Next steps for Azusa Pacific University? Courage.

By Ellie Ash-Bala

“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
Elie Wiesel

I understand that President Wallace and his administration must be under enormous pressure from donors and board members who are from the more conservative parts of the Christian community. However, it is unconscionable that APU would treat a member of their community so poorly and send such a message of fear to current students. In doing so, they are telling them that they are indeed not welcomed as they are at APU. They are communicating that they must keep issues of sexuality and gender identity quiet because some in the community are not ready to deal with them yet. They are saying to current faculty and staff that they shouldn't wade too deep or openly in their honest wrestling with God over these issues or they might find themselves on the receiving end of being told they "no longer are a fit" for the community at APU.

One of the things I loved when I was at APU was how the leadership spoke about God-honoring diversity—seeing the beauty of God’s creation in the differences of people around us.  Well, if APU truly supports “God-honoring diversity” they could welcome, with open-mindedness, this new dialogue that God has brought to the fore. They could model for students, faculty and staff what it looks like to handle tough issues with compassion and love. It might not be easy. It might make some uncomfortable. But Jesus never said a life of discipleship would be comfortable or easy. There are many in the Christian community that have differing perspectives on this issue and for APU to choose the rigid legalism of evangelical tradition over accepting the tensions that come with diversity in the body of Christ is destructive and disheartening.

My prayer is that the leadership of APU would be courageous enough to lead the university into a place where differing perspectives on LGBTQ issues are allowed to be voiced. I am not asking that the university abandon it’s foundation as an evangelical institution. I am not asking anyone to change their deeply held beliefs. What I am asking is for APU (as a non-denominational community) to recognize that it is possible to have different perspectives on sexuality and gender and still be a faithful follower of Jesus. I am asking that those who support LGBTQ diversity not be treated as inferior Christians or community members. I am asking that current students not be forced into choosing between being accepted by their community and being true to themselves and God. Of all places that should be safe to ask questions and explore identity, it should be a Christian community like APU. But for LGBTQ students it is not safe. They live in hiding and in fear of how they will be treated if they come out. It must end. Does APU have the courage to protect the vulnerable in their midst? I live in hope that they do.