If you haven’t been aware of the bit of controversy happening at Azusa Pacific University, let me catch you up to speed. As most Christian universities do, APU has a student conduct policy that has prohibitions against things like harassment, drug use, and sexual conduct. For years APU had a policy prohibiting same-sex romance and relationships (not just sexual activity) based on its foundational statements regarding human sexuality. Within the last few weeks, APU had (to some degree) removed their ban on same-sex romance and relationships (while maintaining its stance on human sexuality). This received much attention in various news sources, from Christianity Today to Rod Dreher.
As of an official announcement Friday afternoon, APU has reinstated its ban on same-sex romantic relationships. You can read the entire announcement here, but here are the highlights.
First, the their comment on the policy change:
“Last week, reports circulated about a change to the undergraduate student standards of conduct. That action concerning romanticized relationships was never approved by the board and the original wording has been reinstated.”
Second, I believe APU’s board wanted to communicate their desire to be faithful to orthodox Christianity:
“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.”
There are many who may see this most recent change (the reinstatement) as a sign of disunity amongst administration and that APU leadership is a mess. That may be true. I cannot imagine how a university navigates these issues without some discord. But as a staff member for over a decade, and a graduate of APU Seminary, I can tell you this: this is not the first time I have heard these words. Within faculty/staff kickoffs, community gatherings, and from Presidents, Deans, VP’s, and Seminary professors, I’ve heard a commitment to APU’s identity and living the traditional Christian life faithfully from the APU community. Now we can add the board of trustees to that list.
So as critical (maybe even cynical) as one might be to what APU is doing, I think we can at least appreciate that they dared to go against the cultural grain. I pray that APU’s board and leaders continue to get the support from APU and the Church that they need. I hope we are praying and strengthening a university that got thrust into the spotlight, almost overnight. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, had this to say about APU’s reinstatement:
“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,…That is good news, and we dare not miss that kind of news when it happens.”
The Ongoing Movement
Although APU’s reinstatement of its original policy and the board’s reaffirmation of its commitment to the historic Christian faith is a positive sign, this issue is not over. There are specific individuals and groups who are devoted to pressuring Christian universities to fully affirm homosexual and transgender lifestyles and they will continue. They will continue, and they will not stop at minor victories.
That means that even if the change to APU’s student policy would have remained, these Social Justice Warriors would have continued to pressure the university to remove all references to homosexuality in their student policy and identity statements. The charge against APU is being led by Erin Green (and her activist group, Brave Commons), who graduated from APU recently, and now considers herself an activist. In fact, it is because of Green’s work with APU administration that the student policy changed in the first place.
From what I understand, APU sought Green’s advice to develop a relationship and common ground with the LGBT students of APU. This is the type of leadership direction I do not understand. Do organizations like APU not understand what activists like Erin Green’s mission is? Is it not clear that they will not stop until we who hold to orthodox Christian beliefs have recanted of our orthodox beliefs regarding sexuality; or until Christian universities promote that homosexuality and transgenderism are not sins? So why do we invite these “conversations” and look for “common ground”?
Many might ask, “why do LGBT activists care about what rules a private Christian university enacts?” After all, why would a homosexual or transgender student attend a university that has a stance against such beliefs and practices? I believe the answer is that activists, like Erin Green, are simply motivated by power. Look at her response to APU’s reinstatement:
Who are the brave among us? Who are the courageous among us? The marginalized, the disenfranchised and the LGBTQ+ students and allies at @azusapacific university who refuse to be trampled on by those in power #boardoftrustees @BraveCommons
— Erin Green (@__runningerins) October 1, 2018
Institutions like APU are not seen as communities with values they want to maintain, but rather, they are believed to be vehicles of oppression. We are “those in power”.
You will hear activist’s “concern for student safety for LGBT students” as being the motivation for changing policies on Christian campuses. But what is the safety concern? There are policies and laws against violence and harassment. There is no prohibition against students who struggle with sin to meet and support each other.
In reality, the concern is with orthodox Christianity. We are equated with the racial oppressors of the early United States. We are seen as being as power hungry as they believe every white male to be. This is why they will not stop.
For example, in her “Bible study” video titled “Disarming the Cross“, Green rejects the view that Jesus’s command to “pick up your cross” (Matt. 16.24) is a call to suffering under the allegiance of Christ. She sees the cross as liberating and affirming of one’s identity. The cross serves her desire to choose which sins are applicable and which are not.
She must ignore the most obvious meaning of the symbol of the cross; that it is a symbol of submission and suffering. Why else would he admonish us to “lose our life” (v.25), “deny yourself” (v. 24), to leave one’s family (Matt. 19.29), or to give up all possessions (Luke 14.33). Erin Green says that “denying yourself” does not mean giving up being gay or being queer in order to follow Christ. Apparently, your “sexual identity” is sacred.
Here we see how wrong this theology is. If Jesus advises that you cut off your hand or gouge out your eye (Mark 9.43-48) to avoid hell, your “identity” is surely on the chopping block as well. But this is the mission of activists, to “disarm the cross” and arm the activists. I hope that we don’t consult with activist who simply want to tear down orthodox Christianity for the same reason we don’t negotiate with terrorists; each acquiescence simply makes us feel good about inching toward our own demise.