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OneGeorgeFox.org http://www.onegeorgefox.org Fri, 23 Sep 2016 01:17:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.5 New Alumni Perspective by Jeremiah La Plante http://www.onegeorgefox.org/2015/06/new-alumni-perspective-by-jeremiah-la-plante/ http://www.onegeorgefox.org/2015/06/new-alumni-perspective-by-jeremiah-la-plante/#respond Wed, 24 Jun 2015 17:07:49 +0000 http://www.onegeorgefox.org/?p=472 Jeremiah La Plante, International Studies (2015), writes:

I came to George Fox as a ‘middle of the road’ Christian on most issues, especially LGBTQ+ issues. I was ‘straight’ though I was different than the other straight people I knew: I watched gay pornography. But I wasn’t gay. Three years before I came to George Fox, my parents had found me with pornography and had sent me to a local pastor to be ‘fixed’ in the words of my father. Luckily, for both the pastor and myself, the pastor didn’t believe in that sort of thing. However, Fox did and continues to do so.

 I have clinical depression; I’ve had it for nearly a decade. With that depression comes waves of suicidal thoughts and ideations. During my first term at Fox, I sought help from the Health and Counselling Centre because of this problem. The therapist assigned to me pinpointed one part of the depression and suicidal thoughts and ideations to the pornography viewing. Her solution was simple: go to ex-gay therapy in Portland because it will help me feel better. The only problem was that I was a minor and was not soliciting this therapy. I never went.

Because I had seen a pastor when I was in secondary school once a week for nearly two years, I assumed that seeing a pastor at Fox would be a good idea. After all, I had developed a good relationship with my high school pastor, so why wouldn’t I develop one with a pastor at a Quaker campus? During my second term, the pastor that I had been seeing gave me a book to read: Wesley Hill’s Washed and Waiting. At first, I thought nothing of it because we had been talking about LGBTQ+ Christians. As I began to read it, he started asking me questions such as, ‘Do you see any similarities between your stories?’ I tried telling him that I was not gay, but he didn’t believe me. He went on to tell me about other LGBTQ+ Christians who had chosen celibacy as their way of rationalising their faith with their orientation. Yet he never believed me that I wasn’t gay.

I’m not gay; I’m asexual and panromantic. I am not a Christian; I am non-religious. Being asexual has its major downsides, and one of those is the intense feeling of loneliness that comes with being the literal ‘Other’ to all other orientations. Where they are sexual, you are not. You will never love them as they love you, and they will never love you as you love them. In the words of another asexual, “I feel like it’s one thing to tell your significant other that you’re not ready to have sex yet and another to tell them you’re *never* going to be ready” (no emphasis added).

My depression continued to become at problem during my second and third terms at Fox, and the school’s response was to violate my FERPA protections and demand my psychological records from the Health and Counselling Centre as well as force me to sign a non-disclosure agreement regarding my freedom of speech pertaining to my personal life. I could only speak about my life to the pastor, my Area Co-ordinator, or a therapist, preferably a university therapist. If I did not turn over my records, sign the agreement, or if I broke the agreement, my status as a student would come under review. Faced with that, I signed the agreement and granted access to my records.

I left Fox after my fourth term because of the rise in tuition as well as because of the treatment that I received, among other things, as an LGBTQ+ student, as a liberal, as a non-religious person, and as a student of Middle Eastern descent. This cannot be allowed to continue. If a student chooses to seek out ex-gay therapy, that is their decision. However, no student should have it thrust upon them—especially as a minor—and no student should have their FERPA rights violated and threatened with expulsion for seeking the community that George Fox prides itself on having. There is nothing ‘Christian’ about this; actually, there sadly is. But there is nothing ‘Christ-like’ about this.

Have an alumni perspective that you would like to share?  Email us at contact@onegeorgefox.org

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Reflections from new Executive Director A.J. Mendoza http://www.onegeorgefox.org/2015/03/reflections-from-new-onegeorgefox-executive-director-a-j-mendoza/ http://www.onegeorgefox.org/2015/03/reflections-from-new-onegeorgefox-executive-director-a-j-mendoza/#comments Sun, 15 Mar 2015 02:24:00 +0000 http://www.onegeorgefox.org/?p=460 Dear OneGeorgeFox,

Three years ago today, a historic thing happened. Students and alumni gathered in Newberg and stood during chapel, with shirts carrying a message that shook the campus to its core.

