Open Letter to Concerned Parents, Alumni, and Friends of Southern Adventist University
December 21, 2018
Last week I wrote an open letter to Dr. David Smith, president of SAU, expressing some specific concerns and asking some specific questions regarding the purpose for and responsibilities of the university’s proposed new position of “Vice President for Unity and Inclusion.”
According to Southern’s advertisement, this Vice President will “provide leadership for areas of campus life that involve diversity. This includes race, gender, sexual orientation and identity . . . The vice president will affirm and nurture a university community and campus climate that values and actively supports equity and diversity. . .”
Like most of you, I was very disappointed with the general and misleading response provided by Southern’s public relations office.
In their statement, in which they attempt to address “misconceptions,” they state: “This position is being created specifically to assist Southern in maintaining a campus environment that exemplifies the highest ideals of biblical community as presented in Jesus’ life and described in Scripture. . . . This new vice president will provide focused attention on applying Scripture to our challenges, such as LGBTQ+ issues, and continuing to uphold GC and NAD policies.”
What is meant here by maintaining “a campus environment that exemplifies the highest ideals of biblical community . . .” is made clear by NAD’s new emphasis on accepting students into Seventh-day Adventist schools who claim one or more of the many variations of sexual and gender identity. It means accepting them for who they identify as—whether gay, lesbian, transgender, queer, other, etc.—and making certain that they are accepted by teachers, dormitory deans, staff, and students alike and that they are “actively supported.”
This approach is made clear in the book, Guiding Familes of LGBT+ Loved Ones (Adventist Edition), distributed by the North American Division at its 2018 Adventist Teachers Convention in Chicago. The book was given to all of its teachers, from kindergarten through the graduate level, encouraging acceptance of all students, regardless of their “sexual orientation” or sexual “identity.”
When Southern’s PR statement says, “This new vice president will provide focused attention on applying Scripture to our challenges,” this doesn’t mean that the new vice president will be encouraging students through empowering Scripture such as 1 Cor. 6:9-12:
“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such WERE some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”
How do we know this to be the case? Because the situation is already playing out on the campus of Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan.
Last year Andrews hired a Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion—Michael T. Nixon, a New York licensed attorney. The types of beliefs and attitudes Mr. Nixon upholds and encourages can be found in a presentation given to the Andrews’ student body on February 1, 2018. He declares, in the context of race relations, “we have to ask Christ to crucify the attitudes and beliefs that we are better than anyone else.” And while we would—and should—agree that not one of God’s children is “better than anyone else,” it is not right when people are labeled as believing or acting as if they are “better than” someone else while they are upholding clear biblical teachings. Standing for the clear biblical teaching that the practice of homosexuality is a sin and should not be accepted and encouraged on the campus of a Seventh-day Adventist educational institution is not elevating yourself over someone else. That position [of Nixon’s] is contrary to our Fundamental Belief #23 and voted statements, as my open letter to SAU made clear.
Nevertheless, not long after the arrival of Mr. Nixon to campus, the Andrews University Board of Trustees approved the creation of an official LGBT+ student support group. In its statement of explanation, the leaders of this flagship Adventist university stated,
“Over the past two years, Andrews University has worked with a team of faculty, staff, students, and church leaders to develop a Bible-based framework that fully reflects Seventh-day Adventist beliefs and values regarding sexual orientation. The resulting document, first published in the 2016-2017 Student Handbook, outlines a commitment to providing a safe, caring and informed campus environment for LGBT+ students.”
The statement continues:
“Research conducted recently by our Andrews University professors found that a significant number of Adventist young adults who identify as LGBT+ have experienced a great deal of suffering and rejection from family members and faith communities. The university’s goal is to engage these students spiritually and support them emotionally as they navigate their sexuality and/or gender identity.”
Again, notice that the purpose is not to help these students gain hope and victory as offered through the Scripture, but rather to “engage these students spiritually” (whatever that means), and “support them emotionally as they navigate their sexuality and/or gender identity.”
The question remains, are these students being given the only reliable compass of God’s Word to help them in their navigation, or are they being left to “beat about upon the rocks of infidelity” (PP 113.4)?
It should be noted that since the hiring of the new Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion, along with the establishment of the official LGBT+ support group on campus, the reputation and enrollment of Andrews University has gone down.
Southern Adventist University
Parents, alumni, and friends of Southern Adventist University, must we just stand by and watch our beloved SAU go down this same path? Must we watch our dear students—entrusted to Southern Adventist University during a critical time in their spiritual development—be indoctrinated with the world’s agenda?
Dr. Smith, I’m still waiting for answers to my reasonable and specific questions, not one of which was answered by your PR office’s response:
Questions For David Smith
1. What does it mean that diversity in “sexual orientation(s) and identity” will be valued and “actively supported” on the campus of Southern?
2. What if my daughter is assigned a roommate who “identifies” as a lesbian, or a transgender, or queer, or . . . and doesn’t wish to room with that person—will she be identified as “homophobic,” or “intolerant,” or “unchristian” and be shamed and/or receive a reprimand?
3. Will religion professors and other professors be allowed to present Biblical teachings on homosexuality, such as 1 Cor. 6:9-12 and similar texts?
4. How will the topic of human sexuality, including homosexuality, be addressed in science classes and in psychology and social work classes?
5. Will Southern follow the new principles in accepting homosexual students as outlined by the NAD, or will Southern support the Biblical teachings and practice illustrated in the document voted by the world church, “Responding to Changing Cultural Attitudes Regarding Homosexual and Other Alternative Sexual Practices” (April 8, 2014) and similar documents?
6. Will the many thousands of dollars I am paying to Southern Adventist University be used to provide a truly solid, Biblical, Seventh-day Adventist education? Or,
7. Will it help to fund an NAD consortium of politically correct but Biblically ambiguous so-called “Adventist” universities who seem to be more concerned about increasing enrollment than the salvation and eternal well-being of the priceless, irreplaceable, precious young people that faithful Seventh-day Adventist parents entrust to them?
Again, I am addressing this in a public way, rather than privately, because what Southern is doing is very public and will affect the well-being not only of my own student, but the many thousands of others as well. I hope that Dr. Smith will demonstrate transparency and show his appreciation for the importance of these questions by providing clear, public answers to them.
Let’s speak up, fellow parents, alumni, and friends—publicly and privately. If ever there was a time our voices need to be heard, it is now.
A now even more concerned parent
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, ...” (Ephesians 6:10-18).