For the second time in less than a year, Azusa Pacific University has lifted its ban on same-sex relationships on campus. While an attempt at lifting the ban was quickly repealed last year, this time the Board of Trustees has put their stamp of approval on the controversial change in policy.
According to Provost Mark Stanton, a change in wording to the student handbook, which essentially brings about the lift of the ban, is consistent with APU’s “uniform standards of behavior for all students, applied equally and in a nondiscriminatory fashion.”
Proponents for the revised wording in the student handbook argue that the old language singled out LGBTQ students in a discriminatory manner and forbid them from engaging in any kind of romantic relationships.
Azusa Pacific University’s Statement of Beliefs
Now, the wording in the University’s statement of beliefs concerning sexuality simply states that those not engaged in a heterosexual marriage are to remain celibate:
As an evangelical community of disciples and scholars who embrace the historic Christian understanding of Scripture, Azusa Pacific University holds that sexuality is a gift from God and basic to human identity as well as a matter of behavioral expression. We hold that the full behavioral expression of sexuality is to take place within the context of a marriage covenant between a man and a woman and that individuals remain celibate outside of the bond of marriage. Therefore, we seek to cultivate a community in which sexuality is embraced as God-given and good and where biblical standards of sexual behavior are upheld.
Stanton says the University’s “values are unchanged the APU community remains unequivocally biblical in our Christian evangelical identity.” At the same time that they are seeking to maintain their evangelical identity, though, Stanton explains that the University is “an open-enrollment institution, which does not require students to be Christian to attend.” For this reason, Stanton says the handbook “conveys our commitment to treating everyone with Christ-like care and civility.
When the ban was first lifted in August last year, the Board of Trustees circled back to the original wording in the student handbook, stating it was not consulted in the matter. Upon review, the board decided to reinstate the ban and add the old language back into the handbook.
In response, students on campus organized campaigns to ask the administration to reconsider the ban. Students participated in a prayer demonstration and APU’s student government approved a resolution asking school administrators to either remove the ban or clarify three specific points related to the ban. The San Gabriel Valley Tribune identified the three points of clarity the students were seeking:
What punishments students in same-sex romantic relationships would face?
Why the student LGBTQ support group Haven was forced to change its name?
Which students or student groups administrators intend to work with to come up with solutions?
Brave Commons, a nonprofit organization for LGBTQ students on Christian colleges, also put pressure on the leadership of the school. Brave Commons organized an online petition that has garnered over 5,000 signatures since November.
While the leadership of Brave Commons is happy their campaigning had an effect on the University’s position, they also remain cautious. “This is an opportunity to continue to hold APU accountable,” Erin Green, Co-Executive Director of Brave Commons, said in a statement. Green also attended APU.