The Falcon | Volume 83, Issue 52
Published 5/22/13 | Log In
Eaton promises open talks, but no change in sex policy
By SHAWNRENE KEPPEL, Assistant News Editor
Published: April 4, 2007
A gay SPU student suggested that any discrimination against those who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender (GLBT) is equivalent to the Pharisees' persecution of Jesus Christ.
A straight SPU student -- who physically thumped his Bible -- loudly said that gay men and women are "abominations" and should not be part of the SPU community.
These two different opinions, stated only minutes apart during President Philip Eaton's question and answer forum held yesterday, highlight the vast differences in opinion regarding the relationship between Christianity and homosexuality.
Next Wednesday, the SPU campus will be visited by a team of gay and lesbian activists from SoulForce, a GLBT advocacy group. The stated goal of the "Equality Riders" is to challenge SPU's lifestyle expectations, which contain a clause prohibiting "homosexual activity."
In the forum yesterday, Eaton stated that the Equality Riders' visit to SPU should be seen as a time for discussion, but he clearly stated that the university's stance on sexuality will not change.
"The health in Christian communities is wrestling together about issues," Eaton said. "This is a possible opportunity for us to be of help to the larger Christian community."
Eaton also pledged to welcome the Riders to SPU. He said the Equality Ride would help SPU to put a "human face" on a difficult topic.
"We must recognize that we have something to learn from everyone," Eaton said.
By The Falcon's deadline, a schedule of events for the Riders' visit had not been finalized, but students should expect forums, worship and plenty of open discussion, Eaton said. Tomorrow, Rob Wall, professor of Scriptures, will lead a forum titled "Sexuality of the Heart" in preparation for the Riders' arrival on campus.
The Equality Ride is the young adult wing of SoulForce, a national social justice group. The group was started by activist Mel White, who was known as a speechwriter for conservative American evangelical leaders Billy Graham and Jerry Falwell before he revealed he was gay. The group is stopping at SPU as part of a larger tour that travels to various colleges and universities that have policies seen as discriminatory toward GLBT students.
"We're a nonviolent, interfaith group that works to establish dialogue in the way Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi did," said Brandon Kneefel, a Equality Rider in a phone interview. "We're not protesters. We're not here to get people's attention. We're here to foster dialogue and to create a space for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students."
While Eaton and the Equality Riders both have said they see this visit as a time for healthy dialogue and discussion, both sides may have different end results in mind.
"It has been tricky to get a balance of opinions out there," Kneefel said. "We are coming as outsiders trying to share a message. We are trying to find the best way for conversation to be conducted."
Already this year, some members of the Equality Riders have been arrested during visits to the University of Notre Dame and Brigham Young University.
"There have been plenty of schools that have not welcomed us," Kneefel said. "Sometimes they welcome us, sometimes they don't. We just try to take it one day at a time."