Fuller Theological Seminary President Mark Labberton on Monday said he stands in support of a weekend Associated Press news piece depicting the acceptance on his campusÂ of the nationâ€™s first LGBT student club sanctioned by a major evangelical seminary.
â€œOneTable at Fuller is one among 24 student-led groups, which can be formed when a number of students express interest in developing a discussion group on campus, such as the current Student Stewardship Group, G3 (Environmental) Initiative, and Students Serving Veterans,â€ said Labberton in a statement posted on the schoolâ€™s web site.â€
â€œOneTable provides a safe place to discuss issues related to sexuality and genderâ€”issues that are vitally important, personal, and fraught with debate that is frequently divisive and contentious, not least in an evangelical context,â€ he said.
According to the July 13 news article, OneTable was founded by Nick Palacios, a 29-year-old openly gay seminarian, in an attempt for gays to be accepted in the broader evangelical community.
“It quickly became apparent to me that I was going to be OK and that I wasn’t going to have to forsake my faith for my sexuality,” Palacios told the Associated Press of his struggle for acceptance. “I really hope that people will see Fuller and OneTable as a model of what the body of the church is supposed to do in this situation.”
According to the Associated Press news article, the clubâ€™s establishment on one of the worldâ€™s large multi-denomination seminaries drew a lukewarm response among evangelical intellectuals.
Richard Flory, a researcher at the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at the University of Southern California, said Fuller’s acceptance of OneTable, while unique, is more about symbolism than about a move toward true tolerance.
“It sounds like they want to have it both ways: Jesus loves you as you are, however there are limitations to what you can be,” Flory told the Associated Press. “It’s like sticking your toe in the deep end of the water to see what happens.”
Moreover, the Rev. Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council, a conservative organization, told the Associated Press that Fuller is not acting in the students’ best interests by sanctioning the group and should instead be teaching reorientation as the students’ best option.
Labberton responded by saying that OneTable “is not an advocacy group to alter seminary policy nor to direct any efforts in that direction. No student-led group .definesâ€™ Fuller’s position, nor does it represent or encompass the many resources that Fuller has to offer.â€
â€œAs our students at Fuller train to become pastors and church leaders and for other vocations, issues about sexuality will likely be asked and discussed with some regularity,â€ he said. â€œOur goal at Fuller Seminary is to help prepare our students to be able to minister lovingly, biblically, and faithfully on this and many other issues as well.â€