PASADENA – Thirty years after an influential Christian seminary in California specifically labeled homosexuality a ‘concern,’ the school has officially accepted its first on-campus homosexual student group.
Since its founding in 1947, Fuller Theological Seminary (FTS) has grown into a leading Christian school, with the Los Angeles Times recently describing it as “arguably the most influential” seminary in America. One of the school’s stated purposes is to equip “men and women for the manifold ministries of Christ and his Church.”
“Under the authority of Scripture,” the seminary’s website states, “we seek to fulfill our commitment to ministry through graduate education, professional development, and spiritual formation. In all of our activities, including instruction, nurture, worship, service, research, and publication, Fuller Theological Seminary strives for excellence in the service of Jesus Christ, under the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit, to the glory of the Father.”
In 1983, FTS leaders published a document titled “Mission Beyond the Mission,” which outlines several of the school’s key priorities and beliefs. While the document does not express unequivocal opposition to homosexuality, it does mention several “concerns that rightly evoke the attention of many Christians,” including alcoholism, drug abuse, abortion, pornography, and—notably—“the promotion of homosexuality as an acceptable alternative lifestyle.”
Furthermore, the school in 1983 articulated that marriage should be viewed as a “divinely ordained covenant. However, FTS administrators admitted that “[t]emptation to compromise, whether knowingly or unknowingly, with the world, the flesh, and the devil is a constant reality.”
Despite these promising affirmations of godly lifestyles, it has come to light that Fuller Theological Seminary, led by President Mark Labberton, recently officially sanctioned its first openly homosexual student group, which formed last fall. The organization’s name is “OneTable,” and—according to a recent blog post by OneTable members—strives to be “a safe place for dialogue between LGBTQ students and the wider Fuller community.”
In a blog post from this past spring, OneTable’s former president—simply identified as “Samantha”—shared her personal story of growing up as a Christian, but eventually becoming more tolerant of the homosexual lifestyle. Through a week-long FTS/Young Life “ethics course,” she came to doubt her long-held belief that “being gay was a sin.”
“I was shocked, absolutely floored,” she wrote about the ethics course, “to learn that the Bible only explicitly references homosexuality six times in both testaments combined. What!?!? How had no one ever told me that? I felt slighted by my faith communities and by the guidance and teachings they had offered me. When we watched For the Bible Tells Me So, I was moved to tears by the hatred and intolerance the gay community had suffered in the hands of the Church.”
Additionally, earlier this year, the homosexual advocacy group GLAAD wrote an article about one of OneTable’s film festivals, calling the organization’s efforts “a sign of encouragement.”
“While the progress may seem small to people outside the evangelical world,” the article from GLAAD states, “those within will undoubtedly recognize the gravity of this step. As a leading evangelical seminary, Fuller prepares future leaders of the church to be ministers and advocates for change. Events like this film festival will ensure that—at the very least—the LGBTQ community will be in the consciousness of these women and men.”
However, in the midst of praise from homosexual advocates, some Christians are disappointed by the seminary’s decision to sanction OneTable. As reported by NBC News, Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council explained that homosexuality can be overcome through the power of Jesus Christ, and is not an irrevocable behavioral quality.
“It’s possible to change any or all of these attractions,” he said.
Therefore, President Mark Labberton released a statement on the seminary website Monday to bring clarification to the issue, explaining that while Fuller still believes that homosexuality is “inconsistent with the teaching of Scripture,” the group was approved in that it serves as a venue for students to deliberate matters of sexuality.
“OneTable provides a safe place to discuss issues related to sexuality and gender—issues that are vitally important, personal, and fraught with debate that is frequently divisive and contentious, not least in an evangelical context,” he wrote. “OneTable at Fuller is not an advocacy group to alter seminary policy nor to direct any efforts in that direction. … In terms of the topics of sexuality, marriage, and family, Fuller has been and will continue to teach about these issues in many ways both in the classroom and in campus-wide workshops.”
As previously reported, the enrollment of an openly homosexual student at Liberty University’s Baptist Theological Seminary was also called into question this year, but Fuller is believed to be the first seminary to grant official recognition to a homosexual student group.