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Phil Schubert

ACU president issues response to NY Times story on homosexuality on campus

Abilene Christian University President Phil Schubert (Photo by Thomas Metthe, Abilene Reporter-News)

A front-page New York Times news story last week headlined “Gay Rights at Christian Colleges Face Suppression” featured prominent mentions of two universities associated with Churches of Christ:

At Abilene Christian University in Texas, several students are openly gay, and many more are pushing for change behind the scenes. Last spring, the university refused to allow formation of a Gay-Straight Alliance.
“We want to engage these complex issues, and to give help and guidance to students who are struggling with same-sex attraction,” said Jean-Noel Thompson, the university’s vice president for student life. “But we are not going to embrace any advocacy for gay identity.”
At Harding University in Arkansas, which like Abilene Christian is affiliated with the Churches of Christ, half a dozen current and former students posted an online magazine in early March featuring personal accounts of the travails of gay students. The university blocked access to the site on the university’s Internet server, which helped cause the site to go viral in the world of religious universities.
At chapel, Harding’s president, David B. Burks, told students that “we are not trying to control your thinking,” but that “it was important for us to block the Web site because of what it says about Harding, who we are, and what we believe.”

ACU and Harding are just two of the religious universities included in the story. Baylor University in Waco, Texas, North Central University in Minneapolis and Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., are among the others cited.
In response to the national news coverage, ACU President Phil Schubert wrote an op-ed piece clarifying the university’s position. The piece was published in Sunday’s Abilene Reporter-News. ACU provided a copy of the statement to The Christian Chronicle:

On Sexuality and Serving God:  ACU’s President Weighs In on Cultural Controversy
By Phil Schubert, Ed.D., President, Abilene Christian University
There is a growing debate throughout our culture regarding the shifting morés surrounding the issue of homosexuality. Christian universities everywhere find themselves in a precarious spot on this topic, having drawn increasing public criticism. Recently, Abilene Christian University’s stance was discussed in a story in The New York Times.
It’s important to me for you to know where ACU stands, and I hope to make our position clear.
ACU is an institution of higher learning, committed to biblical principles and founded upon a heritage of faith. We believe sex is reserved for the marriage bond between one man and one woman, and that sexual stewardship is expected of each of us: faculty, staff and students.
We do not believe homosexual behavior is condoned in the Bible.
We realize, however, there is a difference between someone who is challenged with same-sex attraction, and an individual who acts upon homosexual desires. This is a complex issue requiring individual care and attention. We are committed to carefully and honestly helping all our students make choices that will honor God in their lives, not just in the area of their sexuality. This does not mean every behavior is acceptable. But it does mean we desire to demonstrate compassion toward everyone, even when we have serious disagreements.
Even as we discuss this issue, the well-being of our students remains paramount. We have a zero-tolerance policy with respect to bullying or offensive speech. We are committed to creating an environment in which each person is protected from abusive behavior. I believe it is vital for us to nurture a spirit of hospitality at ACU, in the name of Jesus.
There are differing opinions about what the Bible says on many subjects. We are a university, and there is no subject under the sun we cannot discuss here. The ability to address differences in constructive and godly ways is crucial to what it means for ACU to be Christian.
Let there be no doubt: We have an overriding desire to love and serve God in all we do and say. We place ourselves under scripture’s authority and will do all we can to be obedient to God in all things.
We don’t believe we should keep our students hidden away from the world, protected and cocooned. We want to be a community of people who are trying to be more like Jesus every day. As believers, we understand that all of us make missteps along the way to what we pray is a better understanding of God’s plan for our lives.
We live in a complex world where people (including Christians) act out every day in ways inconsistent with the teachings of Jesus. It’s the reality of the world in which we live – the one in which we’re preparing students to lead and to serve.
The role we play as a community of believers is to help each other with our daily struggles. ACU is a place where faith foundations can grow and mature. It is not for us to throw rocks and cast judgment. At the same time, we cannot condone behaviors that we believe do not honor God.
We desire to place ourselves under God’s Word. We want to address issues of disagreement in constructive and compassionate ways, serving one another with the grace God has shown us. This is our heart and our commitment.

Harding spokesman David Crouch said the university has no plans to respond to the Times article. Crouch added:

The quotes used from Dr. Burks’ chapel presentation are accurate. I wish they had used more of his statement to put those quotes into the context of his entire message.

Burks’ entire chapel statement is included in the YouTube video below. See an earlier post on Harding defending its decision to block the website.

