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Baylor to host discussion LGBTQ Christian author Justin Lee

Waco Tribune | Rhiannon Saegert | September 16, 2019

A leading proponent of building bridges between churches and LGBTQ Christians will speak Tuesday at Baylor University, where debates over sexuality and faith have come to the forefront.

The Baylor School of Social Work is hosting a discussion with Justin Lee, a nationally known author and founder of the Gay Christian Network.

Lee will speak at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday on the fifth floor of the Cashion Academic Center. The event is free and open to the public.

Lee, author of “Torn” and “Talking Across the Divide,” has been writing about his experiences as a gay Christian since the late ‘90s. He founded the Gay Christian Network, now called the Q Christian Fellowship, in 2001, later parting with the organization in 2017. In his Baylor appearance he aims to discuss the way the Christian churches have handled LGBTQ issues in the past and how to better address them in the present.

“I’m not coming to give a theological talk on same-sex marriage or anything like that,” Lee said in an interview Monday. “My goal is to be able to speak to Christians on all sides of the theological disagreements and just focus on how we take care of people who are, right now, not always being cared for.” read more…


Dakota Farquhar-Caddell: A word to our LGBTQ+ students at Baylor

Waco Tribune | Dakota Farquhar-Caddell | September 14, 2019

Some weeks have passed since Baylor University’s Aug. 27 letter on human sexuality, including its vow to “do more to demonstrate love and support for our students who identify as LGBTQ,” even as it also affirms “purity in singleness and fidelity in marriage between a man and a woman as the biblical norm.” In the spirit of trusting that open, honest, diverse and sometimes difficult dialogue in community may be one of our best hopes toward healing, I offer words I am teaching my children, the same words that God is spending most of my life teaching me.

To our students at Baylor who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning and any other identity that doesn’t fall within the heterosexual, cisgender expectation: There is more than one single understanding of what is true. The belief that your identity is “non-biblical” is not shared by everyone at Baylor, and certainly not by the country or by the world. Many of us understand our collective, diverse human sexuality is not just “OK” but that this is one of the many sacred ways God works in the world. There are theologians, social workers, professors, pastors, entire churches (yes, even Baptist!), entrepreneurs, students, parents, farmers, scientists, community leaders, those on the left and those on the right who understand a different truth about you and a different truth about God than what is currently proclaimed through Baylor University’s policy stance. read more…


After Charter Denial, Baylor LGBTQ Group Pushes Forward

Dallas Observer | Silas Allen | September 16, 2019

For the last eight years, a group of Baylor University students has been trying to persuade the school to allow them to form an LGBTQ student group.

Earlier this month, the group got an official answer from the university. It wasn't the one they'd hoped for.

Baylor officials notified members of the student group Gamma Alpha Upsilon — or GAY — on Sept. 6 that the university was denying the group's request for a charter. A charter represents official recognition from the university, which would give the group access to student activity funds, allow them to reserve space on campus for meetings and allow them to advertise events on campus.

That notification came just days after Baylor President Linda Livingstone released a statement on human sexuality on the university's website. In it, Livingstone wrote that the university "affirms the biblical understanding of sexuality as a gift from God."

"Christian churches across the ages and around the world have affirmed purity in singleness and fidelity in marriage between a man and a woman as the biblical norm," Livingstone wrote. "Temptations to deviate from this norm include both heterosexual sex outside of marriage and homosexual behavior. It is thus expected that Baylor students will not participate in advocacy groups which promote understandings of sexuality that are contrary to biblical teaching." read more…

New Semester, same frustrations for LGBTQ students at Baylor

Houston Chronicle | Brittany Britto | September 5, 2019

It may be the start of a new semester, but frustrations largely remain the same for many LGBTQ students at Baylor University.

After months of putting pressure on Baylor administration and its Board of Regents to meet with and formally recognize its LGBTQ student group, Gamma Alpha Upsilon, the students finally received a response from University President Linda Livingstone, but it wasn’t the one that they had hoped for, according to Hayden Evans, a second-year graduate student, outreach chair and treasurer for the group.

In a letter addressed to the university community on Aug. 27, Livingstone stated that “Baylor is committed to providing a loving and caring community for all students — including our LGBTQ students.”

But Livingstone pointed to the university’s newly launched webpage, which includes its human sexuality statement and sexual conduct policy in the hope of conveying the “university’s values and expectations.”

