Christian colleges and organizations are keenly aware that the situation in America on the topic of sexual discrimination is changing rapidly. Just a few weeks ago, a presidential order indicated that government contracts would not be awarded to organizations that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. President Wright and IWU's board are very carefully reflecting on what these changes might mean for the future of IWU, as we heard at today's Town Hall meeting.
I have some thoughts, which are no doubt extremely controversial on both ends of the spectrum and much to be disputed. But I want to suggest that, strictly speaking, a Christian university like Indiana Wesleyan does not currently discriminate against applicants for positions who might be homosexual in orientation. The question, from the religious point of view of a church such as The Wesleyan Church, is an issue of sexual practice, not of sexual orientation.
[It will be no doubt be objected that the two cannot be distinguished, but that is the religious point of view of IWU's parent denomination]
On the one hand, I have frankly never understood a hair dresser or a photographer that would refuse to serve a gay customer. I can't see any basis in American law to refuse such a customer, and such Christians probably don't have a very good understanding of Christian theology either. Jesus would have served them. Don't try to hide behind Christianity for these sorts of things.
And I'm not sure why a Christian university needs to have a moral clause against hiring a janitor who is a practicing gay individual. Why would a Christian university need to prohibit hiring someone in the cafeteria who was a practicing homosexual? Even Paul suggested that it was not the Christian's job to force those outside the church to conform to the church's sexual expectations (1 Cor. 5:12).
At the current time, I believe that IWU would hire a professor who was gay and celibate. I realize that many of my gay friends would still consider this approach to be discriminatory. However, it can at least be argued philosophically that the gay person him or herself is not being differentiated but a certain kind of sexual activity. Non-married heterosexual individuals are expected to be celibate as well. Married individuals are expected not to have sex with anyone but his or her spouse. You can lose your job at IWU for having an affair.
What I am saying is that a Christian university such as IWU has a set of sexual expectations for its faculty and administration that are broader than homosexual expression and should be distinguished from homosexual orientation. These are a matter of certain religious beliefs about sexual practice that can be distinguished philosophically from a person's orientation in itself.
I realize that will not be the end of the story and perhaps a compelling argument to the contrary can be made. No doubt in the days to come Christians will be forced to think through this issue from beginning to end all over again. What did these seven or eight verses mean originally? How do we apply them to today? We will be asked hermeneutical questions we may have managed to avoid up to this point.
Ready or not, these are the discussions we are going to be having in Christian higher education and in the church. And it's not just a question of whether a Democrat or Republican is in power. The Indiana legislature is as Republican as they come and, because of this very issue, has questioned whether IWU students in a certain teacher program should get government funding. There are a lot of conservative Republicans in Washington who fully support the current trajectory.