Seattle Pacific University has some irregularities in its institutional handbook and policies. In its Statement on Human Sexuality, the university’s policy reads, “Human beings are created in the image of God, male and female, and are of inestimable worth. Because we are created in God’s image, people must be treated with respect and dignity by all institutions in society whether male or female, young or old, rich or poor, believer or unbeliever, homosexual or heterosexual. This priceless value constitutes the theological and anthropological foundation of our discussions regarding human sexuality.”
However, another school policy under Lifestyle Expectations reads, “Lifestyle expectations are the general standards that govern the personal conduct of all students and student organizations at SPU. Behaviors for which students or student organizations are subject to disciplinary action include, but are not limited to the following . . . cohabitation and related forms of premarital, extramarital, or homosexual sexual activities.” My question is this: How can you value a person’s worth as a homosexual and then also state that they can be disciplined for who they are?
There doesn’t seem to be a lot that makes sense about the policies in relation to LGBT students at SPU. Recently, a group called The Haven asked to be recognized on campus as an official student group. The Haven’s purpose is to be a safe place for LGBT students and their allies to discuss issues related to spirituality and sexual orientation. The Haven submitted the following as part of its statement of purpose:
Haven believes that human sexuality is intended to be a positive source of identity, experience, and connection. Unfortunately, however, when individuals are silenced and marginalized, it can become a source of confusion and even pain, with potentially harmful consequences for interpersonal relations, mental health, and physical safety. Therefore, Haven will organize weekly meetings in which an environment of safety and confidentiality are promoted so that SPU students have a place where they can freely talk about their questions and struggles without fear of judgment or punishment. These meetings will promote Christian love for everyone regardless of sexual orientation because we believe in the fundamental worth of every individual.
The group’s statement about respecting the worth of every individual seems to mimic that of the university’s own mission statement. Even so, the university decided not to grant the group official club status which means they can’t use classroom space for meetings or hold events on campus.
Over on the Slog, people are expressing their opinions about the administration’s decision. One alumnus had this to say, “I am a Seattlelite, a Christian, and a post-undergraduate student in the process of researching quality graduate programs in Seattle. There are several things I admire about SPU — the quality of education, the care of the professors, the commitment to faith, and specifically your mission to ‘Engage the Culture. Change the World.’ Unfortunately, I cannot consider attending SPU for graduate school because of its appalling stance on disallowing Haven to become a recognized student group. While I understand the need to not lose conservative donors, it saddens me to think that the issue of financial gain would stand in the way of the rights of your LGBT and allied students to have a safe and welcoming space to dialog important issues, just as any of their heterosexual peers do. It is my hope and prayer that SPU will find a way to extend the love and grace embodied in Christ to this issue and truly be able to ‘engage’ ALL culture, regardless of sexual orientation.”
Inclusion and respect should apply to all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. If you would like to add your voice to those of others who are telling SPU administration that it needs to recognize this much-needed group on campus, you can sign a petition here.