The Washington Post recently published an article discussing the Statement on Human Sexuality released by Erskine College in South Carolina. According to the Post, the statement is a reaction to an article published nearly a year ago on OutSports.com profiling two out gay students on the school’s volleyball team. In my eyes, Erskine’s statement is unsurprising and fairly typical for a Christian school, however, when viewed through the lens of our current culture, it is seen as hateful and bigoted. The statement doesn’t point out the students by name or even reference particular students. It doesn’t call for gay students to be banned or segregated in any way. In fact, all it really does is say that the Bible speaks of sexual relations between two people of the same sex as sinful and asks that it’s students avoid sinful behavior. While the sinfulness of same sex relations is up for debate in many places today, most churches are still solidly in the same camp as Erskine, but whatever your view on the subject, I don’t see the problem with an organization making their view on a subject known, especially when done with as much graciousness as Erskine has. The statement specifically requests that it’s community “practice humility and prayerfulness when engaging in any conversations or other actions related to these topics” and that they seek to “treat all persons justly with grace, dignity, and compassion in the Spirit of Christ.” That seems a much more loving approach than many others I have seen.
I think the reason that many people have viewed this statement so negatively (the WP’s article includes tweets referring to Erskine as bigoted and comparing it to the Westboro Baptist Church) is a result of the general population misunderstanding what Christians mean by the word sin. In Christian culture, it’s common to be reminded that we all sin, that Christ died for our sins, that man has a sinful nature. Pointing out that someone has sinned, when done with care and proper motives, is seen as an act of love, not one of condemnation. One could say, and I would probably agree, that certain sins have gained more attention than others and been dealt with more harshly and that is an area that I believe the Church needs to grow in, but I don’t see that happening in this instance. Sure, Erskine probably hasn’t released a Statement on Covetousness or a policy on bearing false witness against your neighbor, but I would argue that it’s because those things aren’t topics for discussion in our culture while LGBT issues certainly are. All in all, I applaud Erskine for their gracious discussion of this topic and I hope that their community can have peaceful loving discussions that are fruitful and bring them closer together as brothers and sisters in Christ.