The statement notes that “the university affirms the biblical understanding of sexuality as a gift from God” and that “Christian churches across the ages and around the world have affirmed purity in singleness and fidelity in marriage between a man and a woman as the biblical norm.” Its sexual conduct policy also states that it is “expected that Baylor students will not participate in advocacy groups which promote understandings of sexuality that are contrary to biblical teaching,” which include “heterosexual sex outside of marriage and homosexual behavior.”

Livingstone further emphasized that the university is in compliance with Title IX as well as state and federal regulations in terms of the services and support it provides for LGBTQ students. read more… 

Baylor president's statement on LGBTQ issues stops short of student demands

Waco Tribune | Rhiannon Saegert | August 28, 2019

“Dialogue is part of academic life and can be useful. At the end of the day, this is an effort about real people who are in the Baylor family living their lives as dialogue about their civil rights is happening around them. Until all members of the Baylor family, including LGBTQ+ people, are afforded equal opportunities to participate fully in campus life and included in the dialogue, our work is not done. We and thousands of others look forward to helping Baylor move forward and urge it to adopt policies that are in line with its academic and athletic peers.” - BU Bears for All Founders

Baylor University President Linda Livingstone announced this week that the university will take steps to better support LGBTQ students, but recognizing unofficial LGBTQ student groups is not part of the plan. 

In an email Tuesday to students, faculty and staff, Livingstone stated Baylor students will not face disciplinary action for their sexual identity, and said that Baylor counselors do not practice or condone so-called conversion or reparative therapy to change their orientation.

Baylor officials have faced pressure in recent months from students and alumni who have petitioned them to recognize LGBTQ student organizations, and Baylor regents discussed related issues at a retreat this summer.

“During the course of these conversations, it has become evident to us that there are many misperceptions regarding Baylor’s stance on human sexuality and that there is more we can do to support our LGBTQ students,” Livingstone said in the statement Tuesday.

Baylor’s website now contains a page stating the university's LGBTQ resources are  compliant with Title IX, the federal law that bars gender discrimination on campus. The page states that students are not expelled or disciplined for same-sex attraction. In a frequently asked questions section, the site reiterates Baylor's official statement on human sexuality, which reads:

“The University affirms the biblical understanding of sexuality as a gift from God. Christian churches across the ages and around the world have affirmed purity in singleness and fidelity in marriage between a man and a woman as the biblical norm.” 

The page also states LGBTQ students seeking community support can find it through Baylor's counseling center, Baylor's Bias Response Team or the Department of Spiritual Life. 

“With this said, we understand that we must do more to demonstrate love and support for our students who identify as LGBTQ,” Livingstone's statement continues. “A common theme emerging from all of the aforementioned conversations is the need for us to provide more robust and more specific training for students, faculty and staff in loving, caring for and supporting our LGBTQ students.”

"We wish to point out that they have continued to ignore our requests and refuse to talk with us about the issues we face as LGBTQ+ students," they stated. "We have clearly outlined what issues we have found, in the petition written in April, that we wish to be addressed. In the email, the president has expressed interest in continuing the conversation and we would greatly appreciate the ability to establish this dialogue with her and other Baylor administration."

Kyle Desrosiers, a Baylor student who wrote about the issue in a Tribune-Herald guest column, called the statement a “callous lack of action.” read more…

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Baylor President releases"human sexuality statement" ahead of fall semester

KCEN | Paris Jones | Aug. 27, 2019

Livingstone began her statement emphasizing Baylor's commitment to all students.

"Let me be crystal clear: Baylor is committed to providing a loving and caring community for all students – including our LGBTQ students," Livingstone wrote.

She then announced the launch of Baylor's Human Sexuality Statement web page, which includes the university's unchanged statement on sexuality under the sexuality policy. 

The statement calls both "homosexual behavior" and sex outside of heterosexual marriage "temptations to deviate" from the biblical norms of "purity in singleness and fidelity in marriage between a man and a woman."

The statement also says Baylor students will not be part of groups promoting ideas that go against those norms.

"It is expected that Baylor students will not participate in advocacy groups which promote understandings of sexuality that are contrary to biblical teaching," the statement reads.

