Andrews University LGBT Bake Sale Dustup Reveals Adventism's Issues With Homosexuality


(Spectrumbot) #1

Over the last several days, a standoff between university administration and an unofficial student group has embroiled Andrews University, and has spread through online news outlets and social media. The fracas started a week ago when administration told leaders of AULL4One, an unofficial gay-straight alliance on campus that a planned fundraiser could not go forward.

Last semester, AULL4One, which claims a membership of around eighty students, faculty and community members, began planning a fundraiser to benefit LGBT homeless youth in Chicago. Because the group is not sanctioned, it needed to hold the event under the auspices of an official school entity. Campus Ministries agreed to step in.

Outgoing AULL4One social vice president and Andrews graduate Alicia Battle said through email,

We wanted the organization that we supported to be specifically geared towards LGBTQ Youth. Campus Ministries seemed excited to work on it with us, but said that whatever group we chose to support had to follow NAD guidelines.

At that point I was a little discouraged, but then I found Project Fierce, a grassroots collective of social workers in Chicago. They told me that all the money we donated would be going to buy a house in Chicago to [be turned] into a transitional home for LGBTQ youth. It honestly seemed like a pretty safe option to me that AULL4One and Andrews University could agree on.

But as the date of the proposed fundraiser neared, administration halted the event, citing a conflict with the university’s mission and Adventist beliefs. Requests for specific points of conflict yielded no further explanation, angering student leaders.

“They've been very cagey about it, in my opinion, not giving us a real reason as to why Project Fierce isn't okay,” Battle said.

(University president Niels-Erik Andreasen later clarified that a key sticking point was the organization’s advocacy of “intimate LGBT relationships, including marriage,” which contradicts Adventist guidelines on homosexuality.)

Students proposed an alternate organization, Center on Halsted, that also supported homeless LGBT youth. Andrews again said no, but countered with the suggestion that Night Ministry, an interdenominational organization supporting homeless youth more broadly might serve as an acceptable alternative.

Students saw the university’s suggestion as an attempt to circumvent their specific goal of helping LGBT individuals.

Jonathan Doram, a junior Music Education major at Andrews and president of AULL4One, told Spectrum, “While doing excellent work, [Night Ministry] is not LGBT-specific, and safe housing for LGBT youth needs to be provided by those who are specifically trained to understand the needs of this very vulnerable population.”

Battle added,

We wanted to focus specifically on LGBTQ youth homelessness because that pertains directly to us and our mission, and is an issue that is overlooked not only by society but often times the LGBTQ community as well. Plus, a lot of kids get kicked out of their homes because of their parents religious views and that is an issue that cannot be ignored.”

Had students and administrators both looked more closely at Night Ministry, there might have been a different response on both sides.

AULL4One founder and Andrews student Eliel Cruz pointed said, “Having looked at the organization more closely, Night Ministry is actually no longer a faith-based group and, in fact, works closely with Project Fierce...Had the administration looked into Night Ministry it would have found out some of the same objectionable stances as Project Fierce.”

At an impasse, and seemingly out of options, Cruz took to the Internet on Monday to decry the perceived injustice. Utilizing social media and his platform as a freelance journalist, he broadcast the details of the canceled fundraiser, including screen captures of email exchanges with administration. Those images were soon taken down, but the incident spread quickly across several websites, with more outlets picking up the story all the time.

Tuesday evening, President Andreasen responded to the situation with an email message including a Question and Answer segment affirming the university’s concern for LGBT homeless youth, but taking issue with the online offensive against the university.

Andreasen wrote:

As the University was saying “no” to the specific, proposed agency, an administrator suggested an alternative support agency in Chicago that also deals with homeless LGBT teens. That suggestion does not appear to have been pursued by the student who instead proposed an additional unacceptable agency. Shortly thereafter, the student stopped his conversations with administrators, asked for a “written” clarification of the decision not to support his recommended agency, and went to the press/social media.

[...]

Andrews University believes that it is possible to both show Christian care and compassion for all people while also pursuing a life that lifts up biblical values.

As has been true with the national debate on these issues, the Seventh-day Adventist Church and Andrews University believe that there is room for respect of differing viewpoints within this discussion and within society.

Unfortunately, Andrews University does not believe that its sincerely held beliefs have been afforded such respect. To “disagree” with another person’s view is seen as callous, uncaring and unchristian.

[...]

In reference to the specific matter that brought about this attention, the “problem” as the University sees it is that once a decision was made that a student did not like, he stopped conversation about it and went to the press/social media to portray the University in a light that was neither fair nor accurate.

[...]