  • Feedback
    I applaud the statements given by Drs. Schubert and Burks. God’s people MUST NOT conform to changing social mores, but conform to that which is the perfect will of God.
    Jim Hannah
    April, 25 2011

    Thank you, Dr. Schubert, for your humble and Biblical response. And thank you Chronicle for including it for us to read.
    Mike Lewis
    April, 25 2011

    Thank you CC for posting this statement. I agree with Dr. Schubert that ‘there is a difference between someone who is challenged with same-sex attraction, and an individual who acts upon homosexual desires. This is a complex issue requiring individual care and attention.’. I also agree that ‘there is no subject under the sun we cannot discuss here. The ability to address differences in constructive and godly ways is crucial to what it means for ACU to be Christian.’. I hope this openness to discuss such subjects will be contagious in the worldwide Church.
    Darrell Lanford
    April, 25 2011

    Glad to see these men standing up for what’s right; and doing so in such a loving way.
    Wes McAdams – Radically Christian
    April, 25 2011

    Why aren’t Christians thinking critically about this issue. It is well understood that people who identify as gay are in fact, gay. They have same sex attractions. They do not have opposite attractions. There is strong evidence to show that trying to change one’s sexual orientation is damaging.
    Why are children killing themselves over this issue? It is because they are told that something that they innately feel and cannot control is wrong. They feel hopeless, lost, and sinful. They feel this way because the Church has told them this. Maybe not by their words but by their inaction and lack of understanding.
    ACU is an institute of higher learning but are failing to recognize any other evidence that shows trying to change your sexual identity is damaging.
    ACU doesn’t even appear to want to address the issue or talk about how they might be wrong in their interpretation of the Bible. Homosexuality is just wrong. Period. ACU has no room for discussion about this? What else have Christians been wrong about in the past? Women’s issues, civil rights, slavery, etc…
    ACU should have an open discussion and open their hearts and minds. They are refusing to budge an inch. What does this tell their students who are gay. That they are not wanted, they are evil and sinful. That is not an institution I want to be apart of.
    Peter Thomas
    April, 25 2011

    I’ll be praying that the aggressive activities of those who try to press us to accept their beliefs will be kept from doing so in this matter. Freedom of religion should prevail over those who expect us to accept their definition of tolerance.
    Pat Brannan
    April, 25 2011

    I am thankful that we have leaders in our universities that will be generous and kind toward everyone, but will not allow our culture to dictate what is and is not sin. My children went to Lipscomb University and I am so proud of our universities and their impact our children and ultimately the entire world. “Preach the word, in season and out of season.”
    Dale Lloyd Isom
    April, 26 2011

    I too am glad to see these men contending for the faith. I agree with them and support there stand. We are continuously in a cultural war between two kingdoms and we all know you cannot serve two masters. Moreover it is clear that the time has come were we must pray, study God’s word and then stand up for Jesus. We’ve been silent for years and you know what happens when good men do nothing. be blessed.
    Kevin Bethea
    April, 26 2011

    ACU President Phil Schubert has responded to the New York Times article in a kind, intelligent way. I am proud to be an alumni of that great university.
    Clifton Ditmore
    April, 26 2011

    The topic of homosexuality and faith is one that will no doubt be a hot button social and religious issue for the forseeable future. I am thankful that these university presidents are all willing to allow the public debate on campus while also taking a Biblical stance on the issue at a time when their view evokes hostility and elicits labels like “hatemonger”. I applaud their determination to hold to their principles and adhere to the ultimate goal of pleasing God rather than men.
    Tim Tripp
    April, 26 2011

    Just a reminder that our <a href=”https://christianchronicle.org/blog/comment-policy/” rel=”nofollow”>comment policy</a> requires first and last names as well as feedback that promotes thoughtful and respectful discussion.
    Bobby Ross Jr.
    April, 26 2011

    Thank you for upholding the Word of God! There are many of us who are so inundated with the opposition to God’s Word, that we feel this fight is like pushing sand against the ocean! It strengthens us when we can hear leaders in our Christian faith stand up and boldly and kindly speak the truth in these matters. I was once dead in the sin of adultery, no less a fall to Hell than homosexuality is. I am forever greatful that I accepted Jesus Christ into my heart and as Jesus in the story of the prostitute in her public condemnation. “The ones without sin may cast the first stone”, which scattered the accusers. He then asked “Where are your accusers now?” and she saw there were none anymore. And Jesus said, “Then neither do I condemn you, but go and sin no more.” Forever standing on His truth!
    Debra Holliday
    April, 26 2011

