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Forgiving their trespass

"Forgiving their trespass" Continued...

Issue: "History speaks," April 1, 2006

Ms. Jenkins and a friend chatted with three riders about spring break, classes, and the best places to eat in Cleveland. Ms. Jenkins also carefully explained why she believes homosexuality is wrong. Chad Grandy, a 20-year-old rider from Mount Pleasant, Mich., who outlined his beliefs as well, said he was pleased with the conversation and hoped he "planted a seed" with Ms. Jenkins.

When riders showed up at Lee's student union later in the afternoon, they found more students eager to talk. Small groups of students and riders sat scattered around tables in the union and the patio outside, discussing everything from Old Testament law to whether a person is born gay. Christina Vera, a freshman from Atlanta, said she wasn't sure she was up for an intense debate, but that she wanted to "hear their stories and find out how I can pray for them. . . . They're hurting just like everyone else."

Though Mr. Reitan said Lee students received the group well, he was disappointed the administration didn't provide an open forum for the group on campus. Lee University president Paul Conn told WORLD he asked the group not to visit, saying it "wouldn't be constructive." When Equality Ride insisted, Mr. Conn says he told the group they would not be allowed to formally assemble on campus or make presentations: "I told them that we are unwilling to provide any kind of platform that might signify that we regard their viewpoint as having any parity with our viewpoint."

Mr. Conn pointed out that Lee's school policy prohibits not just homosexuality, but all sexual relations outside of marriage between a man and a woman. He says he did offer to stage a debate between representatives of Equality Ride and Lee University. "I even told them I could get it on public access television," he says, "but they refused to debate." He also says he encouraged students to treat any visitors to the campus "with kindness and respect."

On the second day of their Lee visit, Equality Riders staged a "prayer vigil" outside the administration building, singing praise choruses and praying that the school would be more tolerant. Hours before the group left town, several Lee students helped the group scrub an obscenity off the bus left by off-campus vandals the night before.

As the group travels east, other schools are preparing for their visits. Stan Jones, provost of Wheaton College in Illinois, says his school is conducting six preparatory sessions dealing with topics like biblical teaching on homosexuality, and homosexuality in the church. Though Equality Ride "won't have free run of the campus," Mr. Jones says, the school will host faculty-supervised panel discussions. The school wants to strengthen students' understanding of the biblical teaching against homosexuality, he said. The visit, he hopes, will teach students about the "jumble" in mainline denominations regarding homosexuality, "and help them prevent the same thing from happening in the evangelical church."

Scott Davis of Exodus International, a Christian ministry that helps people come out of homosexuality, says Equality Ride's visits are more than complicated challenges for school administrators: "It's very dangerous when a student is struggling with same-sex attraction and a group comes to campus, saying, 'It's great to be gay.'"

Mr. Davis says five schools on Equality Ride's route have asked Exodus to help prepare their students for the group's visits. Exodus has conducted seminars and chapel talks on the pro-gay agenda, the Bible's teaching about homosexuality, how to help a friend who is gay, and interacting with homosexuals with "compassion and kindness" while "not compromising the truth."

Mr. Davis says families, churches, and Christian schools need to foster an environment in which young people struggling with homosexuality can ask for help. "It's definitely a big issue," he said. "Most of the students who call us for help are from Christian schools and universities."

Jamie Dean
Jamie Dean

Jamie lives and works in North Carolina, where she covers the national political beat and other topics as news editor for WORLD. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.

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