LYNCHBURG — The enrollment of an openly homosexual student at a prominent Baptist theological seminary is being called into question by those who wonder why the institution is seemingly overlooking immoral behavior by those it will be sending out into the ministry.
As previously reported, The Atlantic recently published an essay written by Liberty University graduate Brandon Ambrosino, in which the former student outlined his personal experience of coming out as a homosexual on campus.
“When people find out I underwent therapy at Jerry Falwell’s Christian college, they assume I went through something like gay reparative therapy. But that isn’t what happened,” he wrote in the piece, entitled Being Gay at Jerry Falwell’s University. “I saw two counselors at Liberty … and neither of them ever expressed an interest in ‘curing’ me. Did they have an agenda? Yes. Their goal, which they were very honest about, was to help me to like myself, and to find peace with the real Brandon.”
The essay went viral, receiving 27,000 Facebook likes. It also resulted in television news coverage as local ABC station WSET talked with Ambrosino about his experience, who noted that he is enrolled as a graduate student in Liberty’s seminary program.
However, the news is generating concern over why Liberty University, whose motto is “Training Champions for Christ,” is treating homosexuality — at least for Ambrosino — as a non-issue.
Dr. Paul Michael Raymond of New Geneva Christian Leadership Academy and Reformed Bible Church in Appomatox told Christian News Network that he believes it is important for educational institutions and seminaries to require students to abide by a lifestyle statement. He said that all of his seminary students are required to agree to a covenant in regard to their moral behavior.
“If a college or seminary is going to lift the banner of Christian, and put the title Christian anywhere in their [name] or in their curriculum, they must have a vetting system, which would vet the student or the candidate for seminary according to Biblical principles,” he said. “At the very least [Liberty] needs a covenantal document that exhibits at the very least the standards of Scripture as far as ethical behavior is concerned.”
“Even the law school has a covenant document [which states] that the student has to abide by certain covenant,” Raymond continued, referring to Liberty’s legal studies program. “It’s interesting. They wouldn’t allow [law school students] to drink during their law school tenure. That’s a good thing. But they’ll allow a professing homosexual to take seminary courses? It’s just insane. It doesn’t even make any sense.”
Raymond stated that the principles of Christianity cannot be compromised when it comes to enrollment, and that Liberty should not be an exception.
“When we say that we are a Christian educational facility, what we are saying is that we will honor the crown rights of Christ beyond and above anything else, and if you have to ‘hurt people’s feelings’ because they’re sinning, well, who are we going to honor?” he asked. “Are we going to be the pleaser of men, or are we going to have the fear of God dictating our every step?”
When asked what would happen if a seminary student were to embrace homosexuality when enrolled at New Geneva Christian Leadership Academy, Raymond said that the student would be counseled, but would not be permitted to continue to seek a degree as a minister for as long as they remained unrepentant.
“We would be very sorrowful over that situation and we would seek to counsel that individual, and pastorly counsel that person from the Scriptures [in a nouthetic manner],” he outlined. “But he would no longer be allowed to participate in his studies.”
Raymond said that his prayer for Ambrosino would be for him to turn from homosexuality “and then become a missionary to that community to tell them the truth.”
“You can tell me all day long, ‘I love Jesus,’ [but] if you love Him and His word then you will repent,” he stated.
Liberty University’s Baptist Theological Seminary is not new to controversy as Ergun Caner, the former head of the seminary, was brought into question several years ago by Christian and Muslim bloggers who accused him of lying about his personal testimony of growing up Islamic. Liberty later launched a former investigation into Caner, and in July 2010, removed him from his position after finding “discrepancies related to the matters such as dates, names and places of residence” in his story.
Multiple calls to the office of Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr., Vice President of Communications Johnnie Moore and Vice President of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary Ronald Hawkins were not returned. Ambrosino also declined an interview.