    I’m impressed with the ACU and Harding response. What many will not understand is that there is no hatred for the person but the sin is not something that can be tolerated. There’s little to debate about God’s stand on homosexuality. I’ve known and worked with several people who are openly gay. It’s easy to love that person but to not accept the sin as an acceptable “lifestyle” in a manner that is not mean spirited or in hatred. I applaud the universities for standing strong on this subject knowing the push back they’ll receive. God’s word is NOT to be compromised.
    David Smith
    April, 26 2011

    It was good that the ACU President made a response. Our members who speak English saw the article in the NY Times and were asking me what was going on in the US christian universities.
    Jean Paul Hundley
    Brussels Belgium
    John Hundley
    April, 28 2011

    It is refreshing, in a time when many of our univrsities and colleges are being accused of turning from Biblical principles, to hear the presidents of Abilene Christian Univrsity and Harding University stand up for Christian principles, and to do this in humility and love. I am proud to be a graduate of ACU, and I am proud of both of these Christian leaders.
    James Haney
    April, 28 2011

    We all sin and fall short. We’re saved because we accept God’s grace and believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior. We’re so eager to cast stones at homosexuality but yet we remain silent about divorce. According to Jesus, divorce is wrong and makes you guilty of adultery. If you’ve forgotten, adultery is one of the Ten Commandments. According to Paul, divorce is allowed if it’s because of infidelity. We sit in our pews on Sundays and sing “Oh how I love Jesus” and at the same time we’re prejudice, divorce our spouses, cheat on our income taxes, split churches because we can’t agree on the little stuff, gossip and destroy people with words. (I can’t tell you how many emails I’ve received from other Christians calling President Obama the antichrist, a muslim and a liar…etc.) My point…Yes, the Bible is very clear about Homosexuality but it’s also very clear about other sins too. We are imperfect people who like to judge others because it makes us feel better about our own sins. In Christian love, Tom
    Thomas Sutton
    April, 28 2011

    I applaud President Schubert for his op-ed piece and his stand. ACU will not condone sinful behavior. This is good. As he stated, God’s standard for sex is between one married man and woman.
    There is probably much more sin undertaken in ACU dorm rooms in the name of heterosexual love than homosexual love. Both are wrong. We need to explore what steps can be taken to help young men and women respect their bodies, and God’s desire for their bodies to be pure until marriage?
    In today’s society, this must begin at around age 9-10 or so it seems. As a father of an 11 year old boy, I’m trying to raise my son to be respectful to God’s word. I hope the steps I’m taking with my own son will help him be respectful to his body and to the bodies of young women he knows in his teen years and beyond.
    Thank you President Schubert for taking a stand.
    Yours in Christ,
    Brian Humek
    Zach’s House, a microChurchOfChrist network
    Brian Humek
    April, 28 2011

    Thank you Dr. Schubert for your response to the article from the NY Times. Very well said!
    Peter, all Christians should think critically when it comes to God’s word and applying His word to our lives in this modern world. I take what God says very seriously because He does have the last word, whether I agree with or understand His position or not.
    You said that “there is strong evidence to show that trying to change one’s sexual orientation is damaging.” What evidence? Also I disagree with this assessment because I have known people who changed their sexual orientation to a biblical orientation and live very healthy lives. It doesn’t matter if one is a homosexual or heterosexual…the issue is any sex outside of marriage is considered by God as sin. Period. If anyone has a problem with that, then take it up with God. He is the one that set the bar as to how He wants us to live our lives.
    You said that ACU “doesn’t even appear to want to adderss the issue or talk about how wrong they might be in their interpretation of the Bible. Homosexuality is just wrong. Period. ACU has no room for discussion about this? What else have Christians been wrong about in the past? Women’s issues, civil rights, slavery, etc…” Peter, when it comes to homosexuality, God is very crystal clear about His position. There is nothing sinful about having a same sex attraction, it only becomes sin when you engage in sexual activity with a person of the same sex. The same applies to any person who commits sexual acts outside of marriage. The amazing thing about God is that He forgives these sins when one repents of having done these things and asks for forgiveness. We are to be like Christ in this situation, which means we are to love one another, encourage one another, uplift one another whether one has homosexual or heterosexual preference. It is when one sins that we have to rebuke one another so that the sinner can repent and ask God for forgiveness, and be right with Him. I make no distinction between an adulterer or a gay person, but when they ask for forgiveness and refrain from sinning again, I accept them as they are, acknowledge that they have sinned and are forgiven and move on.
    About the other issues, yes Christians have made mistakes over the centuries. It is only by the grace of God that Christ’s church has survived over the centuries, because we humans would have long ago destroyed His church. This is how I know that His church is divine.
    Peter, we all have a choice in this life. We can be part of God’s kingdom or we can be part of this world. Being a Christian is not easy, but it is a whole lot easier being worldly and living life the way one wants to live his or her own life. Being a Christian means making tough decisions and abiding by God’s will to the world’s derision and distrust.
    As for me, I know I am better off submitting myself to God’s will and control. And that means that I am to imitate Christ in all my interactions with my fellow man. And Christ loved sinners enough to give his life up for these sinners, myself being one of them.
    Remember, we’ve all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Every one of us! We’re not perfect, but we all can learn from Christ’s example when He walked this earth centuries ago and live like He did.
    stephen maple
    April, 28 2011

