Azusa Pacific University, a Christian institution, has lifted its ban on LGBT relationships in its code of conduct. But the decision comes after years of previous resistance, and the school is now facing pushback over the change — particularly from one professor who says it's now time for APU's president to go.
What are the details?
Last week, APU's student-run ZU Media announced that effective this fall semester, the school was dropping language from its code of conduct in order to allow "romanticized" same-sex relationships on campus.
ZU Media reported that the dialogue over the changes were prompted when student members of an underground LGBT group called Haven approached administrators about being recognized as a campus organization.
Haven was assisted in its efforts by the outside organization Brave Commons, which describes itself as "a bold and subversive Christian movement of intersectional queer glory: healing and working towards robust justice for all."
According to Christianity Today, part of the code that was scrapped included "an eight-point statement on human sexuality that had declared: 'homosexual acts' (among others) are 'expressly forbidden' by Scripture; 'heterosexuality is God's design for sexually intimate relationships'; and 'humans were created as gendered beings' in order to be fruitful and multiply."
Associate Dean of Students Bill Fiala explained, "The changes that occurred to the handbook around sexual behavior creates one standard for all undergraduate students, as opposed to different standards for different groups.
"The change that happened with the code of conduct is still in alignment with our identity as a Christian institution," he continued. "The language changed, but the spirit didn't. Our spirit is still a conservative, evangelical perspective on human sexuality."
Co-executive director of Brave Commons Erin Green told ZU Media, "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."
While gay romance is now allowed on campus, the school maintains that not much else has changed. APU spokeswoman Rachel White told CT, "APU believes in a biblical definition of marriage as defined as between one man and woman. All others living outside of that definition are called to abstinence."
What about the change?
But not everyone at APU is on board with the change. Honors professor Barbara Harrington sent a letter to the college's Board of Trustees on Monday, warning that the school was losing its Christian identity.
Part of the letter was leaked to Rod Dreher of The American Conservative, who published it the next day. Harrington wrote that she and a number of faculty members have been concerned for years over the radicalization at the institution, and in light of the recent code of conduct changes called 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 [Jon R.] 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 the area."
Whether Wallace steps down immediately or not, Harrington won't have to wait long for him to be gone; he's in his final year of heading up the university after announcing his retirement in April.
Dreher urged in his column that "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."