The following are official responses by leadership at Point Loma, as well as Rev. Dee Kelley of San Diego First Church of the Nazarene, in the wake of the issue concerning “All God’s Children” LGBT support group. The group will no longer meet at the Church which is located on the Point Loma campus. You can read my recent post on the meeting of March 20th which raised additional awareness of this situation.
Official response from Dr. Bob Brower, President of Point Loma Nazarene University:
Thank you for your recent communication of concern. We do covet your prayers in these days. Your e-mail came with specific questions regarding a student in leadership who spoke at an off-campus event on Sunday. Let us give you a few details regarding the journey we have taken with this student and continue to travel with our community.
This student is fully aware that his viewpoints are not congruent with those of PLNU or of the Church of the Nazarene. Early in this semester he was given life style parameters consistent with the Church’s position. In addition he was also given the boundaries of not speaking about this subject in a Spiritual Development venue. We communicated to the student leader that it was inappropriate to share his journey in a chapel setting and premature given his ongoing need to process and pray. He has stayed within these parameters. The recent public venue made this journey more challenging and does push on the edges of our expectations. It has been our endeavor to walk through this time of his life pastorally and relationally. We greatly appreciate your prayers as we seek wisdom for the immediate future. Furthermore, we want to make clear we do not support university personnel advocating positions regarding homosexuality that are contrary to the Church of the Nazarene or using their positions to do so. We have consistently communicated the limits of this type of communication.
A few clarifications might be helpful. The Sunday speaking event was at the local church, adjacent but not a part of the university and not sponsored by PLNU. In fact the group was specifically not given space on PLNU’s campus. This student is not an employee of the Spiritual Development Office, but rather an elected student leader who is concluding his leadership role and his time at PLNU.
The university has already begun offering presentations and discussions to aid in explaining the position of the Church of the Nazarene and of PLNU. Before these recent events we had already been planning more extensive presentations for campus discussions on this topic for next year.
This past Wednesday night we invited students, staff, and faculty to come and hear the Vice President of Spiritual Development (Mary Paul) and the University Chaplain (Mark Carter) explain the university’s position, which is that of the Church of the Nazarene, and give an overview of the conversations and process that have occurred with this student leader. There was time for questions and answers afterwards. Approximately 500-600, mostly students, were in attendance. In addition a letter from President Brower was sent to the students, faculty and staff on Tuesday morning the 22nd of March. This letter clearly articulates how we must engage in this conversation with love and respect while making clear the position of the Church and PLNU’s.
The following excerpt is from that letter:
”As we engage this difficult conversation, PLNU’s official position remains that of the Church of the Nazarene. The call from the leadership of the Church continues to be that every person should be treated with dignity, grace, and holy love, whatever their sexual orientation. However, the Church continues to firmly hold the position that a homosexual lifestyle is contrary to the Scriptures. The Church of the Nazarene maintains that ‘all forms of sexual intimacy that occur outside the covenant of heterosexual marriage are sinful distortions of the holiness and beauty God intended for it.’
Over the remainder of the semester opportunities will be provided for community conversations on this and other difficult issues. I know I express the prayers of many that in times of difficult discussions we will be guided and guarded by the presence of God in our conversations and relationships.”
We have included for your information several items below; the full letter from Dr. Brower to the campus, a letter from Rev. Dee Kelley which is shared with his permission and the invitation to the campus community for the Wednesday night gathering at which Dr. Mary Paul and Rev. Mark Carter spoke.
Thanks again for your prayers as we give voice to the church’s stand and offer pastoral care for our community in these days.
Grace and Peace,
Bob Brower, President and Mary Paul, Vice President for Spiritual Development
PRESIDENT BROWER’S LETTER TO THE PLNU CAMPUS COMMUNITY, Tuesday, March 22, 2010
In the last few days, and with the March 21st edition of the Point Weekly, we are reminded that we live in a time of increasing complexity, often marked by difficult conversations and decisions, particularly within a university setting. The questions and issues raised in the Point Weekly regarding homosexuality and the Christian church reflect these complexities. As a Christian university community we strive to be a place where people with deep convictions can model the ability to have difficult, grace-filled, loving conversations while maintaining good relationships and honoring Christ with our lives and actions. While we seldom do this perfectly, it remains necessary for us to commit to an ongoing journey of conversation, confession, forgiveness, and re-commitment to this endeavor as we live out our Christian journey.
Discussions around sexual identity and homosexuality in the context of the Christian church are often difficult and conducted from strong positions. This note is not an attempt to define what is said in the discussions which will occur in the days ahead, but rather a request for how our conversations about homosexuality and sexual identity proceed. It is the hope of many in the PLNU community that we will strive to be a place where:
· We affirm the importance of treating each other with respect, kindness, and grace regardless of positions held.
· We are encouraged to be “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” (James 1:19, NIV).
· We are reminded that in our language and our lives “…these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love” (I Cor. 13:13).
· We pledge that when we disagree, we will do so respectfully and not falsely impugn others’ motives, attack others’ character, or question others’ faith.
· We pledge to God and each other that we will lead by example in a time where civil, respectful discourse across society seems to have broken down. We will model a better way of treating each other in our faith communities, even across religious, personal, and political lines.
