Students at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA—the largest multi-denominational seminary in the world—are making history by becoming the first evangelical graduate theological school to create an official LGBTQ student organization. In light of increasing news around the struggle of LGBTQ students on Christian college campuses, the progress at Fuller stands as a sign of encouragement.
The groundwork for OneTable—the LGBTQ student group—has been years in the making. Co-president Samantha Curley said the leadership role was essentially handed to her when she became a student. "Our only boundaries were that we couldn't be political, and we couldn't advocate for changing Fuller's stance on LGBT people." Fuller requires all of its students to agree to live abstinent lives until marriage. "The implied policy is that if you're gay, you have to be celibate," she said.
Last semester, OneTable invited Bishop Gene Robinson—the first openly gay bishop in Christendom—to come and speak about his recent film, Love Free or Die. Curley cited the lecture as a huge step for OneTable, and the success of the event prompted them to challenge the comfort of the community a bit more by hosting a weeklong LGBTQ film festival.
"Film is such a safe way to enter difficult conversation," she said. Next week—March 4-9—OneTable will show five films that Curley believes will push the imagination of the evangelical community: Milk (winner of the GLAAD media award in 2009), God Loves Uganda, Pariah (winner of a GLAAD media award in 2012), How to Survive a Plague (nominated for a GLAAD media award this year), and Seventh-Gay Adventist. "Our hope is that as we lay this foundation and set a posture in the conversation," she said, "we can open the Bible and understand our theology with new eyes, before we start jumping to the text."
While the progress may seem small to people outside the evangelical world, those within will undoubtedly recognize the gravity of this step. As a leading evangelical seminary, Fuller prepares future leaders of the church to be ministers and advocates for change. Events like this film festival will ensure that—at the very least—the LGBTQ community will be in the consciousness of these women and men.
"This has been a conversation that has claimed me, way more than I've claimed it," said Curley, a straight ally. One can only trust that others will be equally claimed as LGBTQ students on seminary and Christian college campuses find courage to tell their stories.
GLAAD recognizes the audacity of leaders like Curley, and her co-president Chelsea McInturff, and urges those in the Pasadena area to participate in the film forum. Join us at the GLAAD Media Awards to see if How to Survive a Plague receives the award for Outstanding Documentary.