“God loves you gay or straight. I am a safe person.”

It was that simple. This was no grand coordinated scheme to undermine the moral fabric of society. Together, we did what we could that day to ensure that no person would walk away from that chapel feeling alone and without hope.

Our website went live that day, and the students of Common Ground also made their existence public. For the first time in 127 years, the status quo of the school was visibly challenged. This was important and worth it, and if you were there in person or there in spirit, please take a moment to rest in that truth for yourself.

I am writing to you today to formally announce that I am stepping into the role of Executive Director of OneGeorgeFox. I was humbled and honored when my friend and mentor (who is also the founder of OneGeorgeFox) Paul Southwick approached me and asked if this was something I would be interested in doing. I consider it a privilege to say yes, and it is a responsibility that I do not take on lightly. I know that not every one of you knows me, so I would like to take a moment to introduce myself.

I am 24 years old, live in Gladstone Oregon, and I graduated from George Fox University in 2013 with a degree in History and Political Science. I was the founder and first President of Common Ground, the LGBTQA student organization at GFU. Currently I am working as a Recovery Specialist at a center in Portland for men recovering from severe mental illness. I am a member of the Religious Society of Friends, and my dream someday is to pastor a small Quaker church.

I’ve always seen myself as an unlikely leader. I am short, soft spoken, pretty nerdy, have a nervous laugh, and am extremely introverted. I am not a particularly exceptional orator, and my writing is filled with typos. However, I care deeply about people, and I am not afraid to act in the face of overwhelming odds.

The landscape regarding LGBTQ people at GFU has vastly changed in three years. However, I want to be honest in my assessment of where we are at. There have been incredible victories to be sure, there are openly queer students on campus who are visible for the first time ever. George Fox University found its way onto the front page of the New York Times as the situation regarding fair housing of transgender students was reported. Unfortunately, rather than a compassionate and listening response from the administration, we have seen a doubling down in attempts to discredit and discourage attempts to make the school safer for LGBTQ students. We have seen the staff be threatened with a gag order, and seen that the school is willing to fire a pastor from the very denomination it is affiliated with because he spoke out. We have seen various student government administrations be coopted and quietly ordered by administration to vote down recognizing Common Ground. We have been painted as the enemies of a school that we contributed our time, treasure, and talent to.

So while that might all feel very discouraging, I can’t help but be reminded of part of a dialogue from Middle Earth that I connect to:

Frodo: “I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.”

Gandalf: “So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides the will of evil.”

There are intolerable things that are happening in the dark, and someone must be willing to bear witness to it, and move it all into the light. I am persuaded that you…yes you, the very person reading these words on a monitor or phone at this moment are that person. Does this feel unlikely? Maybe you are thinking, “but I work full time”, “I’m not anywhere close to Newberg anymore”, “I am busy raising my children”, “I don’t have a skill that is useful for this”, “I don’t have any extra money to contribute”, “I am not sure if I am ready to be outspoken at this moment.” or “I struggle with PTSD from my experience, how am I supposed to be an advocate?”

Maybe these things are true for you. I am still persuaded that you are an essential part of moving GFU to the place where it needs to be. I am convinced that you have a skill, a connection, a story, or an experience that will be immeasurably useful. We are a diverse group, and we are unified in an incredibly strong thing, we have a deep love for the LGBTQ students at GFU. Speaking personally, when I was a student at the school who considered ending my life, I can tell you that even something that might feel inconsequentially small, when filled with love, has the ability to save a life. This is work that we must continue doing, baby step by baby step, because every life of these ones who we love is worth it.

I am asking that we creatively imagine what a doubling down of love and nonviolent action on our part would look like. When love is the first motivation, I am convinced that mountains can be moved.

There are exciting things in store for the near future of OneGeorgeFox, in the next few weeks I plan on laying out my ideas for a first year plan as Executive Director, and will always eagerly accept input and ideas that have been stirring within you.