· We commit to bear witness to Christ’s presence and the Kingdom of God in this world as we seek to be authentic Christ followers who recognize that we must model in our living how to love each other even when convictions differ.
As we engage this difficult conversation, PLNU’s official position remains that of the Church of the Nazarene. The call from the leadership of the Church continues to be that every person should be treated with dignity, grace, and holy love, whatever their sexual orientation. However, the Church continues to firmly hold the position that a homosexual lifestyle is contrary to the Scriptures. The Church of the Nazarene maintains that “all forms of sexual intimacy that occur outside the covenant of heterosexual marriage are sinful distortions of the holiness and beauty God intended for it.”
Over the remainder of the semester opportunities will be provided for community conversations on this and other difficult issues. I know I express the prayers of many that in times of difficult discussions we will be guided and guarded by the presence of God in our conversations and relationships.
From University Chaplain, Mark Carter:
Given the discussion and conversation that has been generated by the Point Weekly’s article on homosexuality, we feel it necessary to create a public venue where students, faculty, and staff can voluntarily gather together to gain Spiritual Development’s perspective on the overall process of walking with (student’s named removed) through the last several months. With (student’s name removed) permission, we will offer a statement outlining our viewpoint and the decision making process that continues to be in place with him as a student leader. We realize that there may be questions, opinions, and a general sense of confusion that you possess about this situation; therefore, our desire is to articulate our perspective and answer any appropriate questions you may have about our position. Typically these processes are private and have the luxury of confidentiality; however, given the public nature of this story we feel that our silence only complicates people’s ability to have a full understanding of the situation. Our hope is to provide space for the on-going dialogue to take place. With this is mind, it should be noted that this gathering is not a forum where theological opinions about homosexuality will be debated. Arguably there is the need for that type of discussion; however, this time will simply be a chance to hear from Mary Paul and Mark Carter as to the discernment process with (student’s named removed).
Saying this, we have shifted the Chapel and Time Out schedule for tomorrow. It will be as follows:
Music with Josh Fox (Guest Worship Leader from Santa Cruz)
Speaker: Joanna, O’Hanlon (Senior PLNU Student – who was scheduled to speak in Time Out)
Time Out: 9:00-10:00PM
Question and Answer Forum with Mary Paul & Mark Carter
NOTE: All students will receive Chapel credit for Time Out tomorrow night. The forum is a voluntary event.
Thank you advance for your flexibility surrounding tomorrow’s Chapel programming. As stated in Dr. Brower’s earlier email, we ask that you continue to enter into the discussion of this topic with respect, dignity, and a commitment to bear witness to Christ’s love for the world.
Peace be with you,
Mark A. Carter, M.A.
Director of Chaplain Ministries/University Chaplain Point Loma Nazarene University 3900 Lomaland Drive San Diego, CA 92106
The true aim of the Christian life consists in the acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God.
– St. Seraphim of Sarov
Rev. Dee Kelley’s Letter:
An open letter regarding the March 20th meeting at San Diego First Church of the Nazarene,
There are many who are frustrated and angry over a gathering that took place in our church on March 20th. You may be one of them. First let me say that I am deeply sorry for anything I have done that has hindered your ministry, hurt your witness, or undermined the work you do for Christ. If my actions have caused this, then I ask your forgiveness.
Next, let me make clear that Point Loma Nazarene University had nothing to do with the gathering, no influence on its direction, and no culpability for its outcome. They have consistently acted in ways that have been supportive of the Nazarene Church and its standards. I have deep respect for their work and the spirit with which they engage the community. Letters of frustration or rebuke should be directed toward me, not the school.
Finally, let me state part of the reason why I allow the gatherings to take place at our church. I have prayed, agonized and sought counsel over this decision. The regular gatherings are intended to be a time where people who struggle with sexual identity issues, or have family members who do so, can come together and talk about how those issues relate to their journey of faith. These are people of my congregation and my community who want to engage in difficult conversations on painfully sensitive issues. We don’t always get it right. The conversation doesn’t always go as we thought it would. And people’s stories don’t always fit the neat definitions and categories we have. But we try to be faithful to Christ, loving to people, and honest with scripture.
Sunday, March 20th, garnered a great deal of attention because of the young man who was telling his story. The crowd was probably ten times its normal size. I was concerned that its size would undermine the safety and privacy intended for the group, and mislead attendees into thinking this was an event instead of a journey and continuing dialogue. However, with certain caveats in place, I decided to allow the meeting to happen. Two people provided an opening context, the young man shared his story, followed by Q and A, I provided some concluding comments and then offered prayer. Several times during the gathering it was made clear that the speaker did not represent the church and in fact held views that differed from the Nazarene doctrine. Reference was made to the publication on this subject written by our Board of General Superintendents. The statements did not vilify the church, but instead were respectful and affirming. The meeting did not delve into biblical exegesis, but it was acknowledged twice that the biblical revelation was central to the discussion and should be given our most serious attention.
Again, let me apologize for any way in which my decisions have produced division or confusion. My intent was the opposite. I hope you might pray for me; that I would be faithful in following Christ, and that my leadership of this wonderful congregation would honor our Lord.
-Dee Kelley, Sr. Pastor
San Diego First Church of the Nazarene