We can and will support LGBT homeless youth through organizations whose mission and purpose clearly align with the religious mission and purpose of our University and its sponsoring church. We invite our student clubs to find the appropriate organizations and opportunities to do just that.

Read Andreasen's full statement here.

AULL4One responded to the president with an official statement on their Facebook page. While Andreasen’s message focused on the actions of one student, the group was eager to point out that the fundraiser--and the public response--was the work of club members together.

Once it became clear to AULL4One that we were not going to be allowed to publicly fundraise on campus, the members decided together to still pursue the fundraiser. We cannot let policy nor politics become obstacles to serving and helping people. Using the resources and connections of one of our members who has a lot of connections due to his dedicated advocacy, we were able to shine a light on the decision process behind denying the LGBT-centric organizations that help homeless youth.

While Andrews University has every right to deny any event on its campus, we believe this refusal is contradictory to Jesus’ repeated calls to help those in need. While we realize this can be a very heated conversation, helping LGBT homeless youth—a population in need—should be an issue anyone and everyone can support. The reasons for the online fundraiser are three-fold: 1) to promote awareness of problems affecting LGBT homeless youth, 2) fundraise for Project Fierce, and 3) call into question the actions taken by the university. We seriously and earnestly seek to uphold Andrews University's mission: "seek knowledge, affirm faith, and change the world." It is with that mission statement in mind that we refuse to stay silent.

Read AULL4One's full statement here.

The issue remains open-ended, with students now asking administration to acknowledge the cohesive effort of the whole student organization, and the administration purportedly uninterested in revising its previous statements.

This story speaks to the complicated circumstances under which Adventist institutions increasingly operate. Several university personnel have privately indicated their support for the student group, but decline to go on record for fear of reprisal, resulting from being at odds with Adventist statements on homosexuality.

Andrews University is routinely denounced by those on the left in Adventism as being far too theologically conservative, while many on the right have written off the university as an apostate institution.

In between the polarities, administrators struggle to balance pragmatic concerns and denominational fidelity on a host of issues, particularly homosexuality. The more strident the Church’s statements become, the more difficult the balancing act.

Finally, we received unconfirmed reports that Night Ministry has said they will decline funds from Andrews University in light of the institution’s stances. Night Ministry has not responded to requests for comment as of this article’s publication. Meanwhile, the online fundraiser AULL4One implemeted in place of the bake sale has raised over $6,000, more than triple their original goal.

Jared Wright is Managing Editor of SpectrumMagazine.org.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6686

(Allen Shepherd) #2

So what is the problem here? The University has a right to deny access as the beliefs of the group conflict with the University and Adventist teaching. I don’t see why there is even a thread here. The group has even raised $6K! Pretty good PR I guess. The university can expect this kind of hassle for the indefinite future. It shows the modus operandi of this group. Bake Sale! Ha! What did they expect? Just what they got, and money besides. I am saddened for the abuse the church is going to take on this issue. But there is nothing that can be done.


(Daneen Akers) #3

This is a complicated situation for any Adventist school, and yet there seems to have been a way forward here that could have been a win/win. The specific problem with Project Fierce or their “perceived advocacy stance” has not been further explained—and it remains an outstanding question in all of this. What exactly about Project Fierce is in conflict with the mission of Andrews University? They have stated to other news sources that their only advocacy is for housing, and, to my knowledge, the Andrews administration did not contact them to clarify or confirm their suspicions. I am going to hazard a guess that it’s the phrase “identity-affirming housing” in their mission statement as well as possibly the word “fierce”* in the name of the organization that gave the administration pause.

This gets to the crux of the challenge. Organizations that do meaningful work for LGBT homeless youth are, almost by definition, “identity-affirming.” This simply means that they are not trying to deny or change the sexual orientations or gender identities of those vulnerable youth they are serving. Most of these youth are homeless because their identify has been rejected by their parents and caregivers, so part of being a safe space and being trained to help with the specific needs of LGBT homeless youth is affirming them—and this has nothing to do with choices about sexual behavior. Affirming one’s identity can simply be—I see you, you exist, you matter, and I am honoring your experience.

Taken at face value, there is nothing about an organization that is “identity-affirming” that goes against Adventist doctrines, as it says nothing about one’s choice about sexual behavior. But the word “affirming” has also come to mean pro-marriage equality as well as newer, progressive understandings of scripture that question the context of the six verses we have that have traditionally been used to condemn same-sex sex or marriage. And I’m going to guess it’s that connotation of the word “affirming” that worried the administrators at Andrews, although, as I said above, to my knowledge, they did not talk to Project Fierce to clarify if there were mis-alignments. Project Fierce has stated that they are simply about providing housing—that’s their mission.