With Love and Hope for the future,

A.J. Mendoza

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George Fox University Denies Transgender Student Appropriate On-Campus Housing http://www.onegeorgefox.org/2014/07/george-fox-university-denies-transgender-student-appropriate-on-campus-housing/ http://www.onegeorgefox.org/2014/07/george-fox-university-denies-transgender-student-appropriate-on-campus-housing/#respond Sun, 06 Jul 2014 19:34:51 +0000 http://www.onegeorgefox.org/?p=456 What happened? George Fox University denied an African-American, transgender student named Jayce the appropriate on-campus housing he needs. The university allowed Jayce to live on-campus in a single apartment by himself or to live with other male students off-campus. Jayce has fully transitioned from female to male socially, medically and legally.

When did this happen? On February 12, 2014, Dean Mark Pothoff told Jayce that his initial decision was that Jayce needed to live with females the following year. On February 24, 2014, after Jayce and his mother implored the university to think of Jayce’s best interests, the university refused to change its mind with respect to on-campus housing but allowed Jayce to live off-campus with other males, at least on a temporary basis. Jayce then appealed this decision to university president Robin Baker. On April 3, 2014, President Baker denied Jayce’s appeal.

What happened next? Jayce’s mom started a Change.org petition that now has over 20,000 signatures. http://www.change.org/petitions/george-fox-university-stop-denying-my-transgender-son-appropriate-on-campus-housing Jayce and his supporters also held a rally near campus that drew attention to the university’s discriminatory decision.

Stay tuned for further updates on Jayce.

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“Faith, Sexuality, and Identity” Event at GFU November 7 at 7:00 PM! http://www.onegeorgefox.org/2012/10/faith-sexuality-and-identity-event-at-gfu-november-7-at-700-pm/ http://www.onegeorgefox.org/2012/10/faith-sexuality-and-identity-event-at-gfu-november-7-at-700-pm/#respond Wed, 24 Oct 2012 01:35:47 +0000 http://www.onegeorgefox.org/?p=434 OneGeorgeFox is excited to announce that George Fox University has agreed to host a panel discussion on campus concerning faith and sexuality that will include voices from the LGBTQ-affirming perspective of OneGeorgeFox. The event is entitled “Faith, Sexuality, and Identity: A Conversation” and will occur on Wednesday, November 7 from 7-8:35 p.m. in Hoover Academic Building 105 (lecture hall). Driving directions and a campus map can be viewed at www.georgefox.edu/maps_locations/newberg.html (about a 45 minute drive from Portland, it will be worth it!).

One of the panelists providing an LGBTQ-affirming perspective is Nathan Meckley, the pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church of Portland. Pastor Meckley and MCC Portland have been strong allies of OneGeorgeFox and Common Ground. In addition, Judge Darleen Ortega, an alumna of GFU, current Oregon Court of Appeals judge and founding member of OneGeorgeFox, will provide the other LGBTQ-affirming perspective.

Presenting on behalf of the university’s viewpoint will be Erica Tan (psychologist, George Fox adjunct faculty member) and Gerry Breshears (pastor and professor, Western Seminary). The official GFU statement on OneGeorgeFox and LGBTQ issues can be found at www.georgefox.edu/onegeorgefox/

OneGeorgeFox is extremely grateful to GFU for this opportunity to have a genuine dialogue on campus concerning faith and sexuality. This is a historic opportunity and we urge members of OneGeorgeFox to show their support for current LGBTQ students by attending this event.

If you have any questions or would be interested in meeting up after the event for an informal OneGeorgeFox get together, please email us at contact@onegeorgefox.org. See you November 7!

Paul Southwick
OneGeorgeFox

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New Alumni Perspective by Phyllis George Kirkwood, Class of 1959 http://www.onegeorgefox.org/2012/06/new-alumni-perspective-by-phyllis-george-kirkwood-class-of-1959/ http://www.onegeorgefox.org/2012/06/new-alumni-perspective-by-phyllis-george-kirkwood-class-of-1959/#comments Thu, 07 Jun 2012 20:03:26 +0000 http://www.onegeorgefox.org/?p=408 Phyllis George Kirkwood, Elementary Education (1959), writes:

The  letter to the George Fox University community presents the issue both to students and the university in a compassionate and supportive way. When a new student policy came out about three years ago, I contacted the administration about their attitude toward gay students. It did not seem that Jesus would have had this policy.  I was told that I had a different interpretation of scripture than they; but it was at George Fox that I learned God loves all people very dearly, and all knowledge is God’s. I carried this with me into my teaching career.

