Andrews University Approves Creation of Official LGBT Student Support Group

The Andrews University Board of Trustees, which met on campus in October, has approved the creation of an official LGBT+ student support group.

The statement regarding the university’s commitment to providing this group appeared in the October 26 edition of the campus newspaper, Student Movement, and follows in full below:

Over the past two years, Andrews University has worked with a team of faculty, staff, students and church leaders to develop a Bible-based framework that fully reflects Seventh-day Adventist beliefs and values regarding sexual orientation. The resulting document, first published in the 2016-2017 Student Handbook, outlines a commitment to providing a safe, caring and informed campus environment for LGBT+ students. Guided by the framework, the Student Experience and Faith Development subcommittee of the Andrews University Board of Trustees voted this week to approve a plan for a thoughtfully designed, supportive group on campus for LGBT+ students. The subcommittee looks forward to receiving periodic progress reports from the University and student participants.

Research conducted recently by our Andrews University professors found that a significant number of Adventist young adults who identify as LGBT+ have experienced a great deal of suffering and rejection from family members and faith communities. The University’s goal is to engage these students spiritually and support them emotionally as they navigate their sexuality and/or gender identity. More information about this University-based group will be made available to students over the next few weeks as plans unfold.

This statement is part of a detailed document drafted by the University’s LGBT+ task force, in conjunction with LGBT+ students, called the “Haven Constitution and Bylaws.” Steve Yeagley, assistant vice president for Student Life, said the full document is only for internal use at this time “while we make the transition to providing University-based care for our LGBT+ students.”

Yeagley also explained that this new group will not function as a typical gay-straight alliance (GSA) found on other college campuses. Instead,

it is designed to be a confidential, members-only group that will exist solely for the support of LGBT+ students, including those who are questioning or have not yet fully disclosed their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Unlike student-led clubs and organizations, this group will be co-led by a team of two faculty/staff members and two LGBT+ students. We have tried to build a collaborative structure that maximizes the valuable insights of both University personnel and our LGBT+ students. We are now in the process of forming the leadership team and will work with them to make the final arrangements.”

The group will be overseen by a 10-person Advisory Panel and chaired by the director of the Andrews University Counseling & Testing Center. “The Advisory will be made up of faculty, staff and students (including LGBT+ students) from across campus, with our vice president for Diversity and Inclusion serving as secretary,” said Yeagley.

Since 2011, an unofficial LGBT+ group, AULL4One, has existed at Andrews University. When asked if the university-sponsored group would replace AULL4One, Yeagley replied, “[AULL4One] has come to hold a special place in the hearts and lives of many. We want to honor that investment and have not stipulated the future of AULL4One. Our goal has been to work with the LGBT+ student community to create a University-based group that will meet their needs, while also offering the benefits of institutional support.”

Eliel Cruz, founder of AULL4One and LGBT activist, expressed appreciation for the steps the university has taken in recent years to support its LGBT+ students with a safe environment in which to learn and grow:

I never thought that an official LGBT group would be formed at Andrews University just a few years after my graduation. This is the fruits of immense labor by LGBT students on campus asking for Andrews University to grant them space to be able to thrive. I’m grateful for the work these students have done and the assistance and cooperation of Andrews University student life and administration. This will, without a doubt, be life-saving.”

Though excited about the formation of an official group, Cruz is disappointed with the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s official stance on LGBT+ members and Andrews University’s adherence to that theological stance in its Student Handbook:

While there is lots of reason to celebrate Andrews University’s addition of Haven, I find it difficult to reconcile their non-affirming stance with their emphasis on LGBT persons’ well-being. I understand the complexities and politics of being a large institution under the eye of the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. I lived those politics as a student. But after graduation, I’ve been convicted that any attempt to remedy the disparately high number of LGBT people who suffer from mental health issues and suicide is futile without first reckoning with the source of that violence: non-affirming theology toward LGBT people. I would say that Andrews University is attempting to put out a fire they are simultaneously fueling because of the Adventist Church’s official theological stance on LGBT people which the University follows.”

