Days after Azusa Pacific University (APU) dropped a ban on “romanticized” same-sex relationships from its code of student conduct, its board of trustees reversed the changes.
“Last week, reports circulated about a change in the undergraduate student standards of conduct. That action concerning romanticized relationships was never approved by the board and the original wording has been reinstated,” the Southern California Christian university’s board said in a statement on Friday.
The school’s much-discussed shift on same-sex relationships had been approved by APU’s administrative board, but not the board of trustees, ZU Media, a campus newspaper, reported.
The student code change was accompanied by a new on-campus program for LGBT students designed to “reduce feelings of isolation and promote a sense of belonging,” APU told CT.
The board of trustees’ announcement did not address the future of any LGBT support efforts. APU does not require their students to be Christian—only about one-third of schools in the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) ask students to sign a faith statement—though it comes out of a Wesleyan tradition and ascribes to a biblical statement of faith.
APU had also recently dropped longstanding language from an eight-point statement on human sexuality, which 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. Those initial revisions remain on the website and were not specifically addressed in the board’s remarks.
Last week’s policy change led some evangelicals in favor of traditional marriage to publicly criticize the school's decision. One critic was Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Al Mohler, who described it as a “complete reversal and repudiation of the historic Christian understanding of what romance is to be as defined by Scripture.” Following the reversal, Mohler characterized the board’s statement as “extremely encouraging.”
“We should also give it the attention that is its due, simply because here you have a Board of Trustees that dared to do its job, to actually protect the convictions and the mission of an historic Christian institution,” he said this morning on his podcast The Briefing. “That is good news, and we dare not miss that kind of news when it happens.”
But Erin Green, a recent APU graduate and leader of Brave Commons, an LGBT organization, had worked with the administration to make the initial changes and tweeted that the school had “exploited & taken advantage of its LGBTQ+ community” after listening to students who she said were stigmatized for being gay or in same-sex relationships.
The school continued to affirm its student body, saying, “We see every student as a gift from God, infinitely valuable and worthy in the eyes of our Creator and as members of our campus community. We believe our university is the best place for earnest and guided conversation to unfold with all students about every facet of life, including faith and sexuality. We embrace all students who seek a rigorous Christian higher education and voluntarily join us in mission.”
Below is the full statement from APU’s board of trustees.
Today, as a board, we reaffirm our responsibility to steward the Christ-centered mission of Azusa Pacific University. We commit the following to each member of the APU community and to all who share in the more than 2,000-year legacy of Christianity that forms our bedrock:
We remain unequivocally biblical and orthodox in our evangelical Christian identity. The Bible serves as our anchor.
We stand firm in our convictions, never willing to capitulate to outside pressures, be they legal, political, or social.
We affirm God’s perfect will and design for humankind with the biblical understanding of the marriage covenant as between one man and one woman. Outside of marriage, He calls His people to abstinence.
We advocate for holy living within the university in support of our Christian values.
We declare that our clear mission to equip disciples and scholars to advance the work of God in the world is more necessary today than ever before.
Last week, reports circulated about a change in the undergraduate student standards of conduct. That action concerning romanticized relationships was never approved by the board and the original wording has been reinstated.
We see every student as a gift from God, infinitely valuable and worthy in the eyes of our Creator and as members of our campus community. We believe our university is the best place for earnest and guided conversation to unfold with all students about every facet of life, including faith and sexuality. We embrace all students who seek a rigorous Christian higher education and voluntarily join us in mission.
We pledge to boldly uphold biblical values and not waiver in our Christ-centered mission. We will examine how we live up to these high ideals and enact measures that prevent us from swaying from that sure footing.
Through prayerful obedience to God’s Word, we believe APU’s best days lie ahead.
Grace and peace,
APU Board of Trustees