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Harvard Places Christian Student Group on Probation

Harvard University recently put a Christian student group called Harvard College Faith and Action (HCFA) on administrative probation for a year.

According to The Crimson, the group was disciplined after the leaders asked a member to step down from her position in September 2017. The female Bible course leader and mentor had recently made the decision to date another woman.

The member began the same-sex relationship in the beginning of the Fall 2017 semesters. As a Bible course leader, one responsibility she had was mentoring other members in HCFA. The female member wrote an email to her HCFA mentees about the relationship.

“This person really makes me laugh, makes me feel safe, and can get me to breath[e] again during times of hyperventilating in a really bad panic attack, challenges me to be a better person for myself, others, and God,” she said. “I know a person or relationship doesn’t ‘fix you,’ but I can honestly say that having this relationship has been an incredible support that has helped me get to the point that I am at now.”

In the email, the member admitted, “This person is a girl.” The member said that she and her girlfriend prayed about the relationship and claimed that both “felt at peace” about their Christian faith and the relationship. Both women are HCFA members.

Within a few weeks, HCFA leaders had learned that the member was in a same-sex relationship. Ministry fellow Anne Kerhoulas texted the member on September 11 asking to have a meeting with her the next day. After discussing the situation at the meeting, the ministry fellows decided to ask the member to step down from her position as an assistant Bible course leader.

The Office of Student Life learned about the situation in December. According to college spokesman Aaron Goldman, Harvard University made the decision after conducting a “thorough review.” The investigation found that “HCFA had conducted itself in a manner grossly inconsistent with the expectations clearly outlined in [the Office of Student Life’s] Student Organization Resource and Policy Guide.”

Goldman also said that Harvard University will require the Christian group to provide updated materials indicating their compliance with the university’s rules on non-discrimination in order to re-apply for recognition.

Scott Ely and Molly Richmond, who serve as the co-presidents of HCFA, responded to the university’s claim. The co-presidents told The Crimson, “We reject any notion that we discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation in our fellowship. Broadly speaking, the student in this case was removed because of an irreconcilable theological disagreement pertaining to our character standards.”

The co-presidents of HCFA claimed that they hold all of their members to the same standard, which is celibacy outside of marriage. One of the members of HCFA stated, “Our theological view is that—for professing Christians who are in leadership—celibacy is the only option outside the bounds of marriage.”

HCFA has its character standards outlined in an internal document. While the document doesn’t mention homosexuality, the “Sexual Purity” section of the six-page document recommends that HCFA leaders practice celibacy before marriage. The document also offers general advice about dating. The document says, “Use wisdom in your dating life. Be aware not only of the importance of honoring God in your romantic relationships, but to set a good example and model for other believers who will look to you for implicit guidance as a leader.”

Just five days before HCFA received news of the probation, the student group had hosted an event with Jackie Hill Perry as a speaker. Perry is a Christian spoken word artist who says he was saved from the sins of a homosexual lifestyle. The event was controversial on campus, with LGBT student activists labeling it as “hate speech.” HCFA posted a statement prior to the event stating that it was “not intended in any way to promote homophobia, conversion therapy, or hatefulness in any form.”

The probation has led to mixed responses on campus. Kirsi Anselmi-Stith, co-president of the Harvard College Queer Students, agreed with the university’s decision. Anselmi-Stith said, “We condemn any and all discrimination against BGLTQ+ individuals, and appreciate that the University is taking this situation seriously.”

Other students disagreed with the decision, stating that the Christian student group plays a major role on campus for people of faith. HCFA is the largest Christian group at Harvard University.

~ 1776 Christian

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