    Hi! I just wanted to share a tract about homosexuality that we have available in our Spanish website www.iglesiadecristosilverspring.org
    In the left column click the link FOLLETOS and at the end of the list you can find the English version: “What should I do if I feel I’m homosexual?” The Spanish version is called: “�Que debo hacer si siento que soy homosexual?” (in the middle of the list) You can print them, copy them and share them with whomever you wish. Hope is edifying for you. -Elmer Pacheco
    Jos� Elmer Pacheco
    April, 28 2011

    It’s refreshing to see the president of ACU stand for truth rather than bowing to the misguided pressure that some in our culture, and sadly some who claim to be believers in Christ, attempt to apply. Allowing a group like a “Gay-Straight Alliance” to form that advocates homosexuality and claims to help homosexuals deal with issues they face only harms homosexuals as it harms the rest of our culture (and will destroy any church or church institution being what God calls us to be). A major problem with such groups is that they deny the reality that homosexuality is a sin and a deviant behavior that can and should be overcome by faith in and submission to Christ. Instead, they make claims that this is simply who people are and to encourage them to change is wrong. In so doing, they deny not only the Word of God, but the God who demands change from practicing sin.
    Randy Gore
    April, 28 2011

    Appreciate your addressing this issue and upholding the Bible teaching on the subject. We as a *********** need to seek God’s direction to educate those in high school and unfortunately a growing problem.
    Bill Sheppard
    April, 28 2011

    Let us pray for Presidents Schubert and Burkes as they walk a very precarious tight-rope. These are not easy days for either Harding or ACU.
    How does a Christian University be compassionate on the one hand, yet uphold it’s own values, on the other hand? How does it encourage fair and open discussion of such loaded issues on the one hand, without betraying it’s supporters on the other hand? The schools cannot afford to sanction homosexual behavior and yet on the other hand, must act with compassion and grace? How can a university be sinner-friendly without being sin-friendly?
    And how can a University (an educational institution) be expected to function like a church (a redemptive organism?) A University must deal with persons more on the basis of rules rather than on relationships. Whereas a church, which is more like a family than anything else, can deal with persons relationally – and tailor the process to fit the person.
    And how can either a University or a Church place homosexual behavior in a sin category all it’s own? How either one treat homosexual behavior differently than lying, drunkenness, selfishness, greed, or racism? And how does that look in ‘real time?’
    Who knows exactly how to ‘get this exactly right’, since “we have never been this way before?”
    It seems to me tht both Harding and ACU are walking the tight-rope in a balanced and responsible way. Hats off to you Presidents Schubert and Burkes. My prayers are with you – and with all the men and women who make up the communities of my Alma Maters.
    Lynn Anderson
    April, 28 2011

    As a graduate of Harding University, I am pleased that the University continues to stand for biblical truths. The issue seems to be that the University cannot allow university-controlled access to anyone advocating anything which violates it’s standards. It is equivalent to allowing an alliance for liars, or pro-divorce, or multiple wives, etc. If students cannot or will not honor the policies of the university, they are free to attend elsewhere. There are plenty of cheaper places of higher education. Go there and join the alliance of your choice. Don’t try to pull down Harding, or ACU.
    This may not sound loving, but it doesn’t change God’s love for everyone. But love includes not glossing over sin. We know what sin is–it’s not what we think it is, but what the Bible says it is.
    Pat Shelbourne
    April, 28 2011

