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A Christian counsellor at one of the most prestigious liberal arts colleges in the United States has resigned after admitting she supports same-sex relationships.
Julie Rodgers, a ministry associate for spiritual care in the chaplaincy at Wheaton College, Illinois had described herself as a celibate gay Christian when she was appointed at the start of this academic year.
Among the students she helped were those who sought advice from the college community group Refuge after they struggled with same-sex attraction. She has previously argued that it is possible to be gay and celibate as an "expression of diversity".
Wheaton College did not address the gay issue but said in a statement: "Julie Rodgers recently held a position at Wheaton College. Her work schedule was consistent with the academic year and as such, she finished her time on campus in May. Today, Julie notified the College that she is resigning her position, effective immediately, and will not be returning in August."
Rodgers wrote on her own blog that she had spent 12 years speaking publicly about how she lived as a celibate gay Christian.
She said she had wanted to be "the good kind of gay" and also to do right by the gay youth silently suffering in the pews. "I wanted them to know Jesus loved them and they didn't have to go it alone."
Twelve years later, she writes, she cares less about approval and more about "gayness" and she is also "troubled" by the way human stories are used to further one agenda or another in the "culture war".
She writes: "Though I've been slow to admit it to myself, I've quietly supported same-sex relationships for a while now." She says she struggles to understand how to apply Scripture to the marriage debate today but has become "increasingly troubled" by the unintended consequences of messages that insist all LGBT people commit to lifelong celibacy.
"No matter how graciously it's framed, that message tends to contribute to feelings of shame and alienation for gay Christians. It leaves folks feeling like love and acceptance are contingent upon them not-gay-marrying and not-falling-in-gay-love."
This makes communion contingent upon gays holding "very narrow beliefs" and making "extraordinary sacrifices" to live up to a standard that demands everything from an individual with little help from the community, she adds.
"It's hard to believe our bodies might be an occasion for joy. It's hard to believe we're actually wanted in our churches. It's hard to believe the God who loves us actually likes us."
She says she is not dating anyone and has remained celibate throughout her twenties and asks people to stay with her.
"It's not too late to call it quits on all the fighting. We could choose instead to focus on all we share in common and seek to mend what's been broken in this fragile world."
Denny Burk, Professor of Biblical Studies at Boyce College, the undergraduate arm of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, wrote on his blog: "Rodgers's explanation of her change of heart is long on personal experience and short on Bible. If she has a reasoned biblical rationale for her views, she didn't share it. It shouldn't be lost on readers that other considerations seem to be driving her embrace of gay relationships, not God's word."
He said same-sex behaviour is a "moral evil" and cannot survive biblical scrutiny.
"Embracing celibacy is absolutely necessary for all unmarried Christians - same-sex attracted or otherwise," he added. "Biblical Christianity cannot be reduced to behavioural modification."
He accused her of "drifting from the faith" for some time now and continued: "She is very winsome. So it's not hard to imagine that her influence among students at Wheaton and beyond has been significant over the last year. How much of her theological drift did she pass on to those that she was entrusted to teach?"
He also noted that sexuality and gender is where loyalty to Christ is being tested in our culture and the stakes were high. "More and more, it has become the line dividing the sheep from the goats."
Eric Teetsel of the Manhattan project that promotes traditional marriage wrote on the Patheos blog:
"We must not allow vulnerable students to meander down the alluring path of affirmation, or to shrug off the debate over biblical sexuality as a tertiary theological question not worth the time, effort or strife. Hiring Rodgers and giving her access to students as a voice of wisdom and authority was an error for which Wheaton owes students, parents and the entire alumni community an apology. But, for now at least, that era is over, and for that we can be thankful."
Wheaton College, a private college near Chicago that was founded by abolitionists in 1860, is deeply evangelical while at the same time highly successful academically. It is 20th in the US charts of numbers of graduates who subsequently do doctorates.
Wheaton College describes itself as a complex Christian community of living, learning, and serving that cannot be reduced to a simple model.
In its community covenant the college calls students to live by the Bible:
"We believe these biblical standards will show themselves in a distinctly Christian way of life, an approach to living we expect of ourselves and of one another. This lifestyle involves practicing those attitudes and actions the Bible portrays as virtues and avoiding those the Bible portrays as sinful." Students must "uphold chastity among the unmarried (1 Cor. 6:18) and the sanctity of marriage between a man and woman (Heb. 13:4)."
The covenant states that among other sins, Scripture condemns "sexual immorality, such as the use of pornography (Matt. 5:27-28), pre-marital sex, adultery, homosexual behaviour and all other sexual relations outside the bounds of marriage between a man and woman (Rom. 1:21-27; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gen. 2:24; Eph. 5:31)."