Hope for the Gay Undergrad
"Haven is recognized by the university administration, but not as a recognized student club through the student government system," vice president of student life Jeff Jordan said.
"Haven has applied a couple of times for official club status through student government, but they have not attained that status. So administration has said, if indeed what's important is having a safe place on campus for conversation, and you're willing to work with university administration, whether that be through me, which is how it was for many years, or through an umbrella organization, then we'll work with you on this."
According to faculty advisor Kevin Neuhouser, the meetings function as support for same-sex attracted students on campus as well as a forum that hosts speakers who address human sexuality. "There are gay students on every Christian campus," Neuhouser said. "What's fundamental to respecting and caring for them is providing them a place they can feel safe. The main concern is the student, not the orientation."
In California, some student organizations, like the Biola Queer Underground, advocate for acceptance of same-sex practice and provide anonymity for their members.
"As an lgbtq student, you have to be constantly aware of how others perceive you, even off-campus," an anonymous Biola Queer Underground representative said. "It's a sad reality that students could very well turn in students to administration for discipline or expulsion."
Biola's dean of students, Danny Paschall, said there is a difference between students identifying as homosexual and those acting on their attraction. The community seeks to come alongside same-sex attracted students, not ostracize them.
Paschall said in a statement, "When a student approaches us and communicates that he or she is struggling with same-sex behavior or sexual identity, we aim to offer a safe environment that promotes openness, dialogue, and care. If students are engaging in same-sex behavior and are not taking into account their commitment to Biola's community standards, then we will have a conversation about their status as a student."
Freedom from Fear
In the same vein, Wheaton's Humphreys insists her institution is striving to become a safe space for students.
"Our policies are truly restorative," Humphreys said. "If we have a student wrestling with sexuality, we're not going to kick them out—we're going to bring them closer to help them think through how they understand it." This year, Wheaton's student government has endorsed a student-led, confidential community group for those who experience same-sex attraction.
For celibate singles, affirmation from a church community is crucial to their well-being.
Author Wesley Hill told CT, "Celibacy is a hard choice, and if churches are not willing to hold it up as an honorable pursuit and support it with practices of friendship and hospitality, I'm not sure it will seem viable to many sexual minorities."
He added, "The congregations that give me hope are ones where I see married people and single people, older people and younger people, all sharing meals and ministries and small groups together."
Allison J. Althoff is associate online editor at Today's Christian Woman. Follow her on Twitter (@ajalthoff).Additional research by CT news intern Bryn Sandberg.