The Falcon | Volume 83, Issue 53
Published 5/29/13 | Log In
Former students speak on their lives
By LISA REITMEIER, Editor In Chief
Published: May 23, 2001
Last year, Ryan, whose name has been changed to protect his privacy, told his then roommate at Seattle Pacific University that he was gay after keeping silent about his sexual orientation for several months.
His roommate said that homosexuality and Christianity could not be congruent and that Ryan could become a heterosexual if he prayed about it.
So after spending his sophomore year at Seattle Pacific University, Ryan left the university depressed after feeling unable to openly discuss his sexual orientation.
In 1975, Cathryn Cummings-Bond wrote a letter to the editor in The Falcon about two lesbians she had grown to respect and admire.
She was flabbergasted by the angry responses to the letter.
Cummings-Bond is now a lesbian, an ordained minister and the senior pastor of a ministry in the Puget Sound that welcomes people of all sexual orientations.
Kevin Klein first came to realize he was gay his freshman year at SPU in 1981.
During the following four years he spent at SPU, Klein would come to know a gay or lesbian student from each residence hall on the SPU campus and find solace from the relationships he formed with those students.
Though age and gender separate these three ex-students, there is a tie that binds them-they are all persons who spent time while at SPU asking questions about the relationship between homosexuality and the Christian faith.
Two of them have reconciled their sexual orientation with their faith, while one is still struggling to do so.
While no precise figures exist on the number of homosexuals who have attended or currently attend SPU, these three stories suggest that tensions have existed for many years at the university.
At a time when many churches are struggling with the same kinds of tensions, the stories of these three people illustrate that SPU is not exempt from this debate-even at a university that officially affirms the traditional belief that homosexual conduct is not God's intention for humanity.
This article does not set out to solve these tensions, it merely demonstrates that they do exist at SPU and that, at least for one student in this story, they are far from settled.
Gay student remains silent
When it came time to choose a college, Ryan chose SPU because he wanted to get away from the state he had lived in all his life and he wanted a small, private school in a big city.
He never planned on telling anybody at SPU he was gay.
He told himself that he would be gay forever and that he could spend his whole life dwelling on his homosexuality but that school needed to be his focus for the next four years.
Ryan remembered reading the SPU lifestyle expectations, which do not condone homosexuality, and then signing the contract agreeing to abide by those expectations.
"It was hard to sign it (the contract), but I really wanted to go to SPU," Ryan says.
Ryan also wanted to spend college deepening his Christian faith, which he embraced during high school.
"I'm not going to stop and pretend I can be an openly gay Christian without being shunned," Ryan says. "I don't know what's perfectly right and what's perfectly wrong, but from what I've understood about the Bible, homosexuality is wrong."
According to Ryan, he can't make his faith and his lifestyle congruent right now, and he's not sure he ever will be able to do so.
But he can't understand how, if homosexuality is wrong, he can love God so much and be so wrong in his sexual orientation.
While at SPU, Ryan started realizing he wasn't being himself while attempting to ignore his homosexuality with his new friends.
Showers in the dorms were his worst fear.
So Ryan told his roommate.
Ryan considered him a friend who deserved to know that his roommate was gay.
But the roommate told Ryan he should pray about his homosexuality and that he could become a heterosexual if he really tried.
"I don't think [my roommate] thought I had a real relationship with God, and that hurt," Ryan says.
Because of the reaction of his roommate, Ryan only told one other person at SPU: his faculty adviser.
"I got to a point where I could really trust my faculty adviser, and she didn't shun me; she just listened," Ryan says.
Ryan stopped going to his floor Bible study and stopped hanging out with his friends because he thought they wouldn't accept him or that he would get kicked out of school.
He finished the year depressed and alone.
Today, Ryan works at a coffee shop where he is openly gay. He also works at a job downtown where he is not openly gay because he still worries about how his employer would react.
He dates, often finding other gay men on the Internet and from his job at the coffee shop.
According to Ryan, society in general has become more accepting of gays, but the church has not.
He wishes the subject came up more often in churches and at SPU, but he thinks fear plays a major part in stifling the discussion.
"The university needs resources for people like me at SPU whether they like it or not," Ryan says.
According to Ryan, there are real Christians at SPU who are real homosexuals that are seeking answers to the tensions these two realities create.
"There are people there just like me who live in this confusion," Ryan says. "It's not easy. I wish my daily life were easier. Every day I worry about something related to the fact that I'm gay."
"I just wish people didn't care."
Pastor begins ministry for all sexual orientations
Cathryn Cummings-Bond and her partner recently kissed at the intersection of Third Avenue West and Nickerson Street on the campus of SPU as a sign of protest against a university that does not accept homosexual behavior.
"The people at SPU really have no idea the pain or the courage it takes to come out," Cummings-Bond says.
Though not a lesbian during her one year at SPU in 1975, Cummings-Bond can remember writing a paper for her human sexuality class about two lesbians in Seattle who were the first in the country to gain custody of their children.
After writing the paper, Cummings-Bond wrote a letter to the editor in The Falcon expressing her feelings of admiration and respect for the two women.
