FIRST-PERSON: At Belmont, Christian light is flickering
EDITOR'S NOTE: Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist and Reflector, newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Trustees of Belmont University in Nashville added "sexual orientation" to the school's nondiscrimination policy Jan. 26.
The action took place about a month after Belmont's women's soccer coach left her position after it became public that she and her same-sex partner were expecting a child. The decision was reported as a "mutual agreement."
Trustee chairman Marty Dickens came out publicly saying the school adhered "to our values as Christ-centered and we don't want to make apologies for that."
The Belmont decision was applauded in Christian circles, including Tennessee Baptist Convention Executive Director Randy Davis and the Baptist and Reflector.
Yet, after the story began to be circulated nationwide and the secular criticism began to amount, including criticism from one of the school's largest benefactors, Belmont basically folded like an accordion.
Lisa Howe, the former soccer coach, was quoted in The Tennessean on Jan. 27 as saying, "Significant change does not happen without sacrifice and without some people getting hurt along the way. However, in my opinion, everyone is a winner today."
Ms. Howe is entitled to her opinion, but so am I. And my opinion is that not everyone is a winner in this decision.
The cause of Christ took a direct hit. Belmont leadership had an amazing opportunity to stand up and say that while gay and lesbian students have a right to receive an education at this institution, the university has the same right to publicly state that homosexuality goes against Christian beliefs and values and the school will not endorse it.
Instead, they gave in to the prevailing wind of "everything is OK and anything goes."
According to The Tennessean report, trustees affirmed that Belmont faculty and staff are expected to "uphold high Christian standards of morality, ethics and conduct."
When you open the door to have homosexual faculty and staff, you have already lowered and, in this case, completely disregarded Christian standards.
I must admit I am confused by a statement attributed to Belmont President Bob Fisher. Fisher told The Tennessean that he realized not everyone would agree with the new policy. He went on to say, "I am not going to dig into all the different positions that Christians come from on this issue because Christians do come from lots of different positions."
It seems pretty simple to me. Just take the position that is clearly spelled out in God's Word and we wouldn't even be having this discussion. Homosexuality is a sin and a Christian institution should not knowingly employ those engaged in it. It is not "discrimination" for a private organization to clearly state where it stands and hire accordingly.
Davis also expressed his concern about Belmont's action to The Tennessean: "It sounds very much like a compromise of a traditional biblical worldview and the mores of the day. I personally am saddened to see Belmont take this step."
So am I.
I had hoped that Belmont, even though it is no longer affiliated with Tennessee Baptists, would continue to shine brightly for the cause of Christ in the Nashville educational community. Instead, the light has flickered and is bordering on going out.
Continue to pray for Belmont and its leadership. There are committed Christians at that university who will continue to live their faith and be a shining example for Christ. We must be careful not to judge everyone at Belmont based on the decisions of those in leadership or those who have publicly supported the school's decision.
I applaud our TBC institutions who face similar pressures but still remain grounded in biblical values and principles. It may not be the popular worldview decision, but it is the one that honors God and Christian values.
Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist and Reflector (www.tnbaptist.org/BRNews.asp), newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.