SBU community gets ready for Soulforce
BOLIVAR—After a rigorous round of debate about campus homosexuality that was aired this spring in the student newspaper, Southwest Baptist University (SBU) is better prepared to handle an anticipated visit next year by members of a nationally known homosexual activist group, according to the school’s president.
C. Pat Taylor commended the writer of the three-part series, Ben Nielsen, as “a very positive, good student” and “a good young man.” He said it was appropriate for the school newspaper to tackle the issue based on awareness of a planned visit to Bolivar by Soulforce, an organization based in Lynchburg, Va., that is known for targeting religious and military colleges to protest their policies about homosexuality.
Soulforce was expected to visit SBU the first half of 2007, but for some reason it did not happen. All that means is “we know our day is coming,” Taylor said.
“We give the Omnibus, which is our student newspaper, the freedom to write about social issues,” Taylor said during a break from the SBU Board of Trustees meeting May 8. “We always want them to do it from a Christian perspective. We think that’s a good thing for them to do, because they’re writing about things that impact all these students you see walking across campus here.”
Nielsen quoted some students who are opposed to a Class C policy in the “Principles and Expectations” of the university in which sexual immorality is defined as “unacceptable moral or ethical behavior.” The 21st of 21 violations listed in the policy is for “moral impropriety, including sexual misconduct that is inconsistent” with the Principles and Expectations.
Taylor said every SBU student signs the Principles and Expectations. Students are then expected to adhere to the policy. If a student does not, and if the violation becomes known, sanctions come into play.
“We don’t single out the sin of homosexuality,” Taylor explained. “It’s like any other sexual sin. It’s a violation of our university policy.”
SBU Provost Gordon Dutile noted that it took perseverance for SBU administrators to ride the waves of public opinion that the newspaper series generated in order to get to a place where concepts like “tolerance,” “freedom” and “being Christian and being gay” could be rightly taught. Challenging statements, which included a professor who was quoted as saying that a Christian’s love should be “so unconditional it’s scandalous,” were firmly addressed. In the end, the policy was gently affirmed.
“I think the students tend to get the idea that when you have rules, you don’t care about people who have that kind of issue,” Dutile said. “And so what our effort is (is) to show them that we’re willing to minister to those people, but at the same time they have to acknowledge our policy. And our policy is just basically that no sexual behavior, be it heterosexual or homosexual, outside of God’s boundaries is acceptable. If a person says, ‘I’m of that persuasion,’ that’s one thing, but if they’re going to exercise that behavior, that’s unacceptable. That’s what we wanted our students to understand.”
The series created images of a homosexual culture that is both apparent and vibrant at SBU, although Taylor and Dutile both said that is not true. Nielsen reported that “many dozens” of students on campus are homosexual. In developing his theme, Nielsen introduced his readers at one point to an anonymous student named “John” who spoke of “things he has gone through as a homosexual at SBU.” Some students, like senior Ben Burns, rallied to John’s cause, concluding, “I believe that you can be gay and a Christian.” Another senior, Matt Gallion, revealed that he has “several friends who are gay,” but another student, junior Megan Jasper, quoted from the Bible and simply said that homosexuality is a sin.
Taylor declined to address the idea that SBU may have a student who is Christian and gay at the same time, choosing instead to focus on the biblical doctrine of redemption. If there is a homosexual or lesbian student on campus, the biblical approach to either him or her would be to present the power of Christ in a Christian’s life to fully redeem—and fully sanctify.
“What we say to that student is, ‘You cannot continue to practice immorality and stay here with us,’” Taylor said.