Queering Azusa Pacific University
This is a big story. Azusa Pacific University has flipped on LGBT. More:
Effective this fall 2018 semester, Azusa Pacific removed language from its student standard of conduct agreement that prohibited public LGBTQ+ relationships for students on campus. 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.
This change is a result of much dialogue between students and administration. For years, LGBTQ+ students at APU have run an underground support group called Haven. However, because they weren’t endorsed by APU as an official club, they couldn’t gather on campus or advertise their meetings.
The group met in apartments around APU because members only knew about Haven by word-of-mouth. Members of Haven were motivated to have their voices heard after an APU faculty member was the target of a hate crime on campus, where LGBTQ+ slurs were used against him.
Last year, with help from LGBTQ+ organization Brave Commons, Haven members started discussing this topic with administration. Erin Green, co-executive director of Brave Commons and recent APU alumni, coordinated much of these conversations.
“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.”
The students spoke, and the administrative board listened. Associate Dean of Students Bill Fiala, Ph.D., said that as the board evaluated their code of conduct, they wanted to be attentive to equity.
“The changes that occured to the handbooks around sexual behavior creates one standard for all undergraduate students, as opposed to differential standards for different groups,” Fiala said. “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.”
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.
Azusa Pacific is an important Evangelical school. It will be very interesting to see what the rest of the CCCU (Council for Christian Colleges and Universities) schools do in response.