Livingstone said the university remains in compliance with anti-discrimination laws. read more…

Baylor President: "We Need To Establish Trust With our LGBTQ Students

KWTX, Aug. 27, 2019

While Baylor’s policy affirming “singleness and fidelity in marriage between a man and a woman as the biblical norm” remains unchanged, the school “is committed to providing a loving and caring community for all students – including our LGBTQ students," university President Dr. Linda Livingstone said in a letter to students and faculty and staff Tuesday.

The letter comes as the unofficial LBGTQ group, Gamma Alpha Upsilon, tries again to win an official charter, which the student newspaper, The Baylor Lariat, reports, would allow the organization to rent Student Union Building rooms for meetings and to advertise on campus.

“Beginning in summer 2018, the University initiated conversations about how we could better support all under-represented students on our campus, including those who identify as LGBTQ,” Livingstone said in the letter.

“During the course of these conversations, it has become evident to us that there are many misperceptions regarding Baylor’s stance on human sexuality and that there is more we can do to support our LGBTQ students,” she wrote. read more…

New Web Page Affirms University Stance on Human Sexuality

Baylor Lariat | Matthew Muir | Aug. 28, 2019

Baylor University President Linda Livingstone voiced Baylor’s support for LGBTQ students but left university policy unchanged in a statement reaffirming the university’s views on human sexuality on Tuesday.

Baylor’s official stance affirms the school’s biblical view on human sexuality, including the view of both “heterosexual sex outside of marriage and homosexual behavior” as deviations from the norm. In the statement sent via email to students, faculty and staff yesterday, Livingstone responded to “an increased number of questions” regarding Baylor’s positions on sexuality and LGBTQ issues with a new web page on the Baylor website answering frequently-asked questions.

In her statement, Livingstone also said Baylor “must do more to demonstrate love and support for our students who identify as LGBTQ,” though no policy changes were announced. read more…

LGBTQ group sets sights on official charter

Baylor Lariat | Carson Lewis | August 23, 2019

The group is composed of Baylor students, has a president and officer positions and meets weekly for group activities. It functions in the same way as many Baylor clubs with activities like discussions and bowling nights. But this group of students can’t claim to have what other organizations have: an official charter from the university. That’s what they want to change.

Gamma Alpha Upsilon (ΓAY), an unofficial LGBTQ group on campus, is looking to the new semester with hopes of becoming an official chartered organization. Formerly known as SIF (Sexual Identity Forum), Gamma has functioned on campus since 2011 as an independent group with the purpose of giving a home to LGBTQ Baylor students and allies.

Members in the group expressed their appreciation and surprise last year from the support given to a letter sent by three Baylor alumni to administration which proposed acceptance for LGBTQ groups on campus. read more…

LGBTQ furor at Baylor at heart of Title IX law

Waco Tribune | Kyle Desrosiers - Guest Columnist | August 3, 2019

Over the past few months, thousands of people connected to Baylor University have called on Baylor’s leadership to reverse policies that deprive LGBTQ students of official recognition, protection and inclusion. Calls for change intensified this past spring after Baylor officials permitted flyers with inflammatory images aimed at LGBTQ people to be posted throughout campus while, at the same time, depriving LGBTQ students of any campus resources, official student organizations or support systems.

With the fall semester on the horizon, many Baylor students such as myself waited in eager anticipation as the Baylor Board of Regents met in Dallas last month at its annual retreat. In light of continued scrutiny regarding Baylor’s Title IX compliance and with a groundswell of alumni, students, faculty and faith leaders calling on the university to stop discriminating against LGBTQ students, would Baylor University’s leadership finally scuttle its discriminatory policies? Would it — as a group of Baylor students requested earlier this summer — at a minimum issue a statement denouncing conversion or reparative therapy on its campus?

Sadly, the answer turned out to be a resounding “no.” read more…

Students ask Big 12, NCAA to examine Baylor’s LGBT policies

Waco Tribune | Rhiannon Saegert | August 2, 2019

Baylor students have written letters to both the Big 12 Conference and the NCAA, asking the organizations to evaluate the university’s treatment of LGBTQ students.

“We write to you as current LGBTQ+ and allied Baylor University students and recent graduates who have been engaged in efforts to ensure that Baylor University’s campus is safe, secure, and hospitable to LGBTQ+ students,” both letters begin.

The authors of the letters include members of Gamma Alpha Upsilon, an unofficial student group that has been seeking recognition from the university since last year, as well as other current students and recent graduates.