I believe the misunderstanding lies not in Biblical interpretation but in ignorance about the sexuality continuum that is a God-given part of our whole selves and so fundamental to each person’s happiness. People do not wake up some morning as a teenager and say to themselves, “I think I’ll be a homosexual,” as if it were something fun to do. As some have written in these blogs, they knew when they were four years old or maybe third grade. They knew they were different, and being different subjected them to insults in school. In their church, they learned that they were sinful just by being who they were, and there was no place for them in God’s Kingdom. Their career choices would be limited. People would be afraid for them to be around children. Who would want to be a homosexual?

When our son was born, a chromosome test had to be done to determine his sex. We were told that the condition was common, but people didn’t talk about it. Kind, knowledgeable doctors and nurses walked us through several surgeries. During my pregnancy, I temporarily developed facial hair and a deeper voice, and my chest went flat.  I believe that I received some of his male hormones.  He has feminine characteristics and is slight of build, and at age 15 underwent a bi-lateral mastectomy. He endured more than I know of teasing in school and in adulthood was mistaken for a woman until he decided to grow a beard.  Still his bank won’t talk to him over the phone.  He has never come out as gay, but I would not have been surprised.  Fortunately, he has many enduring friends.

Since we at GFU are a university on a mission to discover truth in the many academic areas, I challenge the biology department to study the continuum of sexuality and relationship of hormones in human formation. Such a study of how we are wonderfully made will surely bring some “My Lord and my God” moments.  And then may we also get down on our knees and beg forgiveness for the way we have treated people whom God has created differently.

Have an alumni perspective that you would like to share?  Email us at contact@onegeorgefox.org

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New Alumni Perspective by Heather Griggs http://www.onegeorgefox.org/2012/05/new-alumni-perspective-by-heather-griggs/ http://www.onegeorgefox.org/2012/05/new-alumni-perspective-by-heather-griggs/#comments Mon, 07 May 2012 17:59:40 +0000 http://www.onegeorgefox.org/?p=394 Heather Griggs, Nursing (2011), writes:

We have (or had) the privilege of attending a university that values community. George Fox University’s website is full of emphasis on community. The introduction to the Community Lifestyle Statement includes the following statements: “As a community we encourage and teach our members to follow Jesus Christ and be collaborators in God’s work in the world. We urge each member to become the kind of person and live the kind of life that Jesus taught and modeled….We believe the Bible teaches that all persons are created in God’s image and that God actively seeks renewed relationships with every individual. We are bound therefore to regard each person with love and respect (Romans 12:9-21, 1 Corinthians 13, Ephesians 4:32). So we avoid discrimination, abusive or manipulative actions, and gossip or mean-spirited behaviors. We seek actively to honor each person, loving and serving one another as Jesus taught us” (www.georgefox.edu).

 This is a summarized presentation of how community at George Fox is based on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. Community at GFU extends beyond this agreement, to include floor bible studies, small group worship meetings, clubs, a garden, community service, etc. The opportunities to connect seem endless. However, it comes to an abrupt halt.  Right after the proud claim to community, George Fox goes straight to delineating their stance on sexuality. They make a very clear declaration that sex outside of a loving, committed, heterosexual marriage is unacceptable on this campus. In one exclusive sentence, LGBTQ students are silenced. This does not foster community: it stifles any honest discussion from happening in the open, and paints a “we’re all straight here!” veneer for any concerned parents and students.

We are failing a specific group of students: those who identify themselves as gay and lesbian. Contrary to what many unaware Christians may assume, gay students do attend George Fox. However, they don’t have a place in community here, because their voices are not allowed to be heard. Because George Fox is in fact neglecting the very community they claim to nurture. How Christians will react to homosexuality is at the heart of this generation. We must find ways to interact, engage, and discuss. We cannot bury our heads in the sand any longer, or waste our breaths on useless, so-called compromises. We all want to love and be loved in return. Fifty years ago, it was interracial marriages making waves. Stop caving to evangelical peer pressure, for these are the waves worth making today. Raise the bar, and intentionally seek out ways to welcome rather than reject.  Cultivate and foster a community that will guide individuals towards the light of Christ rather than slamming the church doors in their faces.

