In Touch May 5, 2010
Posted on May 6, 2010 by under Touché,

Homosexuality and Hope  

 When I was asked to be a member of the Board of Trustees at Hope College I was looking forward to trips to Holland, Michigan three times a year to catch up with my girls as they went through college.  I was not ready for significant controversy at board meetings in regard to the college’s stand on homosexuality.  I leave tomorrow, ready to step into major protest by alumni and students regarding a stand taken by the administration on a controversial speaker coming to campus last fall. 

I love Hope College and all it represents.  It is a top rated liberal arts college that scores highly as a school that changes lives.  It has a strong Christian witness on campus.  Chapel meets three times a week and the huge sanctuary is full, but students are not required to attend.  The Sunday night Gatherings service is standing room only—the core of a non-compulsory Christian community.  The genius of Hope is that it does not require a Christian confession to be a part of the school, yet the Christian faith on campus is thriving.  So many other Christian colleges start with the mandate that you are Christian before you come, and living out the Christian faith is required as a part of college community.  Hope’s genius is beautiful, but it is precarious.  So many schools that started out Christian (i.e. Harvard) now have little resemblance to who they were.  So many schools that require Christian confession cut themselves off from free expression of a vibrant faith.

Last fall a student invited Dustin Black to campus.  Mr. Black is the film director who produced the Academy award-winning moving “Milk.”  He was making his latest movie in Holland.  The administration denied him an on campus forum to talk about human sexuality.  He was welcome to speak to film classes, or speak about script writing, but was not welcome to present the issues of his homosexuality in an all-campus forum.  The furor that was raised by this denial has now landed at the feet of the trustees.  Hope College has a statement on homosexuality that mirrors much of what the Reformed Church in America has said on the topic.  Alumni and students have petitioned the board to remove that statement.

Outside of the Dustin Black incident, I believe the statement should be removed.  Hope does not have a statement on any other moral or cultural issue that has been adopted by the board.  I believe that for Hope to keep the genius of what it is as a school, all should be welcome, and the vibrancy of the Christian faith should guide people to the fullness of life in Christ. 

I am not looking forward to the battles of the next few days.  This issue has caused so much controversy in the church and will now be a battle fought on the campus of my beloved alma mater.   I invite your prayers for discernment and direction, and I pray that Hope continues to live into the best of academic exploration, with the shaping of young people in an environment where all are welcome to explore the fullness of the Christian life in grace and truth.