Professor: Azusa Pacific Is Losing ‘God First’
A few days ago, I wrote a post titled “Queering Azusa Pacific University,” about the Los Angeles Evangelical Christian college changing its campus policy to be more LGBT-friendly. It was a strange move. The school now tolerates same-sex “romantic” relationships, even as it maintains — in theory — the idea that sex is only appropriate for married male-female couples. This is a feeble attempt by one of the country’s largest conservative Evangelical colleges to satisfy the Zeitgeist while maintaining the fiction that the school is still conservative and Evangelical on human sexuality.
On September 24, Barbara N. Harrington, who teaches writing in Azusa Pacific’s Honors College, sent a letter to the college’s Board of Trustees, alerting them to the radicalization underway at APU. I have seen the letter. A portion of it is below:
Dear Members of the Board of Trustees –
As we begin another school year, it is very appropriate to thank God for the gift that has been Azusa Pacific University to the world for these last 118 years. It is impossible to separate from APU’s story of growth and achievement, the evidence of divine favor on our startling and wondrous mission to be a university set apart among all the others as a place where in everything, it is always “God first.”
In the last few years, I have had conversations with many members of the faculty, representing the broad spectrum of APU Departments, who have become concerned that APU is in danger of losing its essential quality. There is a feeling that there has been a muzzling of the voices in the community that would advocate traditional Biblical understanding. We have been afraid to speak as whistleblowers lest it redound against us personally, or against our departments. I have decided to come out and speak despite this fear, because I perceive the threats to the essence of APU to be so dire. More and more, it seems clear that various spirits of the age are being raised up at APU, such that the God of traditional Biblical understanding, and what He asks of us, is being redefined. As Christian scholars – historians, theologians, philosophers, scientists – we know where this path leads. The loss of “God First” means APU stops progressing and loses itself and its defining character in a wave of change. It becomes a university indistinguishable from so many others who are sinking in the “messy middle” of post-modern confusion.
The purpose of this letter is to call for three things:
1) Sadly, the leadership failures at APU in the area of mission, vision, and administration are so egregious that it is clear that President Wallace must immediately step down.
2) An immediate suspension of the search for a new CEO pending a period of deep soul-searching by the Board of Trustees as to what APU should be. We can’t bring somebody in to be president and essentially ask them to decide who we are and who we are going to be.
3) Immediate suspension of the recent changes to the APU Student Handbook which now permits homosexual romantic relationships, and an immediate halt to the sanctioning of the homosexual advocacy group Haven, pending an extended consideration of the nature of authentic Christian teaching in the area of sexuality, and how a Christian university should respond to the current cultural confusion in this area.
I want to register first and foremost my trust and hope in your goodwill, and in the Divine plan for APU, which is entrusted to you. But I want you to know that there is a tide of grief and dismay in many of us, that something very beautiful could be lost here at APU if something is not done soon to reconnect the university to its essential identity. Here are a few of our specific concerns related to mission drift and Leftist radicalization at APU.
1) Changing the APU Student Handbook to Permit Romantic Homosexual Relationships and Officially Recognizing a Homosexual Rights Student Group, Haven – Both of these two actions represent a radical departure from APU’s mission to be a fully Christian university. There must be no distance between God’s law as revealed in Scripture and through the history of Christianity, and the standards of conduct officially validated at APU. The current nonsensical policy, that would encourage students to engage in romantic homosexual relationships, but hope that they will stop short of having sex outside of marriage connotes that homosexual relationships are as healthy and normal as heterosexual ones. We know as traditional Biblical Christians that this is not so, and we fail our students in our primary duty as Christian educators if we assent to this. This fundamental change in APU’s policy was made without any consultation of the faculty and was snuck in in darkness, the way so many wicked things are. It must be halted immediately pending an extended consideration into the true nature of what it is to be a Christian university and whether the promotion of homosexuality could ever be consonant with that.
There is plenty of other evidence to testify to APU’s current institutional confusion over traditional Biblical teaching in the area of human sexuality. At the Day of Common Learning last year, a speaker from the counseling center noted that APU’s new policy in the area of gender identification, will be to accept whatever pronoun the students choose to identify themselves by, (except in the matter of housing). This is a terrible decision, and one that will cause tremendous harm to our students by encouraging them to reject their fundamental nature as created by God. We have heard in various faculty sessions language that suggests that we are to embrace the experience of LGBT students. The implication is that the struggle with same-sex attraction gives a person a particular insight into truth. APU should be asserting that the primary means of identification for a human person is in their Childhood to God. We should not accept that sexual inclinations define human beings. As scholars, many of us are troubled that we are not seeing from APU any kind of meaningful, intellectual, Christian response to what is certainly one of the biggest crises of understanding of our times. Instead, APU seems bent on trying to duck the controversy, or worse, embrace the spirit of the age, at what will be the expense of our students.
2) The radicalization of APU students. – Many of us can testify to this tragedy occurring at APU throughout the student body in the last several years. It is the most serious and alarming concern that we are observing of late. The pattern we see begins with students coming to APU from trusting Christian families. They have a beautiful, if nascent understanding of themselves as believers, but they are open, hopeful, and searching for their niche in the Kingdom. Then, through certain APU courses, particularly in the theology, Biblical studies, global studies and social justice arenas, the students are exposed to radical beliefs that deride and malign traditional Biblical Christianity. Before long, the students espouse errant ideological trends that leave them isolated from the community, embittered against Christian faith and values, and approaching the world with a raised fist and angry slogans instead of an open heart and saving truth. These students gradually become unteachable, and they leave APU in a much worse state then they were in when they arrived. I have had students confront me in class asserting that, “There is no such thing as masculine or feminine.” I had another lovely young student transform from loving Jesus and her Christian faith when she came to APU, to becoming a sneering, bitter self-declared “queer womynist” who now sees Christianity as the most divisive and pernicious influence in human history.
Obviously, that this might happen to even one student is a burden on the hearts and consciences of all of us who make APU work on every level. It is urgent that this radicalization of students be addressed, and that we turn back as an institution from everything we have done that is breeding it.
The source who leaked that to me alleges that the APU administration has represented itself to the Board of Trustees as speaking for all the faculty; this letter is evidence that the faculty is divided.
It is vital that this information get out to parents of APU students, and prospective students. Faithful Evangelical Christian parents send their kids to schools like Azusa Pacific because they trust those schools to educate those kids in a faithfully Christian mode. Now we learn from a professor there that some APU students leave college with their faith in tatters, having been transformed into Social Justice Warriors by a college that sells itself as conservative and Evangelical.
Azusa Pacific’s trustees, donors, and alumni need to take a stand with faculty like Prof. Harrington, and they had better do it now, because they’re about to lose their university.
UPDATE: A reader points out that Moodys recently lowered Azusa Pacific’s credit rating to one notch above junk bond status. The source said that the current administration has spent far beyond its means, leaving the school in a debt crisis. The administration is therefore especially sensitive to donor pressure, as well as not hurting its image in the eyes of families considering sending their children there.