Hope for the Gay Undergrad
Still, this is not the choice of some students, and when it isn't, colleges still try to reach out. Brent Persun, a 2011 Cedarville University graduate, is one example. Shortly after enrolling at Cedarville, Persun found himself in the dean's office during his freshman year to discuss his same-sex attractions.
Persun said, "Sex in general was not often talked about in my church or family, let alone homosexuality, so I hid it for as long as possible." After his parents discovered him accessing gay porn on his computer as a teen, he began attending sessions designed to change his orientation. He continued this treatment while at Cedarville.
"The dean knew that I struggled with same-sex attraction, but this was mostly contingent on the fact that I was struggling and trying to change," Persun said. "I still appreciate my time at Cedarville for the education I received and the friends I made."
When CedarvilleOut, a pro-gay alumni organization, hosted an off-campus meeting during his junior year, Persun met with founder and 1984 Cedarville grad David Olsen to discuss the integration of faith and homosexuality.
After the meeting, Persun decided to embrace a homosexual identity. Persun now lives an openly gay lifestyle and also is a member of Old South Church in Boston.
Olsen said, "Initially, I said if I could make one life better it would be worth it. Now, it's done more than I ever thought it would." CedarvilleOut has not collaborated directly with Cedarville University, but hosts off-campus events, such as the one Persun attended.
Cedarville's vice president of student life Carl Ruby said the institution maintains a healthy dialogue with CedarvilleOut. "I was assigned to be Dave Olsen's mentor back when we were students together at Cedarville in the early 1980s," Ruby said. "We have major differences of opinion about what we believe the Bible says about this topic, but I consider him a friend. We have tried to model what civil conversation looks like."
Christian college administrators have found that small group meetings and campus-wide forums about same-sex attraction are overcoming the reluctance of students to openly discuss sexuality and sexual behavior.
In 2006, Calvin College began hosting a sexuality series that includes events, speakers, and book clubs to help students better understand topics affecting homosexual and heterosexual students. According to Calvin's 2008 Statement on Homosexuality and Community Life, homo-sexual orientation is not inherently sinful, but sexual behavior belongs within the bounds of heterosexual marriage.
Calvin communications director Tim Ellens said gay students are able to be honest about their sexuality while being accountable to the code of conduct. "Calvin teaches incoming freshmen to be loving, open, and kind about gay people," junior Joel Betts said. "I'm friends with people who are gay, and it's not a big deal at all."
Same-sex attracted students at several Christian institutions have attempted to start on-campus organizations with varying degrees of success. Seattle Pacific University's Haven is an "unofficial club" organized by students. It hosts weekly meetings on campus to encourage honest conversations about sexuality while holding to the school's "Lifestyle Expectations" regarding sex outside of heterosexual marriage.