Alumni started two opposing online petitions last week, asking the Board of Trustees to take a stand on LGBT issues.
Darren Keyes, a 2000 graduate, said he is among a group of alumni that posted the first petition, called Concerned Alumni for Truth, or CATs. He said the petition had more than 100 signatures within 48 hours before it was taken down by the request of the administration. The petition called for the Board of Trustees to adopt a statement of faith affirming marriage between one man and one woman and requiring faculty and staff to annually sign the statement of faith.
The petition states: “We believe the term ‘marriage’ has only one meaning: the uniting of one man and one woman in a single, exclusive union, as delineated in scripture.”
Keyes said the group researched other Christian universities such as Oklahoma Christian University and Wheaton College, which also have statements of faith.
“Many faith-based organizations are having to confront the accelerating cultural trends,” Keyes said.
Keyes said the group started the petition after hearing the university had hired chaplains connected to Fort Worth-area Galileo Church, which they knew to be LGBT-affirming. According to the church website, its first missional priority is “justice for LGBTQ+ humans.” Travis and Harmony Weber are on the Spiritual Care Team at Galileo Church and were hired as university chaplains in late January. Six days after announcing the Webers were hired, the university announced the Webers had chosen not to take the job.
The CATs petition stated that if the university were to issue such a statement of faith, “such a statement and affirmation could have avoided the Galileo Church situation and would avoid similar events in the future.”
In response to the CATs petition, 2004 graduate Paul Anthony started second petition rejecting the idea of requiring a statement of faith for all faculty and staff, something the university has never done.
“I was pretty appalled and alarmed by that position,” Anthony said.
He said he thought that would be a step backward for ACU in an academic sense. He said he also thought the message toward LGBT people was one of “intolerance” and he wanted to start a new petition that would give a voice to alumni who did not agree with the first petition called ACU Includes.
The petition calls for the university to commit to welcome and love LGBT people while also having honest conversation about disagreements on Biblical interpretations. As of Wednesday, 331 students, alumni, faculty and staff signed the petition.
“Our goal was to make it as broad as possible to get as many people on board,” Anthony said.
The Board of Trustees responded to the petitions by writing a letter to the editor published by the Optimist Monday.
“I do feel like the board took into account the various requests and made the vision to take the action of producing the letter,” said Dr. Phil Schubert, president of the university.
After reading the board’s letter, the Concerned Alumni for Truth released a statement saying they don’t believe the board’s policy “protects the truth.”
“It misleads students and parents to expect a Christian education when, in fact, faculty may be teaching something altogether different,” the statement reads. “Regardless of one’s opinion, every member of the ACU community deserves to know that it appears ACU does not intend to enforce the historic Christian view of marriage, sexuality and gender identity.”
In response to the board’s letter, Paul Anthony said the university seems to be willing to listen a variety of points of view on the issue.
“I was satisfied with the letter,” Anthony said.