for different groups. 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.”
Fiala also addressed the University’s decision to create a space for LGBT students at the school through a partnership with Haven, an LGBT support group. He said, “Our hope is that the students who come 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.”
Rod Dreher, the author of The Benedict Option, commented on Azusa Pacific’s decision in a column at The American Conservative. He blasted the change, calling it a “surrender.” “That’s all she wrote at Azusa Pacific. 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.”
Fiala had a word for those who question the University’s decision. He said, “I’m not a big fan of who’s right and who’s wrong in this conversation, I’m a big fan of caring for people. So my hope would be that we treat each other that way.”
Scott Slayton is a pastor and writer. Visit his blog One Degree to Another.
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