Silencing is the first step to violence. We know this from studies done about gender, racial, and ethnic inequalities. We know this from studies on genocide, terrorism, and war.  Because the bottom line is, it’s easy to dismiss, judge, hate, or simply pretend it doesn’t affect you when “they” don’t exist. But “they” do exist. “They” have names, faces, souls.  I have several gay, lesbian, bisexual, and questioning friends, all of whom I met quietly during my time at George Fox. I have not been corrupted, “turned,” or had a “gay agenda” shoved down my throat, as some would claim. What I have gained is the deep knowledge that we are all human. And that we all deserve to have our voices heard. And that we all are seeking a place to belong. And that God’s kingdom, of all the places in this life, ought to be the strongest place of belonging.  George Fox claims to foster community. My challenge to you, George Fox, is to live up to that claim. After all, we all want to figure out where we fit in God’s great kingdom, and “Be Known” for who we really are.

Have an alumni perspective that you would like to share?  Email us at contact@onegeorgefox.org

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New Alumni Perspective by Ron Parrish, former GFU Professor of 22 years http://www.onegeorgefox.org/2012/04/new-alumni-perspective-by-former-gfu-professor-of-22-years/ http://www.onegeorgefox.org/2012/04/new-alumni-perspective-by-former-gfu-professor-of-22-years/#comments Thu, 05 Apr 2012 20:35:42 +0000 http://www.onegeorgefox.org/?p=378 Ron Parrish, professor at George Fox University (1989-2010), writes:

Aloha! This is an honor to share with you either in joy or agony or coming up for air in our struggle with our identity. Thanks to Paul Southwick and a Newberg pastor, I became aware of OneGeorgeFox and Common Ground and attended the meeting on March 14, 2012, Wow! It was just great and mostly in its timing for me in my journey. So, what about my journey? I was born and reared with an older sister and younger brother in Oregon. My father was a pastor in The Christian Church and my mother, an excellent Administrative Assistant and Pianist. I took care of my mother and father for 25 years and remained silent during those years about my identity.

My early moments with my mother and father were: “All homosexuals should be taken out and shot! (Dad) and “Don’t touch girls!” (Mom) so from that I went to Northwest Christian University in Eugene, then to Lewis and Clark College and finally to the University of Hawaii in Honolulu. Along the way I taught English as a Second Language (ESL) from 1974 when I was in the Peace Corps in Bangkok, Thailand. There is where I first came to look at myself and my identity. I came out to my brother and sister by tape. I never came out to my father. My mother played “Whistler’s Mother” (the shadow in the window) and was reading my Playgirls and diaries. She ordered me out of the house but changed her stance to “Don’t ever say anything to your father!” and that was the last time my mother and I spoke of it. Even so, my mother was my best friend and I took care of her with joy and honor until her death in 2007.

During my years as a teacher at George Fox University (1989-2010) in the English Language Institute, I worked with international students in drama and musicals and also as a speech teacher. Silence is the key to being a faculty member at George Fox so that is what I did. It was not until the gathering organized by Paul and Common Ground that I felt secure enough to send many friends, family members and colleagues an invitation to the meeting on March 14. One friend responded! My sister is mostly affirming; my brother and his wife are not; one of my nephews is not and the other has become more open due to his being a professional counselor.

So, here I am at 72, going on 73 May 1 and on April 26 Equality Riders are coming to George Fox University as an early birthday present! Yes, live with our Lord in the Present! Peace be with you! I am there for you all as I can be of help and encouragement. A hui hou (until we meet again).

Have an alumni perspective that you would like to share?  Email us at contact@onegeorgefox.org

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New Alumni Perspective by Ryan Blanchard http://www.onegeorgefox.org/2012/03/new-alumni-perspective-by-ryan-blanchard/ http://www.onegeorgefox.org/2012/03/new-alumni-perspective-by-ryan-blanchard/#comments Mon, 26 Mar 2012 22:39:24 +0000 http://www.onegeorgefox.org/?p=366 Ryan Blanchard, B.A., Philosophy (2003), writes:

I am a straight man, but I wasn’t always sure.