Alexis Thomas, current president of AULL4One, who has been involved in the creation process of Haven, sees the approval of an official group as a positive step forward for the University. In an official statement from the president, she wrote:

I am absolutely ecstatic about the Haven Constitution being approved! In fact, that just might be the biggest understatement I’ve made all year. Words really can’t express the joy of seeing something we’ve been striving so hard for finally come into fruition. The years of meetings, patience, and diligence have finally paid off. This is not just a victory for us as current LGBT+ students at Andrews University but a victory for students of the past and most importantly of the future. Haven will ensure that any student (presently or in the future) who doesn’t fit into the “typical” box of cis and heterosexual receives a much needed safe space to express themselves openly. We happily welcome allies as well, with the main focus of course being LGBT+ students. This is much like how AULL4One operates currently, however, this group will be official. Therefore, we are now permitted to meet on campus and advertise to the larger body of students that AULL4One just wasn’t able to reach...This is most certainly not the end of AULL4One by any means, though. The faithful, little group that was basically a best kept secret will still exist side-by-side with Haven…We are excited to experience, learn, and grow as Haven grows! Keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we continue onward and upward!

Haven’s first meeting is slated for the end of Fall Semester.

Alisa Williams is managing editor of SpectrumMagazine.org.

Image Credit: SpectrumMagazine.org

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8377

I’m grateful to the students who have worked hard for several years now to let their administration know they need a safe place to be, and I’m grateful to their administration for responding, albeit within the constrains they have to work with at this time. This is still a very positive step. There’s now official groups for support at both Andrews and Loma Linda University, and I agree that these steps will indeed be “life-saving.”

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I can cautiously applaud this step, although I am concerned about the restraints that could do harm to some students.

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While plaudits are due to Andrews and Loma Linda for FINALLY acknowledging they have LGBT youth on campus, it is belated and inadequate.

Let us face it, as others have stated repeatedly on SPECTRUM posts, being LGBT is a CARDINAL-SIN in Adventism.

You can be a wife beater, a heroin addict, a smoker, a child abuser, a divorcee for reasons other than adultery, a compulsive gambler,
and still be on the church books as a confirmed loyal member.

But God forbid, you are in monogamous same sex marriage and all hell breaks loose! You are “. Persona.non grata “.

LGBT Adventist offspring are at the bottom of the totem pole in our denomination.

Because self esteem and self worth are so paramount to maturation from adolescence to adulthood, being in an Adventist environment is not optimal for our teens /college age youth.

Demeaning, denouncing, disparaging, demonizing discrimination is the modus operandi of our colleges and congregations and academies towards our LGBT young people.

So rather than be third class on an Adventist campus, please enroll at the nearest, cheapest in-state-tuition community college / university.

You will not have student debt, but more importantly, you will retain your dignity, your self worth, and your sanity!

Response to tony trauma:
Your post is an emphatic endorsement for my encouragement to all LGBT Adventist young people to find an in state, cheaper college/high school/university where they will not meet such a vindictive, vicious, vituperative, shabby environment as evidenced by your post.
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They should also also seek some other denomination, which will treat them with respect, dignity, love, inclusiveness, and acceptance .
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No wonder the suicide rate is so high among youth growing up in such a hostile environment. LGBT youth growing up in an Atheist family have a much lower suicide rates than those unfortunate enough to be in a rejecting Adventist family . Shame on us!

Response to Groucho

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As I was walking online, I slipped and fell into a swamp. Even though I have visited this swamp occasionally and can guess what Seventh-day Adventists of the alt right might say, I was still astonished by what they compare LGBT+ persons to: adulterers, pedophiles, those who have sex with animals, bacteria, inmates in the asylum, the demon possessed, atheists, those who are worse than pagans. And these comparisons were made in connection with the tiresome bashing of Andrews University we have frequently encountered from the Seventh-day Adventist alt right. Not everyone has the privilege of attending Andrews University, but if there is some other way we can bridge the chasm between the learned and the ignorant within the Seventh-day Adventist Church, I am open to all suggestions.