"The responses from the SPU community to that letter could not have been more openly hateful," Cummings-Bond says.
"Ironically enough," Cummings-Bond says, "SPU was the place where I became a feminist and the place where I first began asking questions about homosexuality."
Today she is the senior pastor of Spirit of the Sound (SOS), a ministry for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and heterosexual people of Puget Sound.
Cummings-Bond was ordained as a Presbyterian minister after receiving her master's of divinity from Princeton Seminary in Princeton, N.J.
In 1996, she had her call transferred to the United Church of Christ, the only mainline denomination in the United States that accepts openly gay clergy.
Cummings-Bond went public with her sexual orientation in 1991. She was in her mid-30s and married to a husband with whom she had two kids.
After her divorce from her husband and a difficult yet victorious battle for the custody of her children, she moved in with her partner, Connie Brown.
"I wondered how God would use me again and if I would ever be in ministry again after I came out," she says.
"I cried a lot during those hard times," Cummings-Bond says. "But I also promised God that I would make a nest for people like me-a place for people like me to hold hands together and know that God loves us."
SOS was born in 1995.
According to the SOS mission statement, the ministry "offers a safe and loving family, welcoming all sexual orientations through small group sharing, mission projects, and the worship of God, with music, humor, intelligence and a touch of irreverence."
According to Cummings-Bond, SOS "is like manna" for homosexual Christians in traditional and intolerant churches.
But SOS members are still encouraged to attend those churches in order to build a bridge between the two communities.
Cummings-Bond and Tim Phillips, associate pastor of SOS, say that they live their Christianity out of a "condition of grace" in their lives.
The plate and cup for which SOS uses to distribute communion speaks of this philosophy.
Engraved in the thick pottery, the cup and plate say, "God is wildly in love with you" and "God loves her gay and lesbian church."
Phillips also says that passages of Scripture in the Old Testament that speak against homosexual relations are synonymous with verses such as those that say adolescents who disobey their parents should be stoned.
"There are many things in the Bible that we reject today," Cummings-Bond says. "Why are we pulling this one certain passage out?"
Cummings-Bond says homosexuals are looking for the same things in relationships that heterosexuals do: committed and loving relationships.
Both Phillips and Cummings-Bond believe the way in which one has access to God is through a person-Jesus Christ.
"If God is so opposed to homosexuality, then why didn't Jesus Christ mention it once during his years of ministry?" Cummings-Bond says.
Still, Cummings-Bond admits, there are Christians opposed to homosexuality.
"Homophobia is often just bigotry dressed up in church clothes," Cummings-Bond says. "And it's the only type of bigotry left in our culture."
Cummings-Bond says her work is tiresome, that the gay community is a tough one to work with because they are so wounded and she often feels like giving up on the Christian churches that look down on her and SOS.
"But I was called to ministry by God," she says. "To be a role model, and to be a role model for members as to how to treat other people, including the people who persecute them."
According to Cummings-Bond, SPU homosexual students are some of the most at-risk people in the Puget Sound because there is nowhere for them to go on campus.
"A gay Christian is an oxymoron for most Christians," she says. "Disproving this myth has made my work not easy.
"But would I do it all over again?" Cummings-Bond asks. "Of course I would. I honestly believe in this work with all my heart, and I would go through the pain all over again because I've honestly never been happier."
Gay man at peace with faith and sexual orientation
In 1981, Kevin Klein attempted to apply some of the common explanations of homosexuality to his own life-explanations such as a childhood spent in an unstable family, or distant father figures.
But Klein grew up a happy child in the country, had a good relationship with both his father and mother and felt confident that his Christian faith was personal and true.
"I always knew who I was, but I never put a name to the fact that I was gay until I was a freshman in college," Klein says.
Even so, Klein's college years at SPU were a trying process as he asked questions like, "How can God love me if the church says homosexuality is so wrong?"
He attempted to associate himself with a religious and ex-gay ministry in Seattle but became disenchanted with it as he learned members of the group were still engaging in sexually promiscuous activities.
"I felt anger and sadness from that experience and my exposure to that kind of hypocrisy," Klein says.
When Klein finally decided to reveal his orientation to a floor mate, it took him three hours to say the words, "I'm gay."
That floor mate was accepting and happy to introduce Klein to several more gay students on campus, including some on his own floor in Hill Hall.
Klein has reconciled his faith and sexual orientation, with the help of several books and articles on the subject.
According to Klein, homosexual Christians have a hard time because they feel rejected by both the gay community and the Christian community.
"Both the gay and Christian community say you can't belong to one and the other," Klein says. "But for me, I couldn't let God go, and I couldn't let go of who I was either."
Klein says his relationship with God has actually deepened because he's had to look deeper for God, but that his deeper relationship with God hasn't changed his sexual orientation.
Klein would like to see a gay cadre at SPU and would like students to be able to feel comfortable openly admitting that they are gay.
"Homosexuality is more prevalent at SPU than people realize," Klein says, "but students still remaining silent about their orientation really need to know that God loves them. And that God doesn't make junk."