On the same day President Obama became the first U.S. president to come out in support of same-sex marriage, a group of students announced the presence of the “Biola Queer Underground” at this small evangelical university, touching off a highly-charged debate about Christianity and homosexuality. The group launched a website and posted flyers around the Biola University campus May 9 with the following message: “We want to bring to light the presence of the LGBTQ community at Biola. Despite what some may assume, there are Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgender, and Queers at Biola. We are Biola’s students, alumni, employees, and fellow followers of Christ. We want to be treated with equality and respected as another facet of Biola’s diversity.”
The emergence of the group, whose members remain anonymous, has shaken this 104-year-old Christian college in Southern California. Like many schools rooted in evangelical Christianity, Biola has a code of standards that includes prohibitions on sex outside of marriage and same-sex relationships: Sex is “designed by God to be expressed solely within a marriage between a husband and wife,” according to Biola’s student handbook, which goes on to say that “sexual misconduct, depending on the facts and circumstances of each case will result in disciplinary action.”
With debate raging over the group and its aims, Biola President Barry Corey told students that the school has no intention of changing its policy to “fit increasingly accepted ethical or moral norms. In particular, we don’t need to modernize or bend our biblically based position on sexual ethics.” The school also issued a new statement on “human sexuality” which calls same-sex relationships “illegitimate moral options for the confessing Christian.” The statement was in the works before the gay group announced itself, but BQU said it showed the “one-sided” nature of the conversation, with no room for those who believe homosexuality isn’t sinful.
The group said they have received hate mail and they call some of the comments expressed in the school newspaper so painful that they had to quit reading it. One of them read, “If you embrace the lifestyle, you are at odds with God and scripture, and it is extremely doubtful that you are a Christian.”
“We get questions, ‘Why are you even in school, Why are you causing a ruckus, Why don’t you just leave?’” one of the members told us. Not discouraged, the members of the gay group say they are here to stay. And, they added, they have received plenty of support in the community and around the country. “In some ways I’m shocked at how horrible people can be, but I’m also shocked at how wonderful people are too,” said one.
They draw comfort in the fact that more Americans now support than oppose same-sex marriage, according to a recent Gallup poll, and are convinced that Biola will eventually “come around.” School officials already are looking ahead to next year, when Biola celebrates its 105th anniversary, and they said plans are in the works to facilitate an “ongoing conversation” with students about homosexuality.