The board of trustees for Azusa Pacific University stepped in to reverse the administration’s recent highly controversial decision to remove the school’s ban on student LGBT romantic relationships. The board complained that the change to the code of conduct had not been approved by the school’s governing body, reinstating the former policy. But what does this southern California spiritual dust up mean for the future of religious freedom? A lot.
As Christianity Today reported, APU had also recently changed key language from an eight-point statement on human sexuality, which declared “homosexual acts” (among others) are “expressly forbidden” by Scripture; “heterosexuality is God’s design for sexually intimate relationships”; and “humans were created as gendered beings” in order to be fruitful and multiply. These revisions remain on the website and were not specifically addressed in the board’s remarks.
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Al Mohler blasted APU, describing Azusa’s changes as a “complete reversal and repudiation of the historic Christian understanding of what romance is to be as defined by Scripture.” Following the reversal, Mohler and other Christian leaders praised the trustees for fulfilling their oversight role by affirming and safeguarding the Christian mission of the institution.
Let’s be clear. The greatest threat to religious liberty is sexual liberty. Christian schools have been under increasing pressure from LGBT student groups like Brave Commons, to create environments on campus that are purportedly more tolerant and inclusive. To its credit, while affirming all students, the APU board in its statement repudiating the LGBT romantic policy clearly and boldly reaffirmed the mission and vision of the Christian University:
“We remain unequivocally biblical and orthodox in our evangelical Christian identity. The Bible serves as our anchor. We stand firm in our convictions, never willing to capitulate to outside pressures, be they legal, political, or social…We pledge to boldly uphold biblical values and not waiver in our Christ-centered mission. We will examine how we live up to these high ideals and enact measures that prevent us from swaying from that sure footing.”
None of this is surprising. As I predicted would occur, Christian colleges and universities have been under a sustained assault by “the tyranny of equality” in California since same-sex marriage “right” was created by the U.S. Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015. And legislation originating in the State Capitol has had religious freedom squarely in its cross hairs ever since. AB 1888 would have removed Cal Grant funding from biblically faithful colleges. SB 1146 would have allowed financially crippling lawsuits to be filed against schools refusing to compromise over LGBT issues. AB 569 would have forced Christian institutions to abandon sexual ethics codes of conduct, or be sued into oblivion. Most recently, AB 2943 would have directly threatened the transformative power of the gospel, including at Christian institutions of higher education, by declaring any services supporting sexual orientation change efforts as “consumer fraud,” resulting in cost- prohibitive litigation. Unfortunately, Christian colleges and universities were slow to oppose AB 1888 and SB 1146, but ultimately engaged. However, AB 2943 was different, with most Christian schools remaining silent. Fortunately, all of these bills were defeated by Christian opposition or were vetoed. But we must never allow ourselves to be divided and conquered by enemies of religious freedom.
So what is a Christian college to do so that it can remain faithful to orthodox biblical Christianity in California? Exactly what the APU board did. Declare allegiance to a higher calling—faithfulness to God and His Word. Yes, it is time for a big “values clarification” wake-up call among God’s people. We need repentance and revival in the church—repentance for unbiblical compromise and sin; revival to a deeper love and faithfulness to God.
But it can’t stop there. They must go further—much further. Many Christian institutions, including APU, under sustained cultural, legal, and political pressure, have been drifting away from biblical fidelity for years, if not decades, and not just in areas directly related to sexual liberty. What happened at APU certainly didn’t happen overnight. It happened over decades of pressure and compromise—death by a thousand paper cuts. This has led us to increasingly conceal the truth of God’s word. Not only do we too often fail to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15), but we also hide the gospel from our friends and neighbors to avoid being called bigots.
It is time for gracious courage and unashamed boldness. It is time for the board of directors of Christian colleges to stop glossing over major theological issues and bring godly oversight and accountability to bear by demanding that each school fully re-aligns itself with biblical truth. This will require a painful deeper dive into the beliefs and practices of these institutions, as well as their faculties and staff.
The stakes are very high. Compromising colleges set a bad example for the church. Fear of man must be resisted and overcome. If Christian institutions of higher education lose their biblical saltiness and light-bearing capacities—their unique Christian distinctiveness—they will become spiritually useless, as some already have, not appreciably different in any measurable way than their pagan counterparts. They will be meaningless, if not undermining, to the greater body of Christ and righteous kingdom causes. Who knows, maybe this long overdue biblical self-examination and re-alignment will lead to lasting revival and reformation. That would be wonderful!
— by Dean R. Broyles, Esq.
Broyles is a constitutional attorney serving as the President of The National Center For Law & Policy (NCLP), an organization fighting to promote and defend religious freedom. Copyright© The National Center For Law & Policy. Reprinted with permission.