Tennessee's largest self-described Christian university has officially recognized a student group that seeks to "examine the intersection of Christian faith and LGBT related issues through group discussion."
After having twice rejected the application of Bridge Builders, Belmont University, which severed its ties with the Tennessee Baptist Convention in 2007, confirmed the decision to accept the pro-gay "equality" group through a joint statement Friday from Belmont Provost Thomas Burns and Bridge Builders President Robbie Maris.
"This outcome represents many months of conversation, collaboration and cooperation between Belmont students, faculty and staff," read the statement, which appeared in The Tennessean.
"Our commitment to work together in developing this meaningful and important group on our campus reflects our community's spirit of collaboration and dialog as we strengthen our diverse Christian community of learning and service through disciplined intelligence and compassion," it added.
According to Bridge Builders, the newly recognized group "operates to promote healthy, respectful exchanges concerning faith and sexuality, bearing in mind that these are not mutually exclusive."
"We recognize God's love as timeless, and believe that He blesses any attempt to bridge a divide between His sons and daughters," it adds.
Notably, the decision to recognize Bridge Builders as an official student organization at Belmont comes just weeks after the school's trustees decided to include sexual orientation as a protected status in its governing policies.
"Having severed its Baptist roots, Belmont University's Trustees voted on Wednesday to sever its roots with historic, orthodox Christianity, too," remarked David Fowler, president of the Family Action Council of Tennessee, not long after the trustees' Jan. 26 vote.
Friday's announcement also comes not long after the nationally-covered departure of the school's former soccer coach, Lisa Howe, who had acknowledged that her same-sex partner was pregnant with their first child.
According to the university's website, the school maintains that it is a "Christian community" that espouses Christian values. Faculty administrators and staff are to "uphold Jesus as the Christ and the measure of all things," the site adds.
In addition to being the largest self-described Christian university in Tennessee, Belmont also boasts itself as the second largest private university in the state, behind nearby Vanderbilt University.