“In recent months, LGBTQ+ students have faced particular targeting and harassment on Baylor’s campus, leading thousands of people with connections to Baylor University — alumni, students, parents, current and former faculty members, former trustees, ministers, and faith leaders — to ask that the university reverse its course of discrimination against LGBTQ+ students,” the letters state. read more…

Emerging Voices | Baylor Loves LGBTQ+ Students – To a Point

Ethics Daily | Madeline Sneed | July 11, 2019

The Baylor University community is divided over inclusion for LGBTQ+ students on campus.

Two petitions have come out of the conflict: one favors preserving Baylor’s nonaffirming stance of LGBTQ student groups with 110 signatures; the other asks Baylor to recognize LGBTQ student groups and to allow them to meet on campus with more than 3,200 signatures.

In response to the outpouring of support from the Baylor community for LGBTQ students, the Texas Tribune reported that Lori Fogleman, assistant vice president for media and public relations, said “the 3,200 signatures represent about 2% of the school’s students, faculty, staff and living alumni.” read more…

Alivia Stehlik, guest columnist: Baylor University should allow students to be public about identities

Waco Tribune | Alivia Stehlik | July 8, 2019

When I was first accepted into the US Army – Baylor University Doctoral Program in Physical Therapy, it didn’t really matter to me that my degree would be from Baylor. I was more concerned about staying in the Army and caring for soldiers. However, over the last three years, far more people have asked me about being a Baylor Bear than about being a cadet at West Point.

Now, I’m proud of being a Baylor alumna, even waking up in the wee hours of the morning or staying up late into the night in Afghanistan to watch Baylor play. I’m grateful for the conversations it has started and the friendships it has granted with a host of intelligent, driven, passionate, caring people whom I otherwise would not have met. read more…

Pressuring Christian Universities to Be Affirming

Baylor students are trying to secure the LGBTQ support I wish I had when I was a student there

The Salve | Madeline Kay Sneed | July 1, 2019

I’m not sure what to say when people ask me about God.

It’s not a common conversation, especially on the East Coast, where I now live. The subject rarely comes up. When some people find out I went to Baylor University, the largest Baptist university in the world, they make their assumptions about my faith. When they find out I’m a lesbian, their assumptions are undone and replaced with another about my absence of faith.

To be from Texas, to be a lesbian, to be a Christian; it’s too contradictory, too confusing. The Baptist schools I went to never made an effort to question this notion of contradiction. If you’re a Christian, you’re saved. If you’re queer, you’re damned.

Recently, more than 3,000 Baylor University alumni, students, and faculty signed a petition in support of Gamma Alpha Upsilon, an LGBTQ+ student group at the university. The university has consistently denied the group official recognition because of Baylor’s human sexuality statement, which says, in part, that “Temptations to deviate from this [biblical] norm include both heterosexual sex outside of marriage and homosexual behavior. It is thus expected that Baylor students will not participate in advocacy groups which promote understandings of sexuality that are contrary to biblical teaching.” read more…

Baylor LGBTQ group supporters say official status could help all students grow in their faith

Newsweek | Jenni Fink | June 26, 2019

Students and alumni at Baylor University are fighting for recognition of a student-run LGBTQ+ organization, which they argue would provide opportunities to challenge world views in an academic space and therefore strengthen students' individual beliefs.

Located in Waco, Texas, the private Christian college aims to provide students with an elite academic and religious education. In 2011, students founded the "official unofficial gay club," now called Gamma Alpha Upsilon, and for years, their charter requests were denied. The rejections haven't squelched the group's mission, though. Now, students, alumni and faculty are once again pursuing official status with vigor.

Baylor isn't the only campus to see students forming united fronts to enact changes to the status quo of their institutions. Students at Brigham Young University, a private school in Utah founded by the Mormon Church, spoke out earlier this year about their negative experiences with the institution's Honor Code Office and advocated for reforms. read more…

Rejection of LGBTQ student group leads to a fight at "unambiguously Christian" Baylor

The Texas Tribune | Shannon Najmabadi | June 26, 2019

The Baptist university has denied a charter to Gamma Alpha Upsilon for eight years, members say.

Gay and lesbian students were hopeful a 2015 policy change could pave their way to more rights at Baylor University, one of the country’s most prominent Baptist colleges.

But four years later, LGBTQ students at the Waco school say they’re still waiting for that recognition to arrive.

