Last week, I got a curious tip. Protestants at Georgetown University have been directed to sponsor an event to be "welcoming" to the new campus gay rights center.
Leaders of Georgetown's council of 12 Protestant ministries are meeting Jan. 12 to discuss just how to do this.
I began calling around. Four evangelical Protestant chaplains, all of whom are from ministries that believe homosexual activity is sinful, confirmed they got this mandate from the Rev. Constance C. Wheeler, the lead Protestant chaplain, who was passing along instructions from the president of Georgetown University, John J. DeGioia.
In the fall of 2007, Mr. DeGioia promised the university would fund a center for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and "questioning" (LGBTQ) students within the year. GU Pride, the campus gay rights group, demanded such a center after a Sept. 9, 2007, gay-bashing incident off campus.
Although the 19-year-old sophomore who was first charged with assault later had his charges dropped, that incident led to much soul-searching at Georgetown. One decision was to have a campus resource center for gay students "in a manner consistent with Georgetown's Catholic and Jesuit identity," Mr. DeGioia said.
Its new director -- Shiva Subbaraman -- has been hired, and the Protestants have been asked to conduct at least one joint activity. The ministers with whom I talked said they heard that all religious organizations were being told to do this; however, chaplains for Muslim and Jewish students told me they had gotten no such directions.
"We were never asked to do this," said Imam Yahya Hendi, the Muslim chaplain, adding that homosexual activity is forbidden among Muslims. "We were not asked to be 'welcoming' in any shape or form but to speak out against anti-gay incidents."
Several folks in the Protestant chaplain's office declined comment or ordered their remarks be kept off the record. Ms. Wheeler professed ignorance, saying she'd been out of the office in recent months because of an injury.
The university press office sent me a long letter by Mr. DeGioia on the university's "LGBTQ initiative." Nothing was said about religious groups being instructed to work with the new center.
However, that message was definitely conveyed to the Protestant ministries leaders. Six of these ministries -- all evangelical -- are the same groups that were kicked off campus two years ago after being told all Protestant ministries were being "restructured." After much bad publicity, Georgetown eventually readmitted them.
Now they're being asked to welcome a group some have serious philosophical objections to. Let's turn this around. In the name of dialogue, should gay students be ordered to dialogue with ex-gay leaders? Should Jewish students be told to talk with Jews for Jesus?
I am guessing that won't happen at Georgetown. For now, the evangelical Protestants are looking on the bright side.
"There is no requirement that we endorse or embrace the [gay] lifestyle," said Carrie Whelpley, the Campus Crusade for Christ representative. "The idea behind [the meeting] is there's often tension between campus ministries and [gay] students."
"We've been asked to do one joint activity," said Randy Demary, a leader of the campus' Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship. "We've got a lot of latitude to shape what that event will be."
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