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I had been a gay Christian blogger for several years when Wheaton College reached out to me in June of Anxious but earnest, I agreed to it after a transparent round of interviews where I highlighted all the reasons that I, an openly gay blogger, might not be the best fit for Wheaton. The director of human resources said they knew what they were getting into and I was the ideal candidate for a rigorous liberal arts college with a diverse student body expressing a range of needs.
At the time, I was still kind of conservative on sexual ethics: I longed to be a part of communities like Wheaton and I thought a commitment to celibacy was worth it if it meant I could be involved. Private meetings with the president and provost were routine for me within weeks of my appointment in September During my first week at Wheaton, President Philip Ryken approached me with concerns about a blog post I had retweetedand he encouraged me to lay low on social media.
The blog post in question asked Christians to calm the scrutiny when it comes to gay people—a point that was lost on conservative alumni like Eric TeetselDirector of Faith Outreach for the Marco Rubio campaign, who was outraged by my hire and relentlessly monitored my social media activity. The second week I found myself at lunch with President Ryken, where he cautioned me about proceeding with any public speaking or writing. If I was faithful in quiet ways, I remember him saying, then God might give me a more public platform down the road. Because I was already a fairly well-known blogger by the time Wheaton hired me, I had been slated to speak at some of the most prominent Christian conferences in the country: two national conferences with Q Ideas, two with Youth Specialties, and several chapel addresses at other Christian colleges.
Meanwhile, students retreated to my office non-stop. One student broke out in hives when we discussed the possibility of coming out. One found the strength to replace cutting with long walks in the cold. Wheaton College is a model for Evangelicals in many ways. They know they need to welcome diversity in order to be relevant. More than that, they want to welcome diversity because our world is diverse and every human matters.
Wheaton showed extraordinary courage when they hired me. Even though I could the Community Covenant at that time, I was a risk—a risk they took because they care about their gay students and know they need an advocate. Then they unload their fears about how much they would lose. Wheaton felt the weight of that risk. I exchanged countless s with President Ryken and Provost Stan Jones during my first semester on the job. They asked me to say I was simply a Christian who experienced same-sex attraction, one who was open to the Lord healing me in ways that could lead to a holy marriage with a man.
I had finally come to believe it was good to be gay, that God actually delights in those of us who are gay. We tried to work it out. In December I crafted a personal statement heavily edited by President Ryken and Provost Jones to assuage the concerns of anxious critics.
The article, never published, offered a positive narrative for gay Christians and encouraged the church to celebrate the presence of LGBT people. But on a midday walk around campus in the cold with Taylor, I gathered that she was concerned the college would make a public display of the controversy the article would create. My sense was that if I moved forward with publishing, the administration would use it as an opportunity to say they made a mistake in hiring me but they took care of the mistake.
He said he could see a situation in which I would choose to re. I swallowed to suppress tears. The college had hired me precisely because I was gay and they needed someone to care for LGBT students. I asked him what the reation process would look like and said I would never initiate such a thing. He said it would be the kind of situation where the reation would be my own choice, and he would commend me for ministry opportunities elsewhere.
He said he knew I wanted the best for Wheaton. Larycia Hawkinswhom I know personally. Her choice to stand in solidarity with Muslims eventually led to her and Wheaton parting ways. We now know there were white professors who said the same thing she said, but they were given the opportunity to co-write statements with the provost that put them back in good graces.
While Dr. Hawkins and I were scrutinized for different reasons, our stories have this in common: we urged Christians to stand with and for groups that sit at the center of political debates. And we did that as women, one black and one gay. Wheaton has shown flashes of courage and their choice to hire me was a brave one. Hiring me for the reasons they initially said they did was an opportunity for them to communicate to LGBT students that God loves them and Wheaton wants them. As I kept quiet and covered for the college, I began to feel like I was participating in the oppression of the very people I longed to support.
My experience with the administration confirmed a quiet concern that had grown for years: that traditional views of marriage were often rooted in something other than sincere Christian convictions. Their anxiety was about my existence. I reed from Wheaton during the summer of and began publicly advocating for same-sex marriage in the church. The same conversations happen quietly behind closed doors all over the country. The stories of the earnest students that sat in my office were sacred, and the people they yearn to please have sent a message that, at best, they might be kind of tolerated one day.
If gays commit to never date or marry, if they keep their stories quiet, if they remain theologically conservative and they war against their gayness, then maybe they can kind of stick around. They need to be celebrated. They need to be protected by people with power. They need to hear, more than anything else, that God sees them and God loves them.
The school sent the following statement:. Early in her time at Wheaton, it became clear that Ms. For that reason, College administrators encouraged her to learn the College community so that she would understand the impact of her writing, speaking and social media activity. They asked that in referring to herself as gay, Ms. Rodgers also be clear about her moral commitments related to the Community Covenant. She was not asked, encouraged, or pressured to re. Her communication of her reation followed the publication of a blog post that announced a ificant change in her views on integrating Christian beliefs and same-sex issues.
at letters time. Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill. By Julie Rodgers. TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary on events in news, society, and culture.
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How a Leading Christian College Turned Against Its Gay Leader