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There is much to think about in this article. One area of confusion that Eliel Cruz expresses, I believe is fairly easy to clear up. He states:

“While there is lots of reason to celebrate Andrews University’s addition of Haven, I find it difficult to reconcile their non-affirming stance with their emphasis on LGBT persons’ well-being.”

The difficulty of “reconciling” the fact that a church or a person can believe others may be out of harmony with biblical theology and at the same time be interested in that person’s “well-being” is resolved in one word-love. Jesus did it all the time. In fact, loving those with whom you disagree or believe to be in violation of one’s principles (biblical or otherwise) is a true test of unselfish love. If we can only love those whose lifestyle we “affirm” as correct, then we end up simply loving a reincarnation of our own beliefs and principles. Thank you Eliel for affirming, though inadvertently, that Andrews University is manifesting the love of Christ toward the LGBT community.

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Jesus told those who were His followers (past, present, and future) to love others as He has loved us. We have historically given lip service to this, but our actions excluded those with a different sexual orientation. How can we nourish a connection to Christ if we make LGBTs believe we do not really care about them as persons? Andrews University, as well as the Pioneer Memorial Church pastoral staff, are well suited to show loving compassion to those who have previously been excluded.

I hope that other Adventist universities will observe the progress of this group, with an eye toward implementation on their own campuses. The home conference of some of our universities may not endorse this action, but following the commands of Jesus have always been an adventure in faith.

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Here is another good correlation:
https://news.llu.edu/wholeness/notes-from-president-lgbt

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i was moved to tears as i read this article this morning, especially as i took in the fact that Andrews University Board of Trustees includes TW, president of the GC; Dan Jackson, president of NAD; Maurice Valentine, president of Lake Union Conference; John Freedman, president of the North Pacific Union Conference; Ron Smith, president of the Southern Union Conference; Dave Weigley, president of Columbia Union Conference; Gary Thurber, president of Mid America Union; Jay Gallimore, president of the Michigan Conference; Cliff Jones, president of Lake Region Conference; Michael Edge, president of the Wisconsin Conference; Ron Aguilara, president of the Illinois Conference; and Steven Poenitz, president of the Indiana Conference, and that they are advised by Mark Johnson, president of the SDA Church in Canada; Larry Moore, president of the Southwestern Union Conference; Earl Knight, president of the Atlantic Union Conference; and Ricardo Graham, president of the Pacific Union Conference…

their vote to create Haven at Andrews says to me that our church gets the very difficult situation gay people, through no choice of their own, are in, and that they are willing to take a substantial risk in order to demonstrate love, acceptance and affirmation of the gay people in our church, and our world…each of these men will no doubt have to face a torrent of accusatory questions from angry constituents…they also risk the loss of donations into their unions and conferences…some of them may not be re-elected…but they are each very brave men, stepping out in faith into what for them is likely unknown turf, but acknowledging that if we are going to finish our commission as adventists, we will need to find ways to effectively minister to LGBT individuals in the frontier of our world’s big cities, which means taking meaningful risks…they are certainly following in jesus’ footsteps, who risked everything to save us…egw dwells extensively on the risks the trinity took in sending jesus to us…that is, had christ failed even once while a human on earth, not only would all of us be forever lost, as we certainly were before he came, but he would have been lost, as well…that is, the trinity would have been forever dismantled…

following on the heels of the seminary’s 2015 release of An Understanding of the Biblical View on Homosexual Practice and Pastoral Care, which followed the 2014 In God’s Image summit in Cape Town, Haven will hopefully become a demonstration of what really speaks to the hearts of LGBT individuals searching for truth…LGBT students at Andrews are very lucky to witness and perhaps input this important, historic effort, as are all Andrews students… a new day of understanding seems to be dawning for our church…we are steadily stepping up to the plate of our responsibilities in preparation for the latter rain, definitely with WO, but now also with LGBT, and we’ve been learning the hard way some of the complex lessons of racism since our pioneer days…of course there are the nay sayers in the ditches of both sides of the path of the ransomed “cast up high above the world,” in egw’s first vision…but balanced minds in our church appear to be coalescing fully in the center of that path…we are forming a united front adapted to the world we are living in now…

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2 people in a loving, long-term relationship are not committing
Adultery
Being a
Female Prostitute
Male Prostitute

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This was a horrible decision on Andrews University’s part. The undergraduate enrollment is already shrinking. Last year’s racial controversy and now, establishing the first step towards legitimizing LGBTQ relationships as compatible with a sanctified SDA life, will cause every God fearing conservative SDA parent to forbid their impressionable college son or daughter from attending that institution. I predict next year’s freshman class will be the smallest it has been in many years. The best way to kill off an SDA school is to become more and more like the world.

