Last year, Wheaton College, an evangelical Christian school outside of Chicago, hired Julie Rodgers (below) to work as an “associate for spiritual care” in the Chaplain’s Office. What made that hire a little surprising was that Rodgers was openly gay… but it was okay because she made clear that she was and would remain celibate. In the evangelical world, that sort of warped ideology was accepted.
But that all changed this week when Rodgers announced she had slowly realized a change in attitude on that issue. She no longer believed celibacy ought to be a requirement for gay Christians. To that end, she also announced her resignation from Wheaton:
… I’ve become increasingly troubled by the unintended consequences of messages that insist all LGBT people commit to lifelong celibacy. No matter how graciously it’s framed, that message tends to contribute to feelings of shame and alienation for gay Christians. It leaves folks feeling like love and acceptance are contingent upon them not-gay-marrying and not-falling-in-gay-love.
Well, that’s because you can’t graciously tell someone — adults, no less — that they’re not supposed to express love the same way you can. You can’t kindly say, “God loves you… as long as no one gets inside your pants.”
Moreover, that kind of treatment isn’t just reserved for those in relationships. The fire I’ve come under (publicly and privately) as I’ve sought to live into the traditional ethic causes me to question whether this is about genuinely held beliefs or straight up homophobia. I say this with nothing but sadness: the kind of discrimination my friends and I have experienced as celibate gays makes me lean toward the latter.
Of course it’s about homophobia. It has always been about homophobia.
Gracious, kind, loving, Jesus-sanctioned, pastor-promoted homophobia.
I’m not saying that to rip on Rodgers, though. She did the right thing by admitting all this (it couldn’t have been easy) and leaving a school that still promotes bigotry. She also added — not that it’s any of our business — that she’s still single and her change of heart has nothing to do with any personal circumstances.
Wheaton College announced the resignation by ignoring everything she said and refusing to admit their policies had anything to do with her decision:
Julie Rodgers recently held a position at Wheaton College. Her work schedule was consistent with the academic year and as such, she finished her time on campus in May. Today, Julie notified the College that she is resigning her position, effective immediately, and will not be returning in August.
But that’s not nearly as bad as some evangelicals, who are furious that Wheaton hired her in the first place.
Here’s evangelical blogger Eric Teetsel:
Hiring Rodgers and giving her access to students as a voice of wisdom and authority was an error for which Wheaton owes students, parents and the entire alumni community an apology. But, for now at least, that era is over, and for that we can be thankful.
I can see that apology now… “We’re so sorry we hired a woman who had the audacity to think for herself. We won’t let it happen again.”
And here’s Boyce College Professor Denny Burk, who doesn’t buy that Rodgers is a True Christian™ at all:
Sexuality/gender is where loyalty to Christ is being tested in our culture. More and more, it has become the line dividing the sheep from the goats. We cannot overemphasize the fact that the stakes really are that high. It is one thing when a young Christian has not been taught well on these issues and needs correction. But it is quite another thing when Christian teachers embrace a studied rejection of Christ’s word. We no longer have grounds to treat them as Christians.
Good to know that as some Christians try to walk away from the damaging anti-gay bigotry of the church, there are plenty of people who refuse to let go, dragging the entire faith down with them.
Keep it going, guys. You make my job a lot easier.