Honestly, I suspect the organizations’ names had a lot to do with this. An org with the word “ministry” feels safer and a lot more familiar than one with the word “fierce.” It turns out that the orgs aren’t all that different–they work closely together, are both "identity-affirming. It’s just that Project Fierce is LGBT-focused and doing longer-term housing, and that’s what these students felt called to. I think it makes sense given that the majority of their 80 members identify as LGBTQ.

What I hope comes from all of this is some soul-searching about policies that keep us from helping a truly needy and vulnerable population. Up to 40 percent of homeless youth are LGBT–higher in some areas. They are very vulnerable to being trafficked for prostitution. Most of these youth are homeless because their families kicked them out because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. And studies show they are three times more likely to complete suicide than their heterosexual homeless youth counterparts. If ever there was a group that represents today’s “least of these” of Matthew 25, it’s LGBT homeless youth.

So policies that keep us from helping them need to be examined. Do we hold other organizations we partner with up to such high alignment standards? (E.g. Every homeless shelter worth their salt offered free condoms and safe sex advice, and that doesn’t align with church doctrines either.) We expose ourselves to accusations of hypocrisy and double standards when we keep making LGBT people or orgs who serve them answer for more than we do other collaborating partners.

I know there are a lot of really good people at Andrews–and much good has come from the conversations at this intersection of faith and identity in the last few years there. Let’s hope this situation helps us all find better avenues of communication and care, especially for the most vulnerable.


(Eliel Cruz) #4

I wrote a column on retelling the events that transpired and getting to the root of the issue. Also do note that i had my piece fact checked and pre approved by administrators.

http://elielcruz.religionnews.com/2015/03/11/school-wont-let-us-sell-cupcakes-homeless-lgbt-youth/


(Carrol Grady`) #5

Daneen’s analysis is spot-on. But in the end it all comes down to discrimination.

It seems to me that AU is trying to say that Jesus commanded us to give a cup of cold water, but only to those who share our beliefs and ideals.

Do Adventist Community Services refuse to help gay people?


(Kade Wilkinson) #6

The title of this article is hilarious. I thought it was one of the satire articles at first.


(2nd Opinion) #7

“In between the polarities, administrators struggle to balance pragmatic concerns and denominational fidelity on a host of issues, particularly homosexuality. The more strident the Church’s statements become, the more difficult the balancing act.”

You’ve hit the nail directly on the head, Jared. Administrators at Andrews University are caught in the middle. With all due respect to Daneen and her expertise on this subject, the situation on the ground is much more difficult and complex–especially at Andrews where you have a governance layer that is heavily laden with GC officers and a very conservative slate of conference presidents from the Lake Union. The operating environment on this issue is as tough as it gets, even on a good day. Mr. Cruz’s actions have only made it more challenging and potentially damaged what modest progress has already been made.


#8

Affirming one’s identity can simply be—I see you, you exist, you matter, and I am honoring your experience."

Simply?


(Allen Shepherd) #9

I see no need for there to be such close analysis of a group’s goals. If they take a name like “fierce” and support some type of gay activity, even if they do other good things, it does not behove the university to support them. They have plenty of other places they can go.

Why try to stick it to an Adventist University because they hold gay sex to be wrong? You seem to think it would be win/win? How? To support the group can cause those who support the university to question its goals. To not support means such as you will accuse. I see it as a lose/lose.

Look at Cruz’s article. Isn’t that trying to cause embarrassment? Does he not want to “shame” the university into complying? He delights in making it a lose/lose. And it is not discrimination, as Carol says. It is taking a stand on a certain belief.

Look at how two gay supporters speak of the university: It is discriminatory and it is hateful. Such tactics are typical radical left actions who use labels to pigeon-hole one they wish to hurt. And all the university wants to do is support Adventist teaching. Woe is us.


(Carolyn Parsons) #10

It is about keeping LGBT youth safe, it is not about sex.


(Daneen Akers) #11

Oh, I wouldn’t want an administrator’s job! I can only imagine how difficult and complex it is. I think the administration at Andrews navigates this better than many. But that doesn’t mean this had to end this way. Why couldn’t this fundraiser have gone ahead, and, if there were questions, the school could have issued a statement affirming the church’s doctrines but stating that compassion and care for a group we all agree is in crisis meant risking raised eyebrows to do some real good in their lives?


(Allen Shepherd) #12

The university has not threatened LGBY youth in any way. Where do you get that idea?


