Disclaimer: I am not member of the LGBTQ+ community, so my writing does not reflect the perspective of that community. My writing instead reflects the degree to which I understand the issue, which is admittedly far from comprehensive (hence this article taking months to write). I use the terms LGBT, LGBTQ+, “homosexual”, and gay interchangeably to encompass the core community at Cedarville. As mentioned in the article, I think that homosexuality is probably wrong but even if that is true I don't think it is my place to judge others considering the egregious sins I commit every day and I am open to my own human opinion being wrong, so please feel free to share your thoughts and engage with this content. This issue is massively polarizing within society and especially within the church, but contrary to what society says, we do not have to agree on every single thing in order for us to respect each other and learn from each other. I hope you—gay or straight—enjoy this article and that it sheds some light on some key issues facing Cedarville University today.
Avery Redic once served as the SGA Campus Community director at Cedarville. He was an active participant in SGA events and meetings and ended up hitting it off with SGA advisor Eric Garland. Garland was very friendly, including making casual, innocent remarks that he loved Avery and missed him over breaks. This was purely platonic and–more notably–both Avery and Eric were men.
But Avery was gay.
Avery (pictured left, credit: Caleb Morris, https://www.caleb-morris.com) was abstinent and was not engaging in “homosexual activity.” (I use quotes to express the weird cringe I experience when I hear that phrase and imagine an old Bible-thumping preacher raining down hell-fire on the evil homosexuals) But nevertheless, Dr. Jon Wood labeled him as spiritually unstable and threw a handful of pamphlets at him to hopefully cure his same-sex attraction. The next day, his fellow SGA members were informed of his “resignation,” which seems to be a Cedarville code word for “unknowingly fired,” since Avery had no idea he was being removed until that moment.
Dr. Wood’s rationale included a statement that—were Avery in a less visible position—he would have maintained his position.
Avery writes, “How did I feel? I hated myself. Immediately after Jon’s decision I asked myself these questions and I hated myself for it: Should I have asked God to take homosexuality away from me more often? Should I have cried out more often than I had? Should I have asked for more counseling in high school than I had already received? Should I have been receiving counseling now? Should I have tried dating women, to see if I’d like it? Should I have never come to Cedarville, knowing that this would be an issue?”
Avery had executed the largest diversity event the campus had seen just weeks prior. He was the newly appointed officer of the Cedarville gospel choir. He was a charismatic believer who exerted a positive influence on those around him at every turn.
But Avery was gay.
There was never any talk of restoration. No, Avery was publicly removed in the midst of the excellent work he was doing on campus for the gospel and for the student body because the position he held was “too visible.” In other words, his (at the time, latent) sexuality posed a threat to the University’s reputation. Imagine if the Southern Baptist Convention found out that Cedarville had hired even a non-acting homosexual to a position of leadership? That would be a disaster. Yeah, we’re going to wrap back around to that at the end.
What the Bible Says
In this discussion of the LGBTQ+ community at Cedarville, it is vital to ground ourselves in Biblical perspectives on sexuality. I’m going to skip over some of the verses that are always brought up in this discussion because I assume you’ve heard them a thousand times by now (i.e., “a man shall leave his father and mother” etc.) To summarize the following paragraphs, I have an unpopular opinion, which is that there are valid arguments on both sides and while I err on the side of believing it is probably wrong to act on same-sex orientation, I am open to the possibility that I am wrong. But here’s the bottom line: it is not my place to cast judgement, make assumptions, or claim to know God’s opinion on someone else’s lifestyle. The reality is that we really don’t know anyone’s hearts. For example, Christians are far too quick to cast judgement on someone they perceive as “effeminate” or “butch” when those behaviors are not inherently sinful: they are simply stereotypical comparisons of someone’s personality to society’s expectations.
Playing the devil’s advocate here, the Bible really does not say a whole lot about homosexuality. There are a couple of Old Testament passages that address it (admittedly, very harshly), but it is addressed alongside nearly every other aspect of Old Testament law that we gladly disregard today. We cannot use Old Testament verses about homosexuality to argue for its sinfulness when listed alongside other things we don’t believe are sinful anymore after the New Covenant was established. I mean, we can hold to that standard if you want and next time Cedarville serves pork at Chucks I’m going to be LIVID. The reality is that Christians have far too often cherry-picked verses from the Bible to justify condemning something that makes them uncomfortable. This may not be the best comparison, but under slavery many “Christians” used verses about slavery, servitude, and “mastery” to justify their horrible actions. We must be careful to be consistent in our interpretation of Scripture. If we are going to teach in Old Testament Literature back in freshman year that the Old Testament Laws were purity codes under the covenants God created with the Israelites; that the whole point of the Law was to separate Israel from other nations so they would be fully committed to Yahweh; and that Jesus removed the need for that law on the basis of the New Covenant, one could argue that Old Testament Laws against homosexuality no longer apply.
