Members of an LGBT group at Belmont University were upset recently with a documentary shown on campus that promoted biblical sexual ethics, an event also criticized by the university provost.
The documentary and a discussion that followed on April 6 were sponsored by University Catholic, another group at the Christian liberal arts college in Nashville. Called “Desire of the Everlasting Hills,” the film relates the story of three people with same-sex attraction who used to be part of the LGBT world but now practice chastity because of their Christian faith.
One member of Bridge Builders, the campus LGBT group, told the student newspaper Belmont Vision, that Belmont “has been very accepting as of late” but that this event made Belmont “look really bad.”Another said, “We were just appalled by the documentary.” Both told the student newspaper that they are Catholics themselves.
Several students were also upset with comments made following the film by psychologist Stephen Hopkins who described circumstances in a child’s upbringing that could contribute to same-sex attraction and said homosexual relationships are inherently more unstable than heterosexual ones.
Members of the LGBT group were angered that university leaders allowed the film to be shown without first consulting with LGBT proponents. They said their viewpoint was not taken seriously when they voiced concerns before the event took place.
Micah Weedman, the director of outreach for University Ministries and the faculty adviser for Bridge Builders, told Belmont Vision that his office allows different Christian groups to “develop their own content and manage their own events with the understanding that no organization speaks on behalf of the university or the Office of University Ministries.”
Weedman said University Ministries encourages “dignified and compassionate debate and discussion around issues of faith and sexuality” and “a university-wide commitment to the safety, thriving and well-being of all of our students, regardless of sexual identity or gender expression.”
However, Provost Thomas Burns told Belmont Vision that he was “disconcerted” by descriptions of the April 6 event and its “over the top” message. He said he was concerned that members of Bridge Builders were not given a fair hearing.
“It feels like we’re endorsing a particular point of view that is requiring a certain set of beliefs when that’s not what we’re supposed to be doing,” he said.
Bridge Builders was officially recognized as a student organization in 2011 after two previous applications were turned down. Earlier in 2011, Belmont added “sexual orientation” to its non-discrimination policy.
Bridge Builders describes its purpose as “fostering community and discussion between the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex and asexual community” and promoting “examination of the intersection of faith and issues of sexuality.”
Hopkins, the psychologist who spoke at the April 6 event, told Belmont Vision that the students’ complaints reflected “a betrayal to their very mission” in that they sought to shut down examination of the issue.
In 2007, Belmont University broke its ties with the Tennessee Baptist Convention over a lawsuit resulting from Belmont wanting to elect non-Baptists to its board of trustees. Belmont describes itself today as a “Christian community with a rich Baptist heritage.”