The student body president at Central College in Pella, Iowa, has been removed as the leader of a campus Christian group because he recently announced he is gay. "He was basically asked to step down because he didn't agree with our statement of beliefs," said Betsy Loomans, a campus staff worker with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.
Brad Clark acknowledged this fall that he is gay. He remains student body president, but he was asked to step down from his role of organizing worship services for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. InterVarsity is a nondenominational student Christian group with chapters on more than 560 college and university campuses nationwide. The group's Wednesday night worship service attracts 400-500 Central students each week. According to its constitution, the organization does not discriminate on the basis of members' sexual preference but does consider the sexual orientation of its leaders.
The decision has provoked a review of the student organization's constitution by the student government. Some students argued that the group should be kicked off campus because it discriminates against gays. The college, affiliated with the Reformed Church of America, has a nondiscrimination policy that includes sexual orientation. After a lengthy debate, Central's student senate voted 22-12 last week to continue to recognize InterVarsity. But an emotionally charged argument rages on among students and faculty. At issue is how the liberal arts college of 1,528 students can be welcoming to students of different sexual orientations while respecting the religious views of those who believe homosexuality is a sin. The debate over acceptance of gays still is unresolved in many Christian denominations worldwide, including the Reformed Church of America.
Clark said he is disappointed by the vote. "I don't feel it's right or just for them to be recognized as an organization," he said.
A diversity task force made up of faculty, staff, and students is reviewing how the college deals with organizations whose values conflict with Central's policies. "There's an apparent conflict between the college's nondiscrimination policy and the organization and how we view acceptance and respect and how they view those issues," said David Roe, Central's president. Roe said Central's diversity task force was started two years ago because of conflicting beliefs among students of different Christian faiths on campus. "We get students from a variety of backgrounds who don't always understand what it means to exhibit mutual respect," he said.