On BridgePointLoma’s Facebook page, co-founders Sean Lewis and Melissa Roth describe the group as “A nondiscriminatory community that is dedicated to the well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-gendered, queer, and questioning students.”
“We wanted to form a community and a safe haven for students from these backgrounds and provide a voice to them and their experiences.” said PLNU senior Sean Lewis.
Both Lewis and Roth are currently working to make BridgePointLoma a club affiliated with the Point Loma Nazarene University campus.
“Melissa and I talked to Caye Smith (Vice President of Student Development) during the summer before the school year started,” said Lewis. “And she is surprisingly supportive of BridgePointLoma. But, Caye discourages the club being called a GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) because PLNU doesn’t approve of that certain title.”
PLNU has had its share of dealing with LGBTQ topics. Two years ago, the Director of Spiritual Life, Todd Clayton, openly admitted that he was gay. His supervisor told him that he could keep his job, only if he didn’t promote the lifestyle. A few weeks later, Clayton quit his job. Recently, Clayton was informed about the potential club BridgePointLoma.
“I’m excited! It’s crucial for Point Loma to support people of that background.” said Clayton.
Point Loma also would not allow a similar group that wanted to hold discussions about LGBTQ topics on Point Loma’s campus. This group, called All God’s Children, was founded six years ago to offer a safe space for open conversation on LGBTQ issues and faith. The founders, Dr. Phillip Bowles and his wife Sharon, asked for permission to have meetings on campus, but the request was not granted.
“I felt like this was something that I was called to do,” said Dr. Bowles, “No one was providing a safe place. And considering that this is one of the most talked about topics in society, it’s important for the community to know more.” However, the Administration still did not allow Dr. Bowles to discuss All God’s Children. “I was served a paper stating that as a private citizen I was granted free rights. However, as a professor of a private university I was not allowed to discuss AGC with anyone on campus.”
All God’s Children had its last meeting on September 16 at the Westminster Presbyterian Church located on Talbot Street. Dr. Bowles stated that AGC required a lot of time and effort.
“Sharon and I are weary. We have put personal things on hold in order to have a safe haven.” Not to be discouraged however, Bowles says, “The rest of us need to figure out what it’s like to be LGBTQ. How would we respond to outcasted people? How would Jesus love them?”
“We have been blessed by a number of eloquent voices in the last several years. A number of students came out, and they have told AGC about their experiences and how freeing it is to be real. We should all appreciate the gift of their courage and of their voices.”
Nevertheless, things are starting to change at PLNU. In past years, PLNU’s student handbook stated that,
“In accord with the Church of the Nazarene, PLNU affirms that sexual intimacy is God-ordained and to be practiced within the covenantal relationship of heterosexual marriage. Practices outside of this context may be subject to institutional intervention, which may include student conduct processes.”
Now, the student handbook has changed the statement and replaced it with the following statement that was adapted from the Church of the Nazarene Manual from 20012-2013.
“We believe that all people should be treated with dignity, grace, and holy love, whatever their sexual orientation.”
Current Students also have varying opinions about BridgePointLoma.
“I think it’s great. I think as a campus, we talk about being a supportive community and that’s what this club does,” said Jeff Campbell, a sophomore at PLNU, who supports the idea of BridgePointLoma becoming a club.
However, for other students, the situation is two- sided.
“This issue, for me, starts with the faculty and the double standard that establishing a club like this would set,” said Student Congress Representative, Robert Contreras. “These kids should have a voice, however, under the club environment that our school has set up, it doesn’t belong.”
Contreras continues, “With our school being Nazarene, we should say ‘no’ to a club like this because homosexuality is considered a sin. However, if we are sticking to the bible, we are also called to love everyone like Christ did, which I think President Bob Brower discussed in chapel. Considering that, I think we could all agree that we should not only love these students, but also give them a place to feel loved.”
But some students disagree and say that the club should not have affiliation with PLNU at all. “By having this club on campus, we are inviting a culture and mindset of permitting sin.” said Adam Donason, a sophomore at PLNU. “The world says that tolerance is love, but God says that love is a warrior fighting for our freedom from the bondage of sin. If this culture of apathy is created, we have stopped fighting for the Kingdom of Heaven’s advancement as referenced in Romans 1:32.”
Today, private Christian universities across the country are still wrestling with LGBTQ topics and issues. LGBTQ student groups are accepted at some private Christian universities but more often than not, they are not allowed. And PLNU is no exception.
“BridgePointLoma wants to form loving relationships with people with different backgrounds,” said Lewis, “It’s called loving in tension but with respectful manner. If PLNU is a community that encourages us to form communities, then that is what we will do. A bridge cannot be built from only one side. So let’s start building.”