    I appreciate and respect the stance (and the difficulties associated with it) that each of these schools are taking regarding this issue. We cannot afford letting our culture set the standards, but we also must understand the cost that must be paid for living by a different one. It is imperitive that our actions and attitudes toward our culture is one of Grace and compassion; even in the face of hostility and attacks. I am bothered that too many Christians don’t have much difficulty being friends with a heterosexual couple living together not married, but for some reason when it’s a homosexual couple they become rude and judgmental. We must learn not to be afraid of those who are homosexual, but like Jesus, learn to be a friend (in the same way) to ‘tax collectors and sinners.
    John Wheeler
    April, 28 2011

    Well said, Dr. Burks.
    Larry French
    April, 28 2011

    Along with many others, I applaud the manner in which Presidents Schubert and Burks have responded to this difficult issue. I am very proud of my alma mater, ACU, for dealing with the subject in the manner it has. They can in no way condone homosexuality and be biblical. It speaks well for them that they are attempting to guide students “in the way they should go.” I also agree with Pat Shelbourne’s statement that if this does not suit students who have a different agenda, there are plenty of other universities where they can attend. A Christian university by its very name and nature is called to a much higher standard than current notions of “political correctness” and shifting cultural standards.
    Anita Hassey
    April, 28 2011

    Excellent response Dr. Schubert! With such headwinds pushing back on the church today on this subject, your reply handles the issue with the right focus and concern. May God continue to bless your term as President.
    I’m proud to be an alumnus of ACU!
    Tim Nichols
    April, 28 2011

    It is so refreshing to see the manner in which the university expressed itself. This shows carefully considered words, thoughts and actions. May you continue to show that all Christians are not perfect but all Christians should have the hope that their actions will lead them to a closer walk with Jesus as opposed to a closer walk with the changing sands of the worldly.
    God bless you.
    Raymond Coats, Sr.
    April, 28 2011

    Brothers Sutton and Anderson point out that there are many sins besides homosexual behavior, and we need to be consistent is our approach to sin. That is true, but both brethren seem to miss a crucial point. No one decided to “attack” homosexuality because it was an easy target. I would be willing to bet that ACU and Harding had little to say about homosexuality 50 years ago. What has changed has been the aggressive push to legitimize homosexuality. In general, people respond to the issues that are placed front and center and demand a response. ACU and Harding have not issued statements concerning the practice of voodoo on campus. As soon as a group demands recognition for the Students Practicing Voodoo, I suppose they will. Homosexuality is not being addressed out of spite or condescension.
    Brother Anderson asks about greed, lying, etc. As soon as groups try to legitimize these behaviors at ACU and Harding, then you can expect a response from ACU and Harding.
    Clark Coleman
    April, 28 2011

    I applaud Dr. Schubert’s well-crafted statements rich with Christ’s love.
    Raymond S Stewart
    April, 30 2011

    The Bible is very clear on this subject, and I quote from The Bible.
    I Corinthians 6:9-11
    Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindelers will inherit the Kingdom of God.
    And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
    I believe this to mean: Don’t do these things, and if you have in the past, Christ has forgiven you, but repentance must be a part of your life.
    Ron McMurray
    April, 30 2011

    I’m not very good with words but i would like to say a few things about this issue. In some peoples makeup they may have a stronger pull to be an alcoholic and i feel that this is the same sort of thing in some people having a stronger feeling toward the same sex. God is still clear about the sins in our lives that will bring harm and sadness. I believe with Gods help we can resist these. Let us with Gods help put out these sinful pulls in our lives by feeding ours lives with righteous living. God help us all in what ever struggles we have in our lives.
    Margy Walker
    May, 23 2011

    As an alumni of both Harding and ACU, I am glad that they are not giving in to the pressures of culture but continue to maintain a biblical worldview on sexuality, among other things. What people need to remember is that the kingdom of the world and the kingdom of God are at odds with each other and are incompatible. Compassion does not mean avoiding and articulating the divine design. In my experience, Christians have not mistreated those with gay orientation. In fact, they have been gracious and kind. The stereotype promoted by the gay lobby is a caricature and does not represent authentic Christians overall.
    John Telgren
    May, 23 2011

    I am grateful for men like the presidents of these universities standing up for the truth, in a way that is compassionate and Christ-like. Having been raised by a homosexual father, I know that this lifestyle is dangerous in spiritual, physical and emotional ways. The possibility of contracting AIDS, promiscuity,even in “monogamous” relationships, alcoholism, depression and loneliness in old age are common challenges of those trapped in this lifestyle. Thank goodness for the life-changing power we have in Jesus Christ! Those who have turned their lives over to Him can attest to this power.
    Kathleen Barr
    June, 21 2012

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