In May of 2017, I had the pleasure of meeting with Dr. Barry Corey, the President of Biola University. Dr. Corey is fully aware that I am a gay and affirming Christian. He knows that I am a former Biola student, a Biblical Studies major, and the Executive Director of an affirming LGBTQ group of students who have attended or are currently attending Biola University. Although we are not recognized by the school as an official or approved group, we are there. In light of this, Dr. Corey is also obviously aware that he and I have different theological views when it comes to what the Bible says about homosexuality.
It was brought to my attention that Dr. Corey was meeting with LGBTQ leaders and advocates such as Evan Low, the Chair of the LGBT Caucus in California, Robert Hoffman, CEO of Faith in America, and Shane Windmeyer, founder of Campus Pride. What was incredibly disheartening to me was that Dr. Corey seemed to show absolutely no interest in meeting with our group; the LGBTQ community residing on his own campus. It was clear that Dr. Corey had a desire to bridge divides by speaking to these LGBTQ leaders, but it was surprising that he didn’t look to to the very LGBTQ community on his campus crying out for safety and protection.
Does holding to a different theological truth about same-sex relationships and gender binaries diminish who we are in Christ? It shouldn't.
Therefore, I requested a meeting with Dr. Corey. The nature of the meeting was specifically directed toward how we treat the fact that there is a living, breathing, and affirming LGBTQ community residing on Biola’s campus; a non-affirming Christian University. How does a non-affirming university treat a community of folks that deviate from the confines of Biola’s theological views toward homosexuality and gender? Corey asked me how Biola should respond or what they could do better. My open response, in which Dr. Corey fully agreed with, was one in which love was at the forefront. After all, this is precisely what Christians are commanded to do by Christ, and we, as a Christian LGBTQ community fall under that command as well. I explained that the LGBTQ communities on Christian campuses are, however, a marginalized group. We are marginalized for many reasons, but the glaring one is that we hold to a different theological truth about same-sex relationships and gender binaries. Does this diminish who we are in Christ or our membership in Christ’s kingdom? It shouldn’t. I think Corey would agree. More importantly, Christ attests that whoever comes to Him, they will never be driven away (John 6:37).
Dr. Corey then handed me a signed copy of his book, “Love Kindness,″ and wrote a small note on the inside of it saying to me, “Erin, thank you for your heart for the least of these. I am truly grateful, Barry Corey, 08 May, 2017.” Corey was referring to my calling the LGBTQ community just that; “the least of these.” And by his note, that was my confirmation that Corey agreed to my reference. I was referring to Jesus’ quote in Matthew 25:31-46. Jesus explicitly states, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did for me.” My plea was that the school recognize that the LGBTQ community suffers; especially those in non-affirming environments. As Christians we are called to bear with one another in love. We are to literally go through and endure alongside those who are suffering.
The scientific evidence shows massive suffering of LGBTQ communities in non-affirming environments; bullying, harassment, suicidal ideation, propensity for drug and alcohol abuse, homelessness, etc. Therefore, Christians, regardless of their theological stance on the topic of homosexuality, should do the very thing that Paul describes we do in his Epistles: “Bear with one another in love.” And “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”
This is where the recently released, Nashville Statement comes into play. Does the Nashville Statement acknowledge or reflect any of the above mentioned commands? The lie within the statement would proclaim that its words are a loving action. However, this is not the case as it further drives a wedge between Christians with differing views on the topic of homosexuality and gender. In fact, the Nashville Statement doesn’t even allow for an impasse within the discussion; this is specifically mentioned in Article X. What’s more is it ends the discussion. According to the Nashville Statement, its truth is the only truth regarding marriage, sexuality, and gender.
After he signed his book and handed it to me, Corey suggested I read chapter four entitled, “The Gay Conversation in Dhaka: The Way of Kindness When We Disagree.” He dog-eared the beginning of the chapter so that I could turn to it easily. A portion of this chapter states, “The point of being kind to those with whom we disagree...is to represent Jesus. Being kind to those with whom we disagree helps bring Christ to the center of the situation...With kindness that is genuine and winsome with love that is unconditional and relentless, we are able to love people where they are.”
