Azusa Pacific University, a major California-based Christian school, has once again opted to remove a ban on same-sex romantic relationships.
The University changed their student guidelines on inappropriate sexual behavior last Thursday, removing the ban on homosexual relationships, according to a report by the San Gabriel Valley Tribune published Saturday.
Azusa Pacific University spokesperson Rachel White explained in comments emailed to The Christian Post on Tuesday that the changes were part of an overall update of the undergraduate student handbook.
“The old handbook, produced decades ago, underwent a significant revision and redesign after input from student leaders, board, administration, faculty, and staff,” explained White.
White said that the ban on same-sex relationships “did not reflect our commitment to disciple our students and point them to Christ.”
“APU is an open enrollment campus and some students who choose to attend do not share our Christian faith perspective. We are committed to sharing the Gospel with all our students and we support all our students in making decisions that will enhance their spiritual formation,” stated White.
“The new handbook, which includes a section on sexual stewardship, affirms our mission to be Christ-centered, applies uniform standards to all students, states that APU is biblical and orthodox in our evangelical identity, and calls the university to develop disciples and scholars for Christ.”
The university still defines marriage as being exclusively between one man and one woman, and also prohibits unmarried heterosexual couples living on campus from cohabitating.
Furthermore, explained White to CP, the University’s rules regarding on-campus housing will not be effected by the change, as the school “expects that all students will respect and adhere to our standards, including those related to sexuality.”
“APU promotes an evangelical worldview and affirms that sexual relationships are designed by God to be expressed solely within a marriage covenant between one man and one woman and that individuals remain celibate outside of that marriage covenant,” added White.
Brave Commons, a pro-LGBT group that engages in advocacy on Christian college campuses, celebrated the Azusa handbook change in a statement released Friday.
“While the school upholds their view of marriage–between a man and woman–the ban removal offers equal treatment of LGBTQ+ students in relationships as their heterosexual peers,” stated the group.
“Brave Commons’ Co-Executive Director Erin Green, an integral piece of the conversation and movement at Azusa Pacific, finds hope in the LGBTQ+ students at APU who fueled the change, which offers ‘no stigmatizing of queer people specifically. This is what we asked for all along’.”
Denny Burk, professor at Boyce College and president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, spoke with concern about the new handbook regulation, writing that “Azusa’s student handbook fails to make a moral distinction between homosexual and heterosexual relationships.”
“Even when abstinent, they are not morally equivalent. A heterosexual relationship can and may have the covenant of marriage as its aim and goal,” wrote Burk in a piece published Sunday.
“A homosexual relationship can never have marriage as its aim and goal. That means that a homosexual relationship can never be holy or pleasing to God. By definition, it is sinful.”
Azusa had previously attempted to remove its ban on same-sex romantic relationships last September, however they reversed course several days later.
In a statement released last year, the University’s Board of Trustees explained that officials never got approval to remove the ban, adding that they were standing firm and will never "capitulate to outside pressures, be they legal, political, or social."
"We pledge to boldly uphold biblical values and not waver in our Christ-centered mission," the board added in their 2018 statement. "We will examine how we live up to these high ideals and enact measures that prevent us from swaying from that sure footing."
Correction, March 20, 2019.
A previous version of this article mentioned student housing for married students. APU does not have on-campus housing for married students.