My first experience of a sexual nature was when I was 12. So was he. We didn’t know exactly what we were doing, but I knew it felt sinful. Throughout middle school I found myself developing feelings and attractions to lots of people, boys and girls alike. I can’t express how much shame accompanied these feelings. Because of how strongly I clung to my faith, I couldn’t tell anyone what I was feeling. Every single support person in my life would have condemned my feelings as evil. It was not an option to be attracted to other boys. It was sin, and I just hoped it would pass with time. I blamed it on puberty, on my experience as a 12 year old with curiosity, on anything I could besides the obvious. Despite what I wanted and believed in, I had feelings and attractions for people of the same sex.

By freshman year of high school, I was in full-blown depression. I was incredibly afraid that I was destined to desire men for the rest of my life. I spent a lot of my evenings by myself, in my room, listening to the first Jars of Clay album on repeat. I’d cling to lyrics like “he loves you, he needs you, he wants you,” in hopes that this is really how God felt about me, and that he would have mercy.

At the end of freshman year, my feelings towards my male classmates disappeared. I can’t explain how it happened. One week they were there, the next they weren’t. Gay intimacy went from seeming desirous to seeming strange. What I thought was a curse I would have to endure ended up being (most likely) just a normal part of going through puberty. Those feelings have never returned.

I tell this story because the conclusions I’ve reached as an adult are worth living by. Those feelings I had, that I would have done anything to eliminate, were not my choice, and I shouldn‘t have had to fear rejection from my family and friends. I had no more control over them coming than I did for them leaving. But the faith I embraced for all of my youth and into early adulthood would call those feelings sinful. And evil. And an abomination. And the people I worshipped with, myself included, would have denied people with those feelings the same rights, acceptance and privileges afforded to straight people, who also have not chosen their attractions.

My faith was the source of my guilt. As an adult I’ve come to realize that faith means a lot of things, but it must not be allowed to be the source of a person’s guilt and shame. We must not write tithe checks with the same hand we vote down gay rights. We must not tolerate the idea that a loving God would create someone with feelings they are not permitted to have. I no longer have faith in a deity, but that’s not the point. Having faith and accepting all people are not rival ideas.

Those in the LGBTQ community that have kept their faith, or have dared to attend a school like George Fox, are incredibly brave. But they shouldn’t have to be. I am committed to fostering a society where nobody has to be ashamed of who they are or how they feel. The mission of OneGeorgeFox is vital, and I’m proud to be a part of it.

Have an alumni perspective that you would like to share?  Email us at contact@onegeorgefox.org

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New Alumni Perspective by Jeff Bineham http://www.onegeorgefox.org/2012/03/new-alumni-perspective-by-jeff-bineham/ http://www.onegeorgefox.org/2012/03/new-alumni-perspective-by-jeff-bineham/#comments Wed, 21 Mar 2012 17:33:25 +0000 http://www.onegeorgefox.org/?p=353 Jeff Bineham, B.A., Communication Arts (1980), writes:

I attended George Fox from 1976 to 1980, and during that time I met only one student who I knew to be gay.  She was eccentric and eloquent and remarkably honest about her orientation, and she disappeared from campus after one semester.  I think I treated her kindly.  I know I judged her harshly.

My judgment, which I never voiced to her but which I’m sure she could sense, was that her sexual orientation made her guilty of a sin.  I was certain my judgment was correct because I believed the Bible pronounced absolute truths, I believed I knew what those truths were, and I believed they indicated clearly that anything other than heterosexuality was wrong.

My thinking stopped there.  I had little sense of how the conditions of time, place, and culture influenced the writing or the reading of scriptural texts, and I thus accepted uncritically what my tradition had passed on to me.  I did not ponder in any depth what those texts actually said about gay and lesbian relationships.

The Bible mentions homosexuality in only a few passages, and in each case it condemns or forbids the actions in question.  That’s probably why many believers judge homosexuality so harshly.  The Bible is, after all, Christianity’s classic text; no one, Christian or not, would deny its special status.  But that status does not free us from the difficulties of interpretation and the quandaries of deciphering which biblical principles apply to us now and which do not.

Surely we can exclude from consideration one of the most commonly cited passages – Genesis 19, which recounts the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.  In this story, angels visit Lot and are threatened by his neighbors with gang rape.  Can anyone honestly conclude that this account contains moral judgments about committed gay or lesbian relationships?

