From the President: Equality Ride Visit to APU
Dear APU Community and Friends,
More than four years ago, I engaged the Board of Trustees in conversation about critical issues pertaining to this university, including our evangelical commitment, diversity, and human sexuality. From those early conversations and with Board support, emerged committees that took seriously the task of drawing upon representative academic expertise and our Wesleyan holiness perspective to create positional statements reflective of our strong, unwavering commitment to a Christ-centered, Spirit-guided approach. I encourage you to review these Board-approved and community-supported documents by visiting www.apu.edu/about/believe/.
This spring, the topic of human sexuality has become a focal point of conversation on campus as the university responds to a group called Soulforce, which intends to visit our campus on April 5. This unsolicited visit has the potential to create significant controversy. I felt it was important for you to know how the APU community is working to provide a loving and scripturally based response.
Self-described as “an organization of activists committed to ending homophobia caused by religious bigotry,” Soulforce’s Equality Ride involves a seven-week bus tour taking 35 gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) youth and allies to 19 colleges and military institutions they believe to have antigay enrollment policies.
Azusa Pacific University holds that sexuality is a gift from God and basic to human identity as well as a matter of behavioral expression. We hold that the full behavioral expression of sexuality is to take place within the context of a marriage covenant between a man and a woman and that individuals remain celibate outside of the bond of marriage.
As a university firmly anchored in God’s infallible Word, we believe the Gospels provide clear direction toward a God-honoring response. “One of them, an expert in the law, asked Jesus, ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself’” Matthew 22:35-39 (NIV).
Further, our mission statement declares that we are a community of disciples and scholars who work to advance the work of God in the world. By this, the Board of Trustees and the university administration believe that we equip our students to engage and transform the culture in which they live. We believe that the Soulforce visit provides yet one more opportunity to prepare our students for the unique and powerful purpose for which God has called them.
A number of different discussions will take place this semester to further prepare our community for this visit. One includes a theological discussion of “God’s design for human sexuality,” hosted by the dean of the Haggard School of Theology, Dr. David Wright, while another involves Student Life.
On April 5, APU has planned several activities for the 35 members from Soulforce, from attending chapel service to a discussion with student leaders. It will be an engaging day.
As we look to provide a loving response to a culturally charged issue, we lean into God’s transformational power and acknowledge the value of discussion and community dialog so that we may exemplify God’s love and extend God’s truth. We know that our students and our community will watch how we respond. It is our hope to sit down with our guests and let the transformational power of the Holy Spirit guide and direct our conversations and interactions. In this way, God can use us to engage the hearts of our own young people. We will not compromise. But we will not treat our visitors with anything less than respect and grace in keeping faith with God’s truth.
I have asked Terry Franson, senior vice president for student life, to take administrative and logistical leadership regarding the upcoming visit. Please join us as together we actively pray that God’s purposes and His plans will be accomplished through this opportunity.
Jon R. Wallace, DBA