Although Baylor eliminated language from its conduct code that characterized “homosexual acts” as “misuses of God’s gift,” LGBTQ students say they remain marginalized — unable to form student groups and barred from accessing student activity funds or reserving campus space for meetings. Baylor has denied a charter to one LGBTQ organization — now called Gamma Alpha Upsilon, or GAY in Greek letters — for eight years, according to the group’s members. read more…

Baylor LGBTQ student group seeks to address regents as alumni advocates organize

Waco Tribune | Rhiannon Saegert | June 22, 2019

Baylor LGBTQ student group seeks to address regents as alumni advocates organize

Though it is summer and the Baylor University campus is quiet, conversations about inclusion continue.

Gamma Alpha Upsilon, an unaffiliated student group that has applied for a charter as an official Baylor student organization, recently wrote a letter to the Baylor Board of Regents asking it to step in on the group’s behalf. Baylor spokeswoman Lori Fogleman said the requests of the regents are still being considered, and the university has no statement at this time.

Hayden Evans, an officer with the group, wrote the letter. read more…

When a university won’t support human dignity for LGBTQ folks

Ethics Daily | Rev. Dr. Richard Groves |  June 6, 2019

“My how things have changed!” said Lia Scholl, pastor of Wake Forest Baptist Church, a congregation that has made its home on the campus of Wake Forest University since 1956.

In March, the church ordained Erica Saunders, a third-year student at Wake Forest Divinity School.

What raised eyebrows in some Baptist circles and blood pressure in others was not that the newly ordained minister was a woman; it was that Saunders was one of the first openly transgender persons to be ordained by a Baptist church.

“Erica is a student at Wake Divinity,” Scholl told Bob Allen, news editor at Baptist News Global, “and has the support of the office of diversity and the LGBTQ Center.”

There was no LGBTQ Center in 2000 when a controversial same-sex ceremony of union – we didn’t call it a wedding in those days because same-sex marriage wasn’t legal in any country in the world – took place on campus in the university’s iconic Wait Chapel.

As pastor of Wake Forest Baptist Church at the time, I participated along with several clergy persons, one of whom was later tried for heresy by his denomination.

The university opposed the ceremony and initially prohibited it. read more…

In defense of prayer at Baylor

Waco Tribune | Will Ward |  May 28, 2019

Since 1854 when Baylor University bestowed its first diploma on a graduate in Independence, Texas, the university has held commencement ceremonies, awarding degrees and diplomas to students who have successfully completed their studies. Being a school in the Baptist tradition, it has long been a ceremonial tradition for a person who has a special relationship to a graduate to pray. There was nothing new about this year’s ceremony when Rev. Dan Freemyer, whose son was graduating that day, walked up to the lectern to pray. What was different is that, in the aftermath of his prayer, writers for certain self-described conservative media outlets publicly criticized the prayer, leading some people to call Baylor University and other Baptist institutions to angrily complain. This complaining group was so convicted in their anger that the university’s leadership has found it appropriate to engage in some level of damage control and to distance itself from the prayer. read more…

Former Baylor regent calls on university to stop discrimination against LGBTQ students

News | Hal Wingo |  June 1, 2019

Once again my alma mater, Baylor University, has stepped into administrative and theological quicksand, this time by refusing to recognize a small group of LGBTQ students as a legitimate campus organization.

As a former regent of the university for nine years, I feel personally obligated to call that decision precisely what it is: institutional sexual discrimination, pure and simple, and it must not be allowed to stand.

These lesbian, gay, bi or transgender students have seen more than enough discrimination in their young lives, and they were seeking from Baylor only a sanctioned, safe place on campus to freely assemble, share their experiences and offer support to each other.

What they got from the administration made clear that Baylor, unsurprisingly, would have none of it. President Linda Livingstone quickly rejected their petition with a reminder of the Baylor code of conduct, that the university is "guided by the Biblical understanding that human sexuality is a gift from God and that physical sexual intimacy is to be expressed in the context of marital fidelity." read more…

Paige Hardy graduated from Baylor with a religion and journalism major last week. In Ethics Daily, she writes about her experience as a sexual assault survivor and now as an advocate and ally for LGBTQ+ inclusion at Baylor and how the two experiences are related. Read her article here:

When You Need Christ's Love, Leave It To The Samaritans

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