LYNCHBURG, Va. — An editor of Liberty University’s student newspaper is raising concern after releasing an article that calls upon Christians and homosexuals to find “common ground.”
“Common ground is what makes the world continue to move, grow and advance,” wrote Tre Goins-Phillips, opinion editor of The Liberty Champion, named after the university’s motto “Training Champions for Christ.”
His comments were in response to an opinion piece written by Apple’s Tim Cook and published by Bloomberg Businessweek, in which Cook came out as a homosexual.
“While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven’t publicly acknowledged it either, until now,” he wrote. “So let me be clear: I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.”
“Being gay has given me a deeper understanding of what it means to be in the minority and provided a window into the challenges that people in other minority groups deal with every day. It’s made me more empathetic, which has led to a richer life,” Cook continued. “[I]f hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with who he or she is, or bring comfort to anyone who feels alone, or inspire people to insist on their equality, then it’s worth the trade-off with my own privacy.”
According to reports, Cook is the first openly homosexual CEO of a Fortune 500 company.
Following the publication of the piece, Goins-Phillips published his own commentary, stating that Cook’s views on sexual identity were “thoughtful and refreshing.”
In an article published by Religion News Service, Goins-Phillips pointed to Cook’s remarks stating that a person “is not defined only by one’s sexuality, race, or gender,” and asked that people embrace him rather for the interests and abilities that he possesses.
“In a time of adamant activism and partisan politicking, Cook’s words seem to be a rare commodity,” he wrote. “With pro-gay, anti-gay, and I-don’t-know-yet-gay groups advocating for one thing or another, the individual lives behind these labels of sexual orientation have been lost.”
“This is not to say that one’s sexual choices and orientations are unimportant. Because they are. They just do not, or should not, box us in, hold us back, or shut us down,” Goins-Phillips continued. “These individuals are human beings first—intellectuals first, entrepreneurs first, engineers first, visionaries first, artists first.”
He then contended that it is important that those who have differing opinions about homosexuality find common ground.
“Cook gets it,” the editor from what is stated to be the world’s largest Christian university said. “He understands the weight of his announcement. He understands its importance, but also sees that there are things in this life of even greater importance—what it means to be human.”
But some have expressed concern over Goins-Phillips’ comments and progressive tone, including Dr. Paul Michael Raymond of New Geneva Christian Leadership Academy and Reformed Bible Church in Appomatox, Virginia.
“The common ground that we are to have with homosexuals is the gospel,” he told Christian News Network. “If they reject the gospel, then we are to reject them and pray that they repent—and it is possible that they do so, as Paul the apostle had many in the Church of Corinth who were repentant [former] homosexuals, effeminate individuals, and they were sanctified and experienced the grace of God.”
“We don’t have to be unkind to them or hateful or smearing—I don’t think that’s the right approach—but we do have to be steadfast in our doctrine and in our belief when it comes to their practice,” Raymond continued. “We out-and-out say, ‘No, I’m sorry, this is against God’s law and I pray that you see the error of your ways,’ but we cannot have real intimate fellowship with [them] or tolerate sin.'”
He said that he found Goins-Phillips’ assertions to be like those of many professing Christians today—rooted in humanism rather than Scripture.
“The Christian community is trying to think from a humanistic standpoint. They have failed to look through the eye of God upon what is happening in their world,” Raymond stated. “Their worldview is tweaked, corrupted and twisted by these humanistic vantage points. … Maybe this student’s words aren’t precise enough where he’s [really] saying, ‘We shouldn’t condemn them; we should preach the gospel to them,’ but … I just don’t believe it.”
The pastor and Bible teacher further expressed his concern with the current state of American Christianity.
“The culture is the report card of the Church, and we have failed,” he declared. “I think we not only have a collapse in the culture, but we have an ultimate graveyard spiral in the Church and in so-called Christian universities.”
Liberty University is not new to controversy surrounding the issue of homosexuality. As previously reported, The Atlantic published an essay last year 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.”
Ambrosino went on to enroll as a graduate student in Liberty’s seminary program.
Liberty also defended itself after it was revealed that a homosexual activist had been hired to choreograph its “Mary Poppins” production earlier this year. As previously reported, New York-based artist and photographer Geoffrey Goldberg was hired by Alluvion Stage Company, an arm of the university’s Department of Theater Arts, to work with students for the production.
“He was hired based on his professionalism and his talent like everyone else,” artistic director Linda Nell Cooper told Christian News Network. “[His homosexual advocacy] never came up in the conversation, nor would it have. … We do not ask about their personal life.”
“The choreographer in question is an independent contractor, supplied to the university through a third party association … who has never applied for employment at Liberty University and has never been an employee of Liberty,” Johnnie Moore, the Senior Vice President of Communications for Liberty University, also wrote in a statement. “Liberty has never required vendors who provide goods and services to the university to adhere to the university’s doctrinal beliefs.”