So, what does the New Testament say about homosexuality?
1 Corinthians 6:9–10: Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
1 Timothy 1:8-11: “Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.”
Romans 1:26–27: For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
There are many Biblical scholars who interpret New Testament texts about homosexuality as referring to male prostitution, pederasty, or even the many cults that existed in Rome when Paul wrote his letters in which older men abused young boys. These are certainly legitimate thoughts, but in Romans 1, for example, Paul references the fact that all of these individuals strayed from the original design of God’s creation into sin. According to Genesis, God did create humans with two genders, so it is more plausible that Paul is referencing the fact that those who were engaging in homosexual activity were participating in something that goes against God’s original design and—in some cases—were promoting abuse within Roman culture.
So what does all of that Biblical interpretation mean for us? Contrary to the opinions of far too many believers, the next action step is not to condemn the LGBTQ community, but to welcome, encourage, and edify them as fellow believers who struggle with sin. In fact, let’s go through those lists of people who, according to Paul, deserve death alongside those who engage in homosexual behavior:
The Sexually Immoral: Homosexual or heterosexual, you cannot try to convince me that you have never lusted, had inappropriate sexual thoughts, or viewed pornography in any way or of any kind. We have all done it.
Idolators: Don’t even get me started with this one. Think of the thousands of things throughout your life you have—even for just a moment—put before God. Think of all of the times you sin and thereby idolize your personal wants above the commands of God. The reality is that most of us are living a lifestyle of idolatry even as Christians. We put money, status, relationships, work, possessions, and even seemingly Biblical things like service, missions, and church before God who is the one who gave us all of those things or the ability to have them in the first place. We have all done it.
Adulterers: This falls in essentially the same category of sexual immorality, so just reread it for emphasis. We have all done it.
Men who Practice Homosexuality: Yeesh, listed right up there with all the things we perfect straight Christians are in the habit of doing as sinful people. While we’re on the subject, could someone remind me where the verse is about God condemning people who don’t act on their sexual temptation? I can’t seem to find it anywhere.
Thieves: Okay, this one may be more of a stretch to say we’ve all done, but we’ve all wanted to have something someone else has: all of those things we idolize that our friend has that we covet after. I think it’s safe to say that—at least on some level—we have all done it.
The Greedy: The sickness of greed pervades each and every one of our lives. We are constantly seeking to achieve or obtain things for ourselves, and too often push God to the background. “Oh, I’m doing this missions trip to Tahiti for God!” Yeah, okay Bethany. But don’t worry, we have all done it.
Drunkards: This is where someone gets excited and is like, “See, Cedarville Interpreter, drunkenness IS wrong which goes against what you said in your article on alcohol!” To which I say, “Ya didn’t read the article, G.” Anyway, this one is more of a stretch than thievery, so for the purposes of illustration I will say that we have all given way to the passions of our flesh in one way or another and—if we’re honest—we probably do that every day. We have all done it.
Revilers: Well this just got awkward. Paul just said that people who insult and degrade others deserve death. I don’t know, maybe Paul realizes that degrading and dehumanizing other people is very, very wrong and believers should not do that even if we think we are “discipling” them. But, sadly, we have all done it.
Swindlers: This one is fun, just because it’s fun to say swindlers out loud. But seriously, how many times have we purposefully or unconsciously manipulated others to get what we want? We do it all the time and call it “persuasion” or “exhortation.” The reality is that, as sinful people, we will do just about anything to get our way. We have all done it.
People who Dishonor their Parents: Yeah, okay at like two years old we all started doing this constantly. Even as we get older, we still rebel against our parents and dishonor them with the intent of getting what we want. We have all done it.
