Faithfulness Requires Wisdom

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On Tuesday April 28, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on whether the U.S. Constitution mandates or allows a re-definition of the historic meaning of marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman, and, if marriage is not so defined, whether all states must recognize same-sex marriages from those states that choose to allow it. California’s voter-approved Prop 8 is a primary element of this case. Sometime this summer the court’s written decision will be released. There is no way to predict how the case will be decided, but regardless of that outcome, across America Christian colleges and universities are submitting formal requests to the federal government for a religiously based exemption from governmental regulations that apply anti-discrimination laws in ways that effectively require colleges to allow any and all kinds of sexual expression and activity as long as it is consensual and between people at least 18 years old.

Fresno Pacific University is submitting such a request on the basis of our strong and long-held religious beliefs and values as clearly stated in the U.S. Mennonite Brethren Confession of Faith. Our case rests on the governance authority of the Pacific District Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches, which appoints 60 percent of the members of our FPU Board of Trustees and fills those positions with members of an MB church. Our case also rests on our consistent expression of these values in our policies and practices. Although some other Mennonite groups are actively considering approving gay marriage, I have been assured by our MB church leaders that there is no expectation of any such change by the USMB churches. Our sister MB institution, Tabor College, has already been granted its exemption. We are prayerfully hopeful of the same response from the government for Fresno Pacific.

The issues involved are complex and involve trans-gender as well as same-sex concerns. Trans-gender situations are not explicitly referenced in the faith statements of many denominations, because those statements were drafted or revised before the recent very rapid expansion of this behavior. At FPU we are seeking protection of our right to implement policies we believe express Christ-like love and compassion for persons with same-sex attractions and questions about their gender identity, while also maintaining our commitment to the sexual behavioral standards we believe are morally right and pleasing to God, as consistently stated in the Bible, which we accept as the moral and ethical truth.

Like most Christian colleges, we have students, faculty, staff and supporters who are gay or trans-gender, or who have family members who are. The issue is not which tendencies, desires or temptations any of us must deal with as we seek to follow Christ. The issue is our behavior as we follow Christ.

We are all sinners in constant need of God’s guidance and grace. In the sexual areas of life, as in the rest of life, any one of us may sin and need forgiveness and reconciliation with God and with other people against whom we have sinned. When we fail to behave properly, either in our actions or in the desires of our hearts, there are consequences that we must live with. We need to foster healthy relationships with gay and trans-gender people, but because of our faith commitment we do not endorse sexual activity outside of the marriage of one man and one woman. A person may have strong desires for sexual activity outside the historic monogamous heterosexual marriage model, but the ideal that God has established still stands. And we find no place in Scripture where God approves or blesses sexual activity other than in a man-woman marriage. This reality has significant implications for every member of the FPU community.

We want to be a safe and hospitable community where a person can learn to understand who they are and deal with whatever challenges they face. However, we assert that there is a critical difference between having desires that contradict God’s ideal for our sexual behavior and deciding by words or actions to reject that ideal altogether.

As a Christian academic community we need the right to create a campus environment where people committed to biblically faithful living can feel safe and comfortable and be encouraged in that walk of faith. We recognize the right of every person to equal opportunity in society, but we need the corollary recognition of our right to be a university community defined by a particular set of beliefs and behaviors. Because we want to be an academic community of Christ-like thoughts, words and actions, we cannot tolerate any disrespect or harassment of people whose desires and views differ from ours. For the same reason we must require that our faculty, staff and trustees support our confession of faith and live in alignment with that confession.

This is a great challenge in a world that does not value what we believe is right and good. We understand that when we do not compromise these faith-based behavioral matters, some will condemn us as hateful bigots. Our responsibility is to respond with genuine love, not anger or defensiveness. We need to constantly pray for each other for wisdom in our efforts to be faithful. We need to pray for those who wrongfully accuse us. And we must pray for those in authority over us in the government and especially now in the courts of law.

  • Harry & Kathy Fletcher

    Well stated. We are in full agreement and are praying for you, your staff and your students. Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.

  • Larry Warkentin

    Well stated. The government can set laws on the basis of equality and freedom, but not on morality. The Bible teaches us to love, encourage and support those who do not accept our call to Christ centered morality, but it does not teach us to join in their activities or compromise our faith in the process.

    I suppose the challenge for Christian universities is that they accept financial support from the government that does not base its decisions on the teachings of Jesus. In that sense we may be called on to suffer for our faith. May God give you wisdom in these troubled waters.

  • Roger Brown

    I stand in agreement with the principals but confused as how to hold to them as those around us see us as manipulative, judgmental, negative, punitive and unsympathetic to a long standing historical and statistical reality. We sperm producers are STILL need for the next generation but in so many non traditional roles!

  • Bonnie

    Just wanted to let you know that my prayers are being offered up on FPU’s behalf!

  • Donna Martin

    Thank you for your thoughtful article on a challenging topic. It is nice to have a foundation upon which to stand when we face those who oppose our views and thoughts and beliefs.
    I appreciate you sensitive approach to a hot topic! Clear and succinct!
    Donna Martin
    Special education division

  • Allen Carden

    Very well written and biblically right on target! Thank you! I will pray that FPU receives the desired exemption.

  • Arlene Lichti

    “IT WILL BE CONCEDED THAT A CHRISTIANS FIRST DUTY IS TO GOD. IT THEN FOLLOWS, AS A MATTER OF COURSE, THAT IT IS HIS DUTY TO CARRY HIS CHRISTIAN CODE OF MORALS TO THE POLLS AND VOTE THEM. IF CHRISTIANS OF AMERICA COURD BE: PERSUADED TO VOTE GOD AND CLEAN TICKET. IT WOULD BE: INCALCULABLY BENEFICENT. IT WOULD SAVE THE COUNRTY.” MARK TWAIN

  • Leslie Mark

    Well expfressed, Dr. Kriegbaum!

  • Dear Richard,
    This is very sensitively and very effectively articulated. We join in prayer with you for the religiously-based exemption for FPU, and for all of us to express the many facets of the Lord’s love and justice to a world that needs Him. In Christ, Walter Saul