Prof sees pattern toward acceptance of homosexuality at William Jewell

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--The chair of the department of psychology at William Jewell College says there is a pattern of accepting homosexuality at the school and cautioned fellow believers that the spiritual and intellectual souls of the students are at risk.

Patricia Schoenrade, the department's chairperson and a professor at William Jewell since 1989, told Baptist Press she is very concerned about the advocacy of homosexuality as a viable lifestyle being affirmed at the school.

"I think it's fair to say that there is a pattern developing," Schoenrade said. "It's very easy to confuse love for the individual with acceptance of the lifestyle. Whatever a student finds on a Christian campus, they will assume it is Christianity. If they hear advocacy of a behavior and nothing to counter it, that person will assume it is Christianity."

William Jewell's student senate is debating whether to add the phrase "sexual orientation" to the anti-discrimination portion of the Baptist university's student bill of rights.

"I can't say this strongly enough, but I believe the spiritual and intellectual souls of our students are at risk," Schoenrade said.

Schoenrade's viewpoint on homosexuality reflects a marked change in her personal beliefs. When she arrived on campus in 1989, Schoenrade was an advocate for the homosexual lifestyle.

"A person has to be a Christian to practice here and I certainly gave all the right answers when I was hired, but I did not truly accept God and no one who interviewed me would have known that," she said.

In 1997 Schoenrade coauthored "Staying in the Closet Versus Coming Out: Relationships Between Communication about Sexual Orientation and Work Attitudes," which was published in the Journal of Personnel Psychology.

Schoenrade investigated the aspect of whether homosexual employees should disclose their sexual orientation at work. The study examined the effect of disclosure of sexual orientation on attitudes toward homosexual employees.

Schoenrade concluded that the study revealed that the "openness" or "closetedness" of the employees sexual orientation affected not only the way they were perceived but their perception of themselves in their job. This could be categorized as a survey/field study, due to the fact that there was no interference or manipulation of variables; there was simply a report.

When Baptist Press reported on her findings in a Dec. 6 story about pro-homosexual attitudes at William Jewell, Schoenrade e-mailed a letter to students.

"I wanted them to know that I refute those ideas now," she said. "And the reason why is because I gave my life to Christ."

Schoenrade, the professor who was an officer in an area AIDS project and spent years in advocacy areas, came to know Christ in February 1998.

"At the time there were a number of life crises infringing upon me and an off-campus friend talked to me about the grace of God," Schoenrade told Baptist Press. "I was introduced to the writings of C.S. Lewis and my area of study is psychology of religion. It began to be clear to me how our Maker is involved in psychology and how far our discipline has wandered."

Schoenrade said the most dramatic change in her life was academic. "I began to see my role as a Christian teacher of psychology. I was to do it for his glory," she said. "Any data I read, any research had to be subordinated to his direction."

Schoenrade said her salvation was "unbelievably incredible. There have been some tough times but I understand what God's grace means on a day-to-day basis."

She summed up her relationship to Jesus and the impact he has had on her career through a single word -- integrity. "He brings integrity to everything from the research I do to the way I raise my children," she said.

Schoenrade said she felt compelled to write to her students so they would understand that she no longer agreed with her earlier research on homosexuality. The entire text of the letter is printed in the Dec. 11 edition of Baptist Press.

"We are charged with the intellectual and spiritual growth of these students at such a crucial age in their lives," she said. "And we are accountable. I probably failed in that regard for a number of years."

Schoenrade said there are a number of faculty who share her sentiment but are afraid of speaking. "You will hear more voices in what's called tolerance but that is not the sentiment of the majority of the faculty," she said. "Sometimes people are a little reluctant to speak up because they may be judged intolerant or naive."


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