Other Hebrew Scriptures appear to be unambiguous condemnations of homosexuality.  Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 combine to say that on penalty of death, a man “shall not lie with a male as with a woman.”  Many are quick to apply this judgment today, but do so without considering that Hebrew Scriptures state numerous principles that few believe should apply in contemporary society.  They forbid sex during menstruation, for example, and consider both semen and menstrual blood to be unclean; atonement is required of anyone who touches either (Leviticus 15:16-33).

Polygamy is the norm in Hebrew Scripture:  Abraham married both Sarah and Hagar, and Jacob purchased and married both Leah and Rachel.  The texts convey no sense that polygamy, or purchase, carry a moral stigma.  And when a married man died it was his brother’s responsibility to marry and have children with the widow.  No one argues that this biblically mandated responsibility applies in contemporary Jewish or Christian communities.

Hebrew Scripture contains numerous additional laws that govern marriage and sexuality, many of which we would consider ridiculous.  Deuteronomy 25:11-12 states, “If men get into a fight with one another, and the wife of one intervenes to rescue her husband from the grip of his opponent by reaching out and seizing his genitals, you shall cut off her hand; show no pity.”  This severe punishment was administered to offending wives because they were men’s property, listed alongside the neighbor’s house, slaves, ox, and donkey as something one should not covet.

The Christian New Testament also makes pronouncements against homosexual behavior.  Romans 1:26-27 describes “dishonorable passions” and “shameless acts”:  “women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another.”

Several theologians claim that these verses do not condemn homosexuality.  The first century writer had no concept of sexual orientation, and presumed heterosexuals in lustful fits of passionate frenzy committed homosexual acts.  The verses say nothing, therefore, about loving and committed relationships between innately gay people.

The other common New Testament references are I Corinthians 6:9-10 and I Timothy 1:9-10, which contain lists of sins that include “sodomy,” a term many interpret to mean homosexuality.  Theologian Robin Scroggs, among others, argues that the Greek words used in these lists refer to pederasty, a practice in which men took young boys as protégés and sexual partners.  Scroggs concludes that “the homosexuality the New Testament opposes is the pederasty of the Greco-Roman culture” and that Paul’s judgments against homosexuality therefore do not apply to consensual relationships between gay and lesbian adults.

Many Christians will dismiss these interpretations as wrong-headed efforts to reread the Bible.  And I do not, in fact, think these “rereadings” are definitive.  They should, however, make us less certain about the dominant interpretations of these texts, and prompt us to consider that those who used the Bible to justify slavery, segregation, and the subordination of women believed with certainty that their interpretations were absolutely true.

In the few places where the Bible mentions homosexual behavior its evaluations are decidedly negative.  Does that mean that those who take the Bible seriously should define as sinful every gay or lesbian relationship we encounter today?  Or can we admit, to begin, that the way we read these texts has as much to do with what extra-biblical sources have taught us as with what the texts themselves say?

Since I left George Fox, I have of course learned that the one student I knew to be gay represented many others, some of whom were close friends then and remain friends now.  They dared not share this one important dimension of their being, because they rightly feared the repercussions.  If only, in light of the uncertainty surrounding the verses people typically cite about this issue, I’d opted for a scriptural sentiment that seems more sure:  For all the law is fulfilled in one word; thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

Have an alumni perspective that you would like to share?  Email us at contact@onegeorgefox.org

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OPB’s “Think Out Loud” Covers OneGeorgeFox Live Tomorrow at 9:00 AM http://www.onegeorgefox.org/2012/03/opbs-think-out-loud-covers-onegeorgefox-live-tomorrow-at-900-am/ http://www.onegeorgefox.org/2012/03/opbs-think-out-loud-covers-onegeorgefox-live-tomorrow-at-900-am/#comments Mon, 19 Mar 2012 19:24:42 +0000 http://www.onegeorgefox.org/?p=343 OPB Radio FM Stream. You can [...]]]> Tune in to OPB’s “Think Out Loud” show tomorrow (Tuesday) morning at 9:00 AM to hear Paul Southwick from OneGeorgeFox discuss the organization’s efforts and goals. The show airs on 91.5 FM in Portland and Newberg and you can access a live stream at OPB Radio FM Stream. You can also post comments now at OPB’s Think Out Loud. A current GFU student and an administrator from George Fox will also be participating in the show.

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