I think you’ve probably gotten the point by now. The homosexual behavior listed in the New Testament is listed alongside a dozen other sinful behaviors that arise as the result of the curse, nearly all of which pervade our lives every single day. So maybe we should consider the fact that acting upon a non-heterosexual desire is no “wronger” than most of the things we do and don’t think twice about every day. So before we start picking the dust out of our brothers’ and sisters’ eyes, we should start sawing off the plank in our own. In Romans 1:27, Paul even writes that those who engaged in homosexual relationships did so “receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.” They received the due penalty for their actions, meaning that whatever judgement God placed on them was sufficient. God does not need our help judging others’ sin, so let’s back out of that area and love others like Jesus told us to.
Speaking of which, Jesus preached against hypocrisy, but to date the church continues to condemn some sins as more evil than others based on what makes them the most comfortable. It’s time to put an end to this belief. If we see homosexuality as merely one of dozens of other vices believers struggle with, we can have a more Biblical perspective on the issue. I can’t offer all of the steps required for all hearts and minds to be changed on the issue of the LGBTQ community at Cedarville, but maybe it just begins with recognizing that it is just another struggle we face even as believers.
Something to chew on as we conclude this section: if I made the claim that it was possible Jesus experienced same-sex attraction (or we can even use the word temptation, if you want), I would probably get burned at the proverbial stake on Cedarville’s campus. But is that really so wild and disgusting of a claim when Jesus (the literal Son of God) was tempted to physically worship at the feet of Satan? Maybe that’s a double standard we need to think about.
What Cedarville Does
First of all, I have some breaking news for you good Cedarville boys and girls: The gay does exist. In fact, there is a large LGBTQ community at Cedarville much to the university’s chagrin. If you need proof, just take a look at “Cedarville Out,” which operates as a way for Cedarville students to out themselves in a safe environment. Unfortunately, the LGBTQ community is still woefully underrepresented in every aspect of campus life because these individuals feel that their voices are suppressed by the university and their opinions are not tolerated or accepted. Coming out at Cedarville would mean shame, emotional trauma, and/or expulsion or being removed from your job. Listen to one student’s story:
“My experience being a gay Christian on campus has been difficult. The vast majority of the student body is closed off to the idea that there are opposing viewpoints regarding homosexuality. I’ve experienced condemnation from certain people. I would even label someone homophobic in my dorm for making crude and insensitive comments. Most students aren’t willing to understand the other side.As for the university, it’s quite obvious that they don’t care to listen to the LGBTQ+ community. According to the handbook, I’m not allowed to believe or say things that differ from their values. Furthermore, I cannot openly oppose them for fear of expulsion. Due to Dr. White’s mistakes, they added a Title IX office on campus to prevent discrimination. However, they have a legal exemption from that office that allows them to purposefully discriminate against LGBTQ+ people. This is so hypocritical. While some faculty have been helpful and cordial when I share my feelings, others have not.
I am forced to believe that the faculty stands with Cedarville, so it automatically feels like a hostile environment to live in. This is dangerous to my mental health and for others as well. Finally, Dr. White has hurt me the most. Regarding Dr. Moore’s fiasco, Dr. White let him participate in basketball locker room activities while being a same-sex attracted male. Dr. White knew Dr. Moore had recorded another naked male, yet he still turned him over to the lion’s den of temptation. Dr. White’s ignorance on the issue destroyed any trust I had in him. I have never been to one of his chapels since then, and I never will. Cedarville and the student body need to learn to love and understand people who are different from them. That doesn’t mean they have to agree, just try to understand.”
This student poses some great points, and demonstrates that many LGBTQ+ students have lost trust in the University. Another student said:
“I’m gay and coming to Cedarville was really hard. There’s a kind of underground culture of LGBTQ+ kids on campus. This has two sides to it. One side that’s a good encouragement and support system, but it’s also scary because you never know who’s gonna be a snitch. Even if nothing happened, if things are said to the administration there’s a risk you could be kicked out if whatever is said is taken in the wrong way. The University’s stance creates a culture of fear, isolation, and secrecy. I would argue that a stance more similar to Biola university would be healthier for the LGBTQ+ population on campus. Biola isn’t affirming, but they are accepting and have an LGBTQ+ support group on campus. Cedarville on the other hand says that they’re accepting of people struggling with same sex attraction, but then have a no tolerance policy with individuals who act on their sexual orientation, kicking them out when they need help most.”
