In September, a freshman, Ben James, came out to his college peers. According to his RA, Ben’s dorm floor continued to fully embrace him. Ben wanted to start a GSA at Huntington, so he began hanging flyers around campus and on facebook about a group starting: HU LGBT Support Group. His intension was to create a safe place, on campus, to talk openly about gay issues and struggles in the context of Christianity. Seems like a harmless group that wanted to start raising awareness about gay Christians and provide support for those with same-sex attractions.
According to the article, once the facebook group went viral, things started heating up. Ben was asked to meet with Ron Coffey, the vice-president of student life. Coffey wanted to talk about Ben’s group and discuss how the conversation could happen in other ways. There was question about calling the group of LGBT support group, and rightly so as Huntington has always been a campus open to all people, though not supportive of certain non-biblical practices (i.e. same-sex relationships). After some conversation about the group, Ben decided to transfer to another college that was more open and supportive to gay students.
Some lessons to learn
As was pointed out by others in comments, you cannot fully place a blame on either party. It took great courage for Ben to speak up about his sexuality, and do something to help educate his peers about homosexuality. While people may debate about the “sin issue,” the truth still remains that Ben is a real person, who is trying to figure out a balance between his sexuality and Christian faith. For this, and maybe this alone, he should be embraced by all in the Christian community – whether they agree with him or not. He is a child of God, on a spiritual journey, just like the rest of us.
Huntington University, holding to its beliefs and convictions, also needs to be heard, though. From the articles impression, the University wasn’t totally against having the conversations Ben wanted to start. For them, though, having a gay support group meant they were embracing a “it’s not a sin” view. Can they be faulted for standing up for their convictions? No; just like Ben can’t be faulted for standing up for his.
One hope, with this recent situation, is that both sides would come together on common ground and talk openly, without anger, agendas, or expectations. The Christian community needs to understand where gays and lesbians are coming from – to walk in their shoes, so to say. Likewise, though, the Gay community needs to understand where Christians are coming from. Both sides have valid points and both sides need to express themselves in a Christ-like way.
Another hope (even greater) would be, that despite the conversations being had, or lack there of, gays and lesbians would feel safe to be themselves on Christian campuses. Just as everyone should be accepted in the Christian community, there are no exceptions to the GLBT community. Again, we may not agree with their beliefs, but that doesn’t mean we treat them any less because of those beliefs.