Biola reaffirms LGBT policy after controversy at Azusa Pacific

As APU deals with fallout of a landmark rule change and rapid reversal, Biola’s administration responds.

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Biola reaffirms LGBT policy after controversy at Azusa Pacific

Courtesy of studyusa.com

Courtesy of studyusa.com

Courtesy of studyusa.com

Macie Cummings, Austin Green, and Isabelle Thompson

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As college students across the country prepared to start the fall 2018 semester, one of Biola’s closest peers was rocked by a firestorm of controversy over its handling of LGBT students on its campus.

Azusa Pacific University, a school with similar origins and beliefs as Biola—not to mention the longstanding athletic rivalry between the two—has made national headlines over the past month because of its decision to remove, then reinstate, its ban on public LGBT relationships on its campus.

APU TRUSTEES VETO LGBT POLICY CHANGE

APU’s initial change to its student standard of conduct coincided with the start of the current semester, but had been in the works long before then. School administration and student leaders had been discussing the change for nearly a year, according to a Sept. 18 report from Zu News, APU’s student-run news publication.

An APU administration member told Zu News that the school still maintained its previous perspective on human sexuality and that the altered code of conduct remained in alignment with that view.

After receiving criticism from both inside and outside the university, Azusa Pacific’s board of trustees announced on Sept. 28 that it was reinstating the old student conduct language and said it had never approved any changes in the first place.

The reversal caused a flurry of local and national media coverage, and sparked increased tensions between APU and some students and alumni, according to Zu News and the Los Angeles Times. APU administration has reportedly remained open to dialogue on the subject while Haven, APU’s longtime underground LGBT student group, has been absorbed by Azusa Pacific’s student life department as an on-campus ministry.

BIOLA AFFIRMS STANCE ON HUMAN SEXUALITY AND COMMITMENT TO CARE FOR LGBT STUDENTS

While Biola administration has not commented directly on the reversal and reimplementation of APU’s ban, a statement provided to the Chimes reasserted the school’s view on human sexuality, which aligns with APU’s.

“Biola’s position on human sexuality is grounded in our long-standing institutional religious identity. Biola’s decisions on issues specified in the school’s policies are based on our Articles of Faith which have been untouched since Biola’s early years,” the statement read in part.

Biola’s doctrinal statement defines biblical marriage as consisting only of a heterosexual union between a genetic male and genetic female, calling it the “only acceptable context” for a sexual relationship.

As part of the lengthy section on sexual identity in its student handbook, Biola states that conduct that goes against university policy will result in a “disciplinary process” which ultimately seeks the redemption and development of all involved. The school also says it laments the “insensitive and often callous treatment that students working through these issues may have received from the Christian community.”

In regards to the LGBT community that exists on the Biola campus, the statement from administration also affirmed the the university’s resolve to extend compassion, humility, care and spiritual guidance in conversations about human sexuality.

“We pledge to extend compassion and care to all students as they choose to live within the context of Biola’s faith based values. Biola is open to think at increasingly deep dimensions about sexual ethics guided by God’s sovereign word,” the statement read. “Biola has a university sanctioned group called The Dwelling that provides a caring and supportive community where students who identify as LGBT can journey together, reconciling their faith and life circumstances as they grow in discipleship to Christ while still upholding and affirming the university’s positions on human sexuality through the lens of biblical grace.”

The statement also quoted President Barry Corey as saying, “We need to be outspoken in condemning violence and gross injustices toward the LGBT community, not just in the Christian community but in society at large.”

WHAT IS THE DWELLING?

The Dwelling, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment, defines itself on its Student Hub page as aiming to “be a caring and supportive community where students who identify as LGBTQ or experience same-sex attraction (SSA) can journey together.” As the statement from the administration said, it is a school-sanctioned community that still upholds Biola’s doctrinal statement.

“We seek to hold the tension of our deep conviction on marriage and the practical applications of this position, while showing compassion and care toward students that identify as LGBTQ or experience SSA,” the Dwelling’s page says. “Relationally supporting our students is not the same as supporting same-sex marriage.”

The Dwelling also says it seeks to mimic the acts of Jesus in the way that he interacted with the people around him. They hope to provide discipleship for students through the lens of biblical grace.

“Our example is that of Jesus, who spent time with people from all walks of life, balancing grace and truth in his responses to their life circumstances,” according to the Student Hub page.