How then, I ask, can these seven Biola University professors “love people where they are” and at the same time condemn where they are, if they happen to be affirming? How can these seven Biola University professors action out what Dr. Corey and I have discussed; to protect and create an overall safe environment for LGBTQ students attending Biola?
K. Erik Thoennes: Professor & Chair of Theology, Talbot School of Theology, Biola University.
Donna Thoennes: Adjunct Professor & Homeschool Mom, Biola University.
Alan Gomes: Professor of Theology, Talbot School of Theology, Biola University.
J.P. Moreland: Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Talbot School of Theology, Biola University.
David Talley: Professor of Old Testament, Biola University.
Scott Waller: Associate Professor of Political Science, Biola University.
Darren Guerra: Associate Professor of Political Science, Biola University.
Do these professors not realize that by their signing the Nashville Statement, they are to some extent, tying Biola University to it as well as to others who signed it?
For instance, Dr. Robert Gagnon, one of the staunchest anti-homosexual Christians, whose life’s work is to oppose homosexuality in the Church is also a signatory of the Nashville Statement. In his article, “How Bad is Homosexual Practice According to Scripture and Does Scripture’s Indictment Apply to Committed Homosexual Unions?”, Gagnon boldly states, “It is my contention that homosexual practice is a more serious violation of Scripture’s sexual norms than even incest, adultery, plural marriage, and divorce.” In this article, Gagnon goes on to try and prove how same-sex “practice” is more severe than other sexual sins.
Dr. Rosaria Butterfield, also a signatory, is a former lesbian and professor who, according to her website, openly rejects using the term, “gay Christian.”
John MacArthur, another signatory and a powerhouse in the mainline Evangelical movement, is quoted on the subject of being transgender, “Simply stated, there is no such thing as transgender...this notion that you are something other than your biology is a cultural construct intended as an assault on God.” He is additionally quoted saying that, “No one is gay...one of the really deadly aspects of this is to let people define themselves as gay. They are not gay any more than an adulterer is hard-wired to be forced by his own nature to commit adultery... I think we do no service to people who are caught in the vicious sins of homosexuality by letting them define themselves by that sin.”
It is clear that love is not the intention, but rather, an incessant need to be correct on the topic of homosexualty and gender is. Listening is not the intention, but rather, our conforming to only conservative scholarship of biblical truth is. Standing up for our gay brothers and sisters is not the intention, but rather, ultimatums and condemnation is. Being right has replaced loving one another as we love ourselves.
In the Bible, the Scribes and Pharisees thought that had it all right when it came to sin, but Jesus showed them otherwise. In the name of Scripture we’ve upheld actions like slavery. In the name of Scripture we have restricted women’s rights. In the name of Scripture we’ve once insisted that everything revolves around the earth. The point is, conservative Christians don’t get it right every single time and the Nashville Statement seeks to shut up a conversation that still desperately needs to be had.
In Dr. Corey’s book, Corey describes a friendship and dialogue he had with someone who identified as a gay Christian. Her name is Karen. The book states, “Karen understood my biblical position on sex even though she interpreted the Scriptures differently. But she told me she knew if I was living out my faith as a Christian, I’d receive her with grace first, not judgement. She trusted I wouldn’t back-pedal on my confession that if I love God, I also must love my neighbor as myself. She opened up to me because she believed authentic Christians see all people first and foremost as created in God’s image and of immense value. Because Karen knew me, she came out to me, convinced my first response would be kindness. I don’t think I let her down.”
Dr. Corey, these Biola professors who have openly signed the Nashville Statement, are sending a discompassionate, confusing, and mixed signal to the LGBTQ community on your campus that are not at all in line with your book or what we have personally discussed as goals for the LGBTQ community at Biola. In addition, by disallowing other professors or faculty if they wish to openly express their disagreement with the Nashville Statement because of Biola policy, is a stifling of your faculty to express their views and freedom, allowing special partiality shown toward those who signed the Nashville Statement.
Dr. Corey, we at Biolans’ Equal Ground as well as Faith in America ask that Biola revisit its policies and denounce actions that silence or condemn your affirming LGBTQ students, allies, faculty, and staff. By not doing so, you have let them down.