AZUSA, Calif. — The board of trustees of Azusa Pacific University has overturned a revision of the student code of conduct that was believed to have allowed “romantic” relationships between those of the same sex, while also forbidding sexual activity.
“Last week, reports circulated about a change in the undergraduate student standards of conduct. That action concerning romanticized relationships was never approved by the board and the original wording has been reinstated,” the board advised in a statement released on Friday.
The administrative board at Azusa Pacific University, led by President Jon Wallace, recently cut wording from its longstanding policy on human sexuality, including snipping the word “sin” out of a paragraph pledging to guide the university in God’s standards for sexuality.
“Any deviation from a biblical standard of sexual behavior is sin and therefore is an opportunity for repentance, grace, and redemption, so that as a community we might honor one another and glorify God,” the original policy read.
“Any deviation from the biblical standard is an opportunity for repentance, grace, and redemption, so that as a community we might honor one another and glorify God,” the new version states.
The revisions also included the removal of text stating that “[in] Scripture, several sexual behaviors are expressly forbidden, which include but are not limited to: fornication, adultery, incest, unnatural sexual intercourse, and homosexual acts.”
According to student newspaper ZU Media, an unofficial group for homosexual-identifying students called Haven had taken issue with the citation of homosexuality in the text, as they believed that it singled out homosexuals and assumed that all engage in sex acts. The students argued to officials that they were “able to have romanticized relationships” with those of the same sex while not breaking any university rules about celibacy or marriage.
Associate Dean of Students, Bill Fiala, told the outlet that the administrative board consequently revisited the policy in an attempt to be equitable to all students.
“The changes that occured to the handbooks around sexual behavior creates one standard for all undergraduate students, as opposed to differential standards for different groups,” he stated. “The change that happened with the code of conduct is still in alignment with our identity as a Christian institution.”
He, along with spokesperson Rachel White, said that the revisions didn’t change any standards since they still prevented sex outside of marriage for all students, and affirmed marriage as being between a man and a woman.
“The language changed, but the spirit didn’t,” Fiala said. “Our spirit is still a conservative, evangelical perspective on human sexuality.”
However, he also stated that the university recently launched a “pilot program” to offer a safe space for homosexual students, outlining that the Student Government Association had passed a resolution last fall to ask officials to create something formal for that demographic, since Haven had been meeting off-campus as they weren’t recognized by Azusa Pacific University.
“We have been intentional about the program, and want it to be considered a program that comes out of student life and out of the university. We created this in support of the LGBTQ+ students at APU,” Fiala stated. “One prong of that is the weekly meetings with Haven. Another aspect of that is educational outreach, and holding events. We are co-creating a program with students.”
“Our values for the pilot program are inclusivity, love, bravery. Our goals are care, connection and conversation. These all seem like Christian values to me,” he opined. “I believe that our program’s mission is alignment with the values of the university in caring for students and creating conversation about difficult topics.”
Fiala said in regard to those who would question the move, “[I]n any circumstance, you’ve got to approach things as a learner. Before making assumptions and drawing conclusions about people, get to know somebody different than you. I’m not a big fan of who’s right and who’s wrong in this conversation. I’m a big fan of caring for people. So my hope would be that we treat each other that way.”
While the board of trustees did not remark on the pilot program mentioned by Fiala, it did say in a statement that the changes to the student code of conduct had been made without their approval, and therefore reversed. They consequently sought to reaffirm the university’s commitment to biblical values.
“Today, as a board, we reaffirm our responsibility to steward the Christ-centered mission of Azusa Pacific University,” the board wrote. “We stand firm in our convictions, never willing to capitulate to outside pressures, be they legal, political, or social.”
“We advocate for holy living within the university in support of our Christian values. We declare that our clear mission to equip disciples and scholars to advance the work of God in the world is more necessary today than ever before.”
It remarked in regard to the code of conduct, “We see every student as a gift from God, infinitely valuable and worthy in the eyes of our Creator and as members of our campus community. We believe our university is the best place for earnest and guided conversation to unfold with all students about every facet of life, including faith and sexuality. We embrace all students who seek a rigorous Christian higher education and voluntarily join us in mission.”
“We pledge to boldly uphold biblical values and not waiver in our Christ-centered mission. We will examine how we live up to these high ideals and enact measures that prevent us from swaying from that sure footing,” the board said.
As previously reported, the Scriptures teach that all men are born with the Adamic sin nature, and have various inherent inclinations that are contrary to the law of God, being utterly incapable of changing themselves. It is why Jesus outlined in John 3:5-7 that men must be regenerated by the second birth, or they cannot see the kingdom of Heaven.
“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God,” he declared. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.”
“Bitter experience teaches that the imprisoning net clings too tightly to be stripped from our limbs by our own efforts. Nay rather, the net and the captive are one, and he who tries to cast off the oppression which hinders him from following that which is good is trying to cast off himself,” also wrote the late preacher and Bible commentator Alexander Maclaren.
“But to men writhing in the grip of a sinful past, or paralyzed beyond writhing and indifferent, because [they are] hopeless, or because they have come to like their captivity, comes one whose name is ‘The Breaker,’ whose mission it is to proclaim liberty to the captives, and whose hand laid on the cords that bind a soul, causes them to drop harmless from the limbs and sets the bondsman free.”