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And this is a bad thing? I submit that we as a churched people are better balanced as witnesses for Him if we’re actually mixing with the individuals we are hoping to win for His kingdom. Knowing their hurts and fears, listening to their hopes and dreams, and quietly sharing with them what faith in Him looks like.

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Interesting opinion, but you have not supported it.

I expect that’s a trend that will continue, since people are noticing that in some ways our schools are not competitive and do not operate independently.

By this are you claiming that you lead a sanctified life, all of your actions in full harmony with the church? Seems a little simplistic, as you appear to make this into a binary choice:
legitimizing LGBTQ -> unsanctified
de-letimize LGBTQ -> sanctified

I don’t think it’s that simple.

Still, I do really hope you’re right. The conservative impulses of parents, should they continue to sway our universities and colleges with church doctrine instead of encouraging them to be good schools, will be their death knell. If we ignore them and they go away, leaving parents who don’t push these institutions in the wrong direction, then they may survive.

As it stands, most of the SDA parents I know are doing just what you fear, but for the opposite reason. Most will not send their kids to an SDA school specifically because they don’t want their kids at an institution that confuses church and education, that limits what they will teach, limits even degrees they will offer, because of church teachings. Nothing is more antithetical to a proper education. If my college-age daughters want to learn about God, they can go to church. If they want a great education, then the place to get that is at an excellent university, not at an institution that is hog-tied by a parent organization that limits what they can teach.

Many parents see our schools as being behind the times. Consider St Mary’s College, one my daughter is considering. It’s a Catholic school and is very respected. The average accepted student GPA last year was something like 3.85. They hold mass every day, twice on Sunday. There are priests on campus. And yet they have, and advertise on their site at least 10 ‘diversity’ groups, including:


People Rallying for Identity Development & Equality (PRIDE)
PRIDE is dedicated to creating a safe space and environment for all LGBTQQIAA students, staff, faculty, administrative officials, and guests. This is achieved through providing educational programming and community-building activites. PRIDE seeks to end discrimination, harassment, prejudice, and violence against the queer and trans* community. PRIDE challenges heterosexism and the gender binary system. PRIDE works to promote diversity and inclusivity on campus, as well as promote diversity within the inclusive LGBTQQIAA community.


See https://www.stmarys-ca.edu/intercultural-center/diversity-organization-council

Somehow, a rather overtly Catholic and very successful school has no problem with this. It appears parents don’t, either. And they’re Catholic, from the same group of believers that don’t even want people to use birth control.

I think it’s the opposite. The way to kill off our schools is to hog tie them into following church doctrine, into limiting their activities to those that conservative parents approve of. This alienates everyone else, especially other educated parents who evaluate our schools and also students who want to get an excellent education unencumbered by the church.


Update: My daughter was just accepted into St Mary’s and offered a $25,000 per year merit scholarship!
This brings the cost down to something like what the University of California costs.

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You’re welcome.

I’m reminded of the woman who “brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, and stood at [Jesus’] feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. Now when the Pharisee who had invited [Jesus Christ] saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.” (Luke 7:37-38)

But Jesus came to comfort, to heal and to restore. He told the gathering at that meeting, “Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” (Mat. 26:13) But this is a generation that has abandoned itself to the desires of the flesh; has no consciousness of sin and will not repent.

