Female musical theatre majors Isabelle Yost and Jamie Valentine sparked a campus-wide conversation about LGBTQ+ issues when they shared a kiss on Reardon stage at Encore. Many students took to the Raven app to voice concerns about AU’s stance and policies regarding same-sex relationships in the week following the event.
“People have been thanking me for opening up the dialogue about certain issues on campus, whether we meant to or not,” Yost said in a recent Andersonian interview.
As a way to begin dialogue between students and administration on LGBT issues, as well as other concerns around campus, President John Pistole is hosting a student forum at 7 p.m. tonight in Decker Hall room 133.
“I decided to host this forum after several students, faculty, staff and parents individually came to me with questions and concerns over several issues, including Encore, current AU and Church of God policies on LGBT issues and campus maintenance,” Pistole said. “I want to hear directly from as many students as possible in one setting, and hopefully provide some clarity and context.”
For a Christian university, Pistole believes it’s important for conversations between students, faculty, staff and administration to be respectful and loving in nature.
“Dialogue is important, especially when done respectfully, even lovingly, because I believe that’s what God calls us to do when Jesus says the most important commandment is to love God and to love one another,” he said. “Fostering and modeling respectful disagreement with one another through healthy dialogue is one outcome I hope to achieve.”
Pistole sent an email to the student body on March 4 explaining that he will be the only administration, faculty or staff member present at the forum.
“I’m holding the forum with students only because I want them to feel safe with no concerns about how a faculty or staff member may view them for expressing themselves,” said Pistole. “I debated this because I want there to be open dialogue and transparency on campus on any number of issues among students and between students, faculty and staff, as long as done respectfully and civilly, which I hope to model at the forum.”
AU’s stance and policies on same-sex relationships stems from the university’s founding and ongoing affiliation with the Church of God.
According to the Church of God website, the organization “stands with fellow Christians who understand that God intended marriage to be between a man and woman.”
“We urge the pastors and members of the church to continue to hold high the biblical standard for godly marriage,” reads the Church of God statement on the Supreme Court’s 2015 same-sex marriage ruling. “A legal definition of marriage may have changed, but the orthodox understanding based on God’s revelation has not changed.”
Pistole hopes to hear students’ thoughts about AU’s Church of God affiliation at the forum.
“AU was founded by the Church of God and still maintains an active affiliation as our sponsoring church,” Pistole said. “I hope to hear more about students’ views on this at the forum.”
The forum will also provide an opportunity for students to discuss other issues on campus such as maintenance, Food Services or policies in the student handbook.