Campus News

Chenoweth announces institutional position statement on sexuality and gender identity

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In a fall update to faculty and staff on Sept. 10, 2015, Bethel College president Dr. Gregg Chenoweth announced that the Board of Trustees had approved a position statement in April regarding the issue of sexuality and gender identity. The “Bethel College Policy on Sexuality and Gender Identity” was approved by the Board of Trustees on April 23, 2015 and outlines the college’s position on the issues of marriage, same-sex attraction, and gender confusion. The policy affirms the lifestyle covenant, which all members of the Bethel community are expected to uphold, and explains how the college will respond to behaviors that are related to these issues and violate the covenant. While many institutions can be sued for acting according to their stated institutional beliefs and values, Chenoweth explained why Bethel is not in danger of such lawsuits. “Bethel received a religious exemption waiver from the Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Education for many of the changes in law regarding same sex practices on campuses,” Chenoweth stated in an email to the Bethel Beacon. Chenoweth also said that religious colleges are protected from lawsuits under the Indiana Religious Liberty Law. He said the basis for this protection is found in two questions:
  1. Does the government have a compelling interest in overriding a decision made out of its First Amendment rights?
  2. Would the First Amendment rights of the institution be substantially compromised by an overriding decision by the government?
The Bethel College Policy on Sexuality and Gender Identity is as follows: “The Bible teaches us that God invented sexuality as a unique expression of love and unity between a man (born male) and a woman (born female) who have committed themselves to a lifelong marriage.  This is the context in which childbearing is to take place. Therefore the Bible explicitly forbids both sexual behavior outside of marriage for heterosexuals, and all homosexual behavior, as sin (I Corinthians 6:9-11).  Additionally, Bethel College understands gender to be a matter of chromosomal identification and primary, overt sexual anatomy at birth, except in the rare cases in which both  chromosomal identification and physical  anatomy are both indeterminable (Matthew 19:4, Mark 10:6).  We believe marriage is between one man (born male) and one woman (born female), and all students and employees -- regardless of age, residency or status – should abstain from sexual cohabitation,  any involvement in premarital or extramarital sexual activity, and homosexual activity (including same-sex dating behaviors). “We believe this is a Biblical instruction, illuminated by the Holy Spirit and validated by the larger Body of Christ. While some Christians or Christian institutions may disagree, Bethel holds to this doctrinal position as orthodox and faithful to both the Bible and historic Christianity.  Moreover, Bethel shares this conviction with our parent denomination, the Missionary Church, as expressed in their Constitution and doctrine. “However, neither same-sex attraction nor gender confusion is sin.  People who experience these feelings are to be loved and valued.  Like everyone else, they deserve dignity and respect, and we condemn any malice directed toward them.  We encourage all of our community members to engage others with civility and respect regardless of their convictions. “Occasionally, members of our community navigate same-sex attraction or gender confusion, but when their feelings lead to improper behaviors, it can disrupt our desire to maintain a community that is committed to a Biblical sexual identity and personal holiness.  For this reason, Bethel College will not permit cross-dressing or other expressions or actions that are deliberately discordant with birth gender, and will deal with such matters within the appropriate spiritual and accountability processes of the college. “More specifically, traditional students whose behaviors violate our community standards regarding sexual expression will be required to meet with a member of the Student Life Staff and will be treated in a loving, redemptive manner throughout the process. In the case of Employees, the individual will meet with the HR Director and relevant Supervisor(s).  The college reserves the right to terminate employment, terminate enrollment, or deny enrollment in cases where individuals, after counsel, continue to show disrespect for our policy on Sexuality, and Gender Identity by promoting, advocating, or behaving in an intractably contrary way to this community commitment. “Bethel College acknowledges the need (and therefore reserves the right) to examine each situation on an individual basis, interpreting this policy according to the unique characteristics of a person or context, while upholding the policy. “Ultimately, we believe a community dedicated to honoring God by this policy can act lovingly, graciously, and redemptively on matters of such sensitivity.”
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