(Daneen Akers) #13

Alllen - the situation these homeless LGBT youth find themselves in is the crisis, and it’s largely due to Christian parents thinking they need to kick their kids out when they come out (and that’s happening at much younger ages now when kids can’t fend for themselves yet). That’s what keeping LGBT youth safe is about here. And let’s be passionate about changing this very sad reality. Churches should be leading the way here, especially since our teachings are what prompt parents, many of whom have no resources on how to respond when their kids come out except a misguided notion of “tough love”, to act in such a harmful and hurtful manner.


(Steve Mga) #14

Gideon
Yes!! It IS THAT Simple.
Just acknowledge that a Person IS. Then say, “Hi”. “I’m Gideon”. "I’m glad to meet you."
See?
That wasnt so hard, was it?


(Allen Shepherd) #15

Why act so naive, Daneen, as if this is all innocence? All you have to do is read the title to Cruz’s article. He is out for blood. Why cooperate with such things?

If there is to be any clarity, yes, it has to end this way. You are really quite good at muddying the waters. “If they would only give in a little…” No, to give in a little is to give all. I think you know that. Something about allowing an inch and taking a mile.

Cruz’s attitude is the key here. If he were less militant, perhaps something could be worked out. But that is not how groups such as his work, as far as I can tell.


(Daneen Akers) #16

This isn’t about one student. It’s about a lot more, although I sense the administration would like to make it seem like one rogue activist student acting impulsively. This is a group of almost 80 students, and it’s about examining policies that get in the way of helping the most vulnerable and needy among us. And yes, if trying my best to follow Jesus’ clear directives about helping the “least of these” muddies the water, then that’s where I’m at. I agree He didn’t give us easy outs. The Good Samaritan didn’t stop to check political credentials–in fact, that was pretty much the point of the parable.


(Allen Shepherd) #17

Yes, it is all compassion, I know. Read Cruz’s title again. That is not about compassion, that is about war. And there are plenty of homeless shelters about. I have looked into many myself for other homeless ones. So I am not sure there is a crisis.
And your little note, as well, is quite accusatory. I don’t know much about homeless youth, but usually they came from homes with small financial means from my understanding and are usually in a family. So I don’t know of the number of homeless youth cruelly cast out by horrible Christian parents. I don’t know of a one, myself, but I may be ignorant. Where do you get your stats from?


(Carolyn Parsons) #18

I am talking about the agency Project Fierce Chicago and their work with LGBT youth. You suggested that it is because the university sees gay sex as wrong that they would not support the organization.

What does supporting work with LGBT young homeless people have to do with sex? That is the issue.


(André Reis) #19

Kudos to Andreasen for navigating the issue with class and wisdom. Shame on Eliel Cruz for yet another attempt to denigrate the University which has embraced him despite his lifestyle choices.


(Steve Mga) #20

Allen
Yes!
The TEACHING on “How To Love Your Neighbor” is ALL WRONG.
This has been displayed by President Niels-Erik Andreasen, the Univ. Dean, the Univ. Provost,
Steve Yeagley, Steve Payne, Becky St. Clair.
Remember the Priest.
Remember the Levite.
Both stopped to assess the dying Samaritan on the Road. He was born in the wrong place and at the wrong time. So he was unworthy of assistance by those who KNEW the Law — The Sh-ma Israel. The Love the Lord… The Love your Neighbor.
A Jew who also knew the Law fulfilled the Law. By honoring God seen in God’s love for the Samaritan. By honoring and fulfilling the Law by Loving the Neighbor no matter WHO it was, or WHAT sins the Neighbor might have been into.
This Jew, who Honored the Law, provided Housing. Paid for Housing. Gave a gift for Housing. And, was willing to donate even more, if that was not enough for the extended stay of the Housing.

THIS event say a WHOLE LOT about the type of teaching that is going on at Andrews. Teaching supervised by The President, The Dean, The Provost, the leaders of Campus Ministry
They Teach Missions at Andrews.
After this event, is the Mission Program REALLY a Mission Program?
Do Samaritans REALLY matter. Or is it JUST another ficticious Story in the Bible, told by Jesus. Since it is Un-True, it has no meaning in the 21st Century.
Like the Priest, the Levite, the “28” are MORE important than the dying Samaritan.

Remember CUC back in the 40s? A black SDA church wife, mother was allowed to die by graduates of CUC, members of the local SDA church. WHAT type of Jesus did they believe in? Was the Samaritan story Also seen as Un-True so one did NOT have to be instructed by it?
As far as Andrews Administration is concerned, Are LGBTIO Youth on the street the New Black?