Another student wrote:
“I’m a fairly closeted gay man and I can straight pass when I need to so I really haven’t had any negative experiences myself. But I still hear everyone casually talking about how gays are going to hell and then get surprised when they find out there’s a gay student at Cedarville (gasp!). I also know someone here who is constantly called the f word (the bad one) because he doesn’t straight pass. And of course I’ve heard all the stories of students losing their jobs and positions because their secrets got out.
Cedarville is not, in any way, an accepting community, and I think everyone can see that. I have to be very careful with what I say and how I act when in public. And Lord knows I can’t let anyone see my YouTube recommended unless I want to be publicly lynched. There are a lot of chill people here but sadly not enough, and especially not enough that are in positions of power. I just wish it was talked about more and not treated as an issue with a clear-cut answer because it’s not. Really, the main thing I want to happen is for Cedarville students to realize that LGBT people exist right next to them. One of my closest friends used to be against it and he didn’t like gay representation in the media. But once I came out to him, he realized that the LGBT community isn’t just out there in the middle of nowhere, they’re here and they can actually be pretty cool. I feel like that’s the first step for most people here, to just understand that we’re real.”
Those statements are powerful and that those suggestions are well thought-out. There is undoubtedly a culture of suppression in the area of sexual orientation at Cedarville University, but the good news is that there is also a supportive community to some extent. We have a help group for those addicted to pornography on campus. Why is there no support offered to LGBT students? Cedarville ought to adopt a policy of acceptance, not necessarily affirmation because the reality is there is no biblical support for systemic discrimination against any member of the LGBTQ community who is addressing their sexual orientation in a biblical manner. How amazing would it be if Cedarville said, “You know what? We’re going to lead the way on this issue by demonstrating a Christlike spirit of tolerance and love toward believers who have different sexual orientation.” Ah, but alas: Cedarville would lose too much of its massive donor base to address this problem. Money is king.
The Double Standard
Avery’s story was a disturbing and upsetting story of blatant discrimination with no thought of supporting him or understanding what he was going through. Avery—like so many other students—simply deals with a different set of feelings than most other people and when he expressed that, he was publicly shamed and, whether he left voluntarily or not, he was essentially forced out of the University.
Fast forward from Avery’s story to 2018. Dr. Anthony Moore—a man who openly dealt with same-sex attraction—was hired into a leadership role at Cedarville University as part of a “redemption plan.” The difference was, Dr. Moore had engaged in disturbing sexual harassment and took advantage of a youth pastor at his previous church.
What message does Cedarville send when they fire a single gay man who did nothing but great things for the university and then five years later hire a known sexual predator? Do you mean to tell me that Dr. Moore was more qualified for a position of leadership than Avery Redic? And a more public one at that? Ah, but Dr. Moore was Dr. White’s pick for the job, while he knew nothing about Avery Redic. Dr. Moore was favored by the administration over godly individuals like Avery. The reality is clear: Cedarville does not support believers who are LGBT. They would love nothing more than to see them expelled from the University. Last time I checked, Jesus did not throw sinners out of his presence. He sought them out, ate with them, talked with them, understood who they were as people, and ministered to them in the most effective way possible. Cedarville must change its policies to reflect the actions of our Savior. Let’s be honest, they probably won’t. But we can initiate change from where we are so that—no matter the administration’s policy—we create and sustain a culture of openness and acceptance that will bring our brothers and sisters closer to Christ. We are all deeply broken people in dire need of abundant grace from those around us. Let’s give it as we need it.
RESOURCES FOR LGBTQ+ STUDENTS:
For our LGBT friends, even in the strictest Biblical interpretations, simply “being gay” is not a sin. There is nothing wrong with you: God made you exactly the way you are for a perfect reason and you deserve to be respected, humanized, and heard. Unfortunately, Cedarville does not agree with this and because of this does not offer any resources for LGBTQ+ students, except maybe forcing them into counseling. Below are two resources (far sparser than I would like) to help you along the way during your time at Cedarville.
Cedarville Interpreter: www.cedarvilleinterpreter.com (we are here to support and encourage you no matter who you are or what you’ve done!)
Cedarville Out: www.facebook.com/CedarvilleOut/; www.cedarvilleout.org (We are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered (GLBT) alumni of Cedarville University. We are straight alumni who support our GLBT friends. And we are bound together in our belief that everyone’s sexuality is a precious gift from God.)