Context for Erskine’s Statement on Human Sexuality

Posted on February 27, 2015

download-1The recent coverage of Erskine’s Statement on Human Sexuality has generated considerable confusion based on an inaccurate understanding of the nature of the statement and its intent.

This statement describes a position. It does not prescribe a policy and does not ‘ban’ any individual or class of individuals from attending Erskine. No students have been asked to leave Erskine based on this statement.

The statement was not developed or published in response to any individual students, groups of students, or previous media coverage. Conversations regarding a statement on this topic were ongoing for several years prior to its development and approval by the board of trustees.

Furthermore, with respect to all applicable anti-discrimination laws and regulations, Erskine does not discriminate against any protected categories of individuals in the administration of its policies, programs, or activities.

As stated: “Rooted in the historic Evangelical and Reformed Christian tradition, Erskine has always sought to show hospitality and respect to all members of its community, regardless of their religious or philosophical commitments.”

The intent of this statement is not to reverse or undermine this familial aspect of Erskine’s community. Erskine has been and is a distinctly Christian academic community where all types of students are welcome.

Our conduct policies do not stipulate any minimum mandatory sanctions (such as expulsion) for any behavior or belief. Like most colleges, we base our student conduct policies on educational and restorative principles that seek the ultimate well-being of both individual students and the campus community as a whole.

A position establishes a point of reference. People both within and outside the Erskine community will no doubt agree or disagree with a position on any issue. This position statement provides a context for dialogue about these issues and how they affect our campus community.

This dialogue can and should be pursued with civility and respect, as noted in the statement itself.

The statement seeks to address the broader subject of human sexuality — and to do so in keeping with our theological tradition both in terms of content and context for discussion.

Given the theological traditions and interpretations of the Christian scriptures in the broader evangelical church and the ARP Church, this is not an unusual or unexpected position on human sexuality.

Clearly these issues are sensitive. Opinions, convictions, philosophies, and approaches vary widely in the larger culture, within the broader evangelical Christian community, and even within the Erskine community itself, both on and off campus.

It is for this reason that a point of reference is necessary. This position statement gives Erskine a point of reference that comes from our board and is in keeping with their appointment as trustees by the ARP denomination.

What is perhaps most important and most overlooked in the current climate is that the position statement says as much about the context in which the statement is to be heard and received as it does about the position itself:

Erskine seeks to treat all persons justly with grace, dignity, and compassion in the Spirit of Christ….

Erskine recognizes the complexity of current issues regarding sexual morality, marriage, and other expressions of human sexuality such as same-sex attraction, gender identity, and sex outside the covenant of marriage….

…the Erskine community is advised to practice humility and prayerfulness when engaging in any conversations or other actions related to these topics.

Erskine’s conduct policies and procedures seek to uphold biblical standards, promote repentance and grace, and point people to Jesus Christ.

These principles are not perfunctory additions to the statement. They express the genuine intent of the board for how the administration should approach these topics and how the community should interact concerning them. This actually confirms what most of the Erskine community would say typifies how we relate to one another when we disagree.