Are there Pro-LGBT Faculty Teaching Ministry Students at Northwest Nazarene University?

Earlier this year, I came across what is now a 34 page letter outlining some concerns about NNU by a recent graduate of the school, Sean Killackey (BA Religious Studies). This letter covers several topics, most notably LGBT issues. If what it says is accurate, there are several pro-LGBT professors within the College of Theology and Christian Ministries (CTCM).

Shortly after reading this letter and looking through the various pieces of evidence this student had accumulated, I wrote to several CTCM faculty whom he had mentioned. I asked them questions such as: “Do you believe that homosexual practices and gay marriage are sinful transgressions of God’s law?” While I did not receive any direct answers to these questions from the faculty whom I had contacted, I did have a brief email correspondence with one of the professors, Dr. Richard Thompson, Professor of New Testament and Chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religion.

Our conversation did not remove the concerns that I had as a result from reading this letter. While he described it as “filled with material taken out of context, misconstrued, misquoted . . . if not perhaps fabricated, and/or seriously misunderstood,” his characterization seemed to ring hollow. He and his faculty refused to answer what I believe to be very straightforward questions. If what this former student was saying about them (i.e., that several of them are pro-LGBT) was not correct, why not deny that directly? Moreover, if all of the things this student had said about current and former NNU professors, such as Dr. Bankard, Dr. Smerick, and Dr. Riley (see below) were false, why was Dr. Thompson unwilling to refute the particular pieces of evidence I had mentioned?

Professor Thompson was willing to deny at least one of the statements that Sean had ascribed to him, namely, that if there were enough loving homosexual couples then what the Bible means for us today would have to be reassessed. He says that he did not say this. However, if this is meant to be an indication that the letter as a whole is unreliable, it was not persuasive to me. At best it is a stand-off between two contrary recollections of what was or was not said in a certain conversation that neither you or I were present for. It is possible that this student misrecalled what Dr. Thompson had said (though, for a few reasons, I do not think this is that likely). Even if he had mis-recalled what was said, there are other claims that are directly confirmed by emails, recordings, screenshots of social media statements, etc., that appear to be accurate.

Recently, I discovered that about two months ago the former student had sent out a brief letter to Nazarene churches in the northwest United States that links to a one-and-a-half page summary document. I encourage anyone who is interested in this matter to read it. Below are a few quotations from it:

Dr. Bankard, Professor of Philosophy

He has preached several pro-LGBT sermons. In one of these, “Hide and Seek: Say No to Fear” (September 24, 2017), he relates a time when a student came out as gay to him. [Evidence] This may be the same student whom several persons refer to when they say that one of their female relatives came out as gay to Dr. Bankard and Dr. Oord, whose pro-LGBT views are well known.

Dr. Smerick, Professor of Philosophy

She has often tweeted, liked, or retweeted pro-LGBT and pro-abortion messages. Among these are several messages expressing support for students protesting against Seattle Pacific University, a private Christian college, to get them to revise their student handbook, remove its prohibition against homosexual practices, and hire LGBT faculty. [Evidence]

Dr. Kipp, Professor of Youth and Family Ministry

On several occasions, despite being asked Dr. Kipp has refrained from giving his opinion on the permissibility of homosexual practices. [Evidence] [Evidence] [Evidence] However, he was willing to say, “Wesleyans have a wide range of views of marriage (‘gay marriage’),” and, “I’m confident that our OT and NT scholars in CTCM [Dr. Riley, now at the University of Denver, and Dr. Thompson] will not agree, wholeheartedly, that St. Paul or the writer of Leviticus, is describing the same behaviors that a same-sex marriage would include.” [Evidence]

My Followup Questions To Dr. Akkerman, Dr. Peterson, and Dr. Thompson

In preparation for this post, I recently reached out again to three NNU faculty members: Dr. Jay Akkerman, Assistant to the President for Congregational Engagement; Dr. Brent Peterson, Dean of the College of Theology and Christian Ministries; and Dr. Richard Thompson. The only significant response I received (as of writing this) has been from Dr. Thompson. I will relate that in a future post. Suffice it for now to note that he continues to insist that what Sean has claimed is unreliable. He states that he and his faculty all continue to support and uphold the Manual’s statement on sexuality, even if they do not feel obligated to affirm every “jot and tittle” in it.

A Sample of Some of the Evidence

Below are just a few examples of the sort of evidence that Dr. Thompson alleges are ‘cherry-picked’. Judge for yourselves.

1) This is an excerpt from Sean’s longer letter about NNU’s College of Theology. It contains two verifiable quotations from Dr. Bankard, a philosophy professor at NNU.

2) This is a screenshot of one of the pro-LGBT tweets that Dr. Smerick, a philosophy professor at NNU, liked. Is it proper for a philosophy professor at a Nazarene university to celebrate LGBT activists bullying a Christian college?

3) This is a screenshot of just one of Dr. Riley’s many pro-LGBT and pro-abortion tweets, retweets, and liked tweets (“biology is not destiny” is a pro-transgenderism sound bite, “reproductive rights” is an euphemism for abortion, and “sexual . . . rights” is probably an assertion of a pro-gay marriage position).