Genesis 4

///

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I agree with the distinction above that accepting behavior is vastly different from loving the individual. I fear many will not understand this distinction. Many will believe Andrews, our SDA educational flagship, is essentially rebelling against current church positions. Maybe some leaders who voted for this are? I hope not…

Embracing and accepting a behavior is quite different from loving a person doing that behavior. Christ loved all, but also instructed those sinners He impacted to “go and sin no more.” A change to the person was needed… not a change to the commands for leading Godly life. We all are sinners. We all can be “reborn”. We all need justification by faith… faith is dead without works. Advocating for and practicing a lifestyle the Bible clearly command against doesn’t ring of “good works” the way I understand it.

The organizations positions are not in need of “change”. Individually, we must decide if “I will change for Him and walk in His ways.”

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Rarely did I hear the word “gay” even whispered at Andrews in the early ‘80’s. Yet gays were all around. Many graduated to find belonging in a world more welcoming, out of (h)arms reach of a church and school who regarded their likes as an abomination.

Here they found affirmation and acceptance but longed for the richness that only the love of God affords. Richness, best understood in the context of grace.

Many wandered from pillar to post in search of connection. But their experience kept them searching to be filled with that elusive something that only the true love God can provide.

It’s here that gays and straights find common ground. We ultimately return to our roots in search of that cosmic fix for the God size hole in our hearts. And that is, to know Him as mysterious as He is, and to love ourselves oddly as we are. Sadly, this epiphany comes late in life for many. Or worse yet, not at all.

If the recent actions at Andrews can lead any of us to mending these holes in our hearts and to the authentic loving of our tattered selves by leading us to the very feet of the One who loves us each in such cosmic ways, then these actions at Andrews are the very will of God. Though strange to some, we must foster this peculiar endeavor.

Because scripture is replete with the theme of His yearning desire to fill all our hearts, and choose to love Him and all He created. For this is His very gospel. And He says that it is to be spread. As such, it is each one’s wish to hear and be heard, to know and be known, to love and be loved. Andrews seems to have opened a the door a crack.

For each of us who knows Him, is to tell others about Him. How He loved us and redeemed us. As He loved us, we are to love others. All others. And He will care for all of the rest. Just like He has always done. Just like He always will do.

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Sin is sin. And should never be shown to be accepted as a way that a Christian should live. And if the person is yielding to the temptation of lying, stealing, adultery or homosexuality, they should not be seen to represent the church and therefore cause others to be led to assume that God is in favor of the sins that they are living. If the group formed at Andrews is to give support to those tempted to yield to homosexuality so that they can be victorious over that sin, then ok. Although I see no reason to have a special group separate to give that support and not be included with the individuals who are tempted with other sins. But if this group is simply to aid sinners to remain sinners then God will have His say to those who would follow Satan in convincing God’s church to fall from following God’s word and begin to call what is sin, good and what is good, sinful. A person who is living in a same sex marriage is still living in sin. Just as much as the person committing adultery with one or two or more others not his wife. There is no way to make sinful acts accepted before God. Not even if you try to wrap it in the guise of doing it “in the name of God”. This is exactly what the Catholic church did when they sent its “holy army” to make disciples for God by force. There are and have been pedophiles who swore that they loved their victims. Or many a rapist who forced someone to live with them and called them their spouse. If a relationship fails to meet the stipulations set forth in God’s word they who try to twist their lusts to make it fit what God has set as truth without allowing God to change that lust to love will find themselves out in darkness and being devoured by heavenly fire along with the sin that they have cherished and set as their god. And those who fail to represent God rightly and who have failed to sound the trumpet, warning all that a Holy God is soon to return will find themselves along side them

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How does that happen? How does it happen that a person who is “yielding to the temptation of lying, stealing, adultery or homosexuality” come to represent the church in the eyes of others? Who are the others?

Why did you pick those four sins? What about fornication? Coveting? Making legal contracts with pagans & unbelievers? Failure to keep the festival of unleavened bread, the first fruits of wheat harvest, or the festival of ingathering? Failure to submit your first fruits of the season to God? These are all sins as well. Do they count?

Do you think habitual lawbreakers should be included in the church, or also excluded?

What are the stipulations you refer to? Please cite passages in the bible.

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