Azusa Pacific Reaffirms Christian Sexual Ethic
One college just demonstrated the kind of leadership needed at Christian institutions, and proved it’s never too late to reaffirm the truth. Christian institutions of higher learning are facing enormous pressure these days to compromise the biblical and historical understanding in areas relating to sex, marriage, and gender. And as I said recently on BreakPoint, the pressure isn’t just from outside. If Christian institutions are going to maintain their Christian identity, it will take strong leadership and conviction. Case in point: Azusa Pacific University in California. Last week, the school’s administration removed language from its standard of conduct that prohibited LGBT students from having romantic relationships. The change came after months of pressure from activists both outside and inside the university. This move to allow same-sex dating and romance wasn’t, according to the university announcement, a compromise on “biblical principles of human sexuality,” because the wording of the standard of conduct still technically prohibited sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage. In other words, yes to same-sex romance, no to same-sex sex. The associate dean of students at Azusa Pacific claimed this change was “still in alignment” with the school’s historical Christian identity. Then, on Friday, the university’s board of trustees reversed the decision, and issued a statement reaffirming “biblical orthodoxy,” in which they clarified that APU’s convictions “aren’t subject to outside pressure of legal, political, or social varieties.” “God’s perfect will and design for humankind,” the board went on, is “the biblical understanding of the marriage covenant as between one man and one woman. Outside of marriage, He calls His people to abstinence.” Importantly, they reaffirmed the school’s commitment to walking with students through such challenging questions, and valuing them as individuals, no matter what their stated sexual orientation. This is great news. The original move by the administration was bizarre. Telling students they can have same-sex romance but not same-sex sex is like telling basketball players it’s okay to break the rules in practice, as long as they don’t do it in the game. How would that sort of change prepare students for a life of Christian faithfulness? More importantly, if God has a will and design for marriage, He has a design for romantic affections, as well. Romantic affections serve the higher good of marriage, and are supposed prepare us for and help us choose the right person to marry. They’re not recreation. Good for the Azusa Pacific board for stepping in and restoring a complete understanding of human sexuality. They unambiguously did the right thing on a critical issue of enormous cultural importance, and I am sure they are taking shots because of it. And the rest of us, especially any of us in leadership of Christian institutions, need to pay attention. Pastors, teachers, Christian school administrators, trustees, parents: The pressure for Christian institutions to conform to our culture’s new view of sex is only going to intensify. Whether it’s churches deciding whether to commune practicing gay couples, colleges reconsidering community standards, or non-profits setting codes of conduct for employees, Christians will have to consciously, deliberately decide where they stand on these issues. If we fail to differentiate ourselves from the surrounding culture, we will lose our faith one compromise at a time. The kind of conviction and clarity the Azusa Pacific board of trustees just showed will be a major qualification for Christian leadership in the years to come, especially when the pressure comes not just from without, but from within.