On June 26th, the Supreme Court ended the ban on same-sex marriage, making it legal in all fifty states. The ruling has been met by a wide variety of opinions, with students at Messiah College being no exception.
Messiah’s own institutional policy is rooted in the Brethren in Christ tradition. The Community Covenant specifically mentions sexual orientation as it prohibits “homosexual behavior.”
The Covenant states, “…We are to avoid such sinful practices as drunkenness, stealing, dishonesty, profanity, occult practices, sexual intercourse outside of marriage, homosexual behavior, and sexually exploitative or abusive behavior.”
“Our focus is on a certain understanding of marriage, a certain understanding of sexuality that flows from that. That’s a theological, institutional confession of where we’re at,” says Provost Randall Basinger.
Many students’ views align with the Community Covenant.
“As a school that bears the name of Christ, I would hope we stand by Biblical truths and help and pray for those who struggle with homosexuality,” says Lydia Ruiz.
Students Matthew Bressler and Christopher Falkner hold similar views. “Remember: society doesn’t tell us what’s right and wrong; God does,” Bressler says.
“’Let the real battle begin.’ was my initial thought. Opinion? God comes first,” says Falkner.
Other students express support towards the Supreme Court decision. “I’m a conservative Christian who happens to absolutely love and support the idea of gay marriage. Yes, the Bible is God’s word. No, we can’t just pick and choose what we want. But no, unfortunately, the Bible isn’t always clear. There’s a ton of beautiful, educated theology on both sides of the spectrum and I encourage everyone to explore it! Maybe we need to trust God to be big enough to handle this. God is love, and when love wins, God wins,” says Lindsay Corriveau.
“The government of the United States is a secular body of a secular state. It has no business forcing the standards of a religion upon people who are not part of that religion. Furthermore, the Church has no right to be outraged over this decision, since the government is not, nor has it ever been, obliged to adhere to contemporary Christian concepts of morality. The government’s purpose is to serve society, not God—and it should constantly be adapting in order to fulfill that purpose,” says current student Mike Scinto.
Dean of Students Kris Hansen-Kieffer does not believe these different viewpoints are an issue. “It’s not surprising and it’s not problematic at Messiah for students to have different beliefs. Depending on your belief you either will really align with behavioral expectations or you’ll be outside of that, but while students are at Messiah, they are expected to abide by the behavioral expectations,” she says.
Although students are encouraged to share their different viewpoints, Basinger asks that students be respectful of the college’s view and behavioral expectations. “Our middle ground is recognizing the plurality of perspectives but still be faithful to Messiah’s theological perspectives, which have shaped the college,” he says.
To help students engage these topics, Messiah has implemented some Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) programs and training. Hansen-Kieffer says Student Affairs professionals go through a significant amount of training on how to actively talk to and support LGBT students.
Former Student Body President, Tim Sensenig, says the Student Government Association did an LGBT questionnaire last spring. SGA also showed a documentary, Through My Eyes, done by the Gay Christian Network.
Sensenig says he hopes the questionnaire and subsequent programming will not only prepare students, but also help lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students feel welcome on campus.
“There’s a very clear cultural war in our society right now. I think this questionnaire will help us know where our students are at theologically, developmentally, and demographically and allow us to host events and speakers that prepare them for that conversation at Messiah and beyond,” he says.
Sexual orientation was also included in a campus climate survey conducted several years ago by the College.
“Sexual orientation is a part of diversity we have to consider and work constructively with. It’s a reality and it’s a reality that’s part of the educational process,” says Basinger.
Counseling services and a support group called The Listening Place are available through the Engle Center. Sixth Day Sexuality will also continue to provide information on LGBT topics under the supervision of Mike Blount.
Director of the Engle Center, Ellie Addleman, says the Engle Center’s goal is to provide a safe space for LGBT students and work respectfully with students’ concerns.
“Homosexuality is not a disorder at all according to the diagnostic manual. It’s not an illness. Therapies that have been called reparative or change therapy are out of favor with the counseling profession. It’s inappropriate for any of our counselors to do that type of therapy and we don’t,” she says.
Check back for our next article on the future to see what Messiah plans to do regarding this issue and how students and alumni would like to see the College respond to the ruling.
The Pulse Media Hub and Swinging Bridge are student-run media outlets funded primarily by Messiah’s Student Government Association and designed to inform the Messiah College Community. We do not represent an official viewpoint of the administration of Messiah College.