- (Photo: AP Images / Brian Kersey)
Wheaton College has rebuffed the intentions of OneWheaton (OW), a recently formed lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) group of alumni and allies, to plan events that will coincide with the Christian liberal arts college's annual homecoming celebration taking place Oct. 7-8.
The challenge for the Illinois Christian college is to be able to embrace all members of its alumni community while at the same time hold firm to its historical teachings on sexual morality.
In an email addressed to his Chicago campus community, Wheaton President Phillp Ryken said:
“Members of any family have areas of agreement and disagreement. This is true of Wheaton College’s relationship to OneWheaton, a group comprised of alumni but not affiliated with the College. As I have shared in an earlier campus communication, the College agrees with OneWheaton’s stated desire to ‘affirm the full humanity and dignity of every human being, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.’”
“We also remain committed to the Bible’s teaching on sexual morality, which has anchored the church throughout its history and is described in our Community Covenant.”
On its website, OW states that their organization was formed by a "desire to support students who feel isolated during their time at Wheaton College."
The LGBT group explained, "Inspired by the 'It Gets Better' campaign and emboldened by similar alumni movements happening at other Christian universities we have come together as a voice of freedom and hope for students who feel their sexuality relegates them to a life of loneliness and isolation."
The "It Gets Better" campaign is a LGBT support site that encourages those facing difficulties because of their sexuality to remain encouraged that their situation will improve.
The OneWheaton event has stirred controversy, even as Ryken insisted:
"Wheaton College should be a place where all people are treated with love, respect, and dignity. We hope all members of the campus community and alumni, regardless of their theological and moral views, will see Homecoming Weekend as an opportunity to celebrate their shared experience at Wheaton College, rather than a venue for confrontation."
This issue will no doubt be a prevalent one at Christian colleges across the nation, as they struggle to find the balance Ryken speaks of, within their own community, between inclusion and institutional, as well as religion and beliefs.
OneWheaton, which also includes heterosexual Wheaton College alumni, revealed earlier this year its disagreement with the traditional biblical view that homosexuality is a sin.
“We do not believe there is anything wrong with being gay,” OneWheaton said in a press release. "We are joining the conversation at Wheaton to show students that they have the option to live without shame and self-hatred."
Wheaton College, one of the most respected evangelical higher education institutions in the nation and the alma mater of Billy Graham, takes the position that homosexual relations is a sin but that Christians should love those struggling with same-sex attraction instead of judging or ostracizing them.
A copy of Ryken's email was published on Gay Christian Movement Watch, a website run by an evangelical pastor who says the online ministry's mission "is to monitor, analyze and publish (MAP) the activities, leaders and public theological positions of the 'gay christian movement.'