by Megan K. Mertz
There’s a battle taking place on America’s college campuses. Unbiblical viewpoints, especially those on issues of sexuality, are gaining ground among the nation’s young adults — even among those that come from Christian homes.
To educate Lutheran college students and campus-ministry workers on some of these issues, LCMS U, the Synod’s campus-ministry arm, held “TABOO” Jan. 5-7 at Saint Louis University (SLU) in St. Louis. The conference addressed the issues of marriage and sexuality, including homosexuality, dating and defending the traditional view of marriage.
Approximately 475 college students and campus-ministry workers from some 100 colleges and universities around the country attended TABOO, and several attendees had the chance to immediately put what they were learning into practice.
Confrontation at the Conference
But Lutheran college students weren’t the only ones interested in the conference. On the final day, SLU’s LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning or queer) student group, Rainbow Alliance, set up a table outside the lecture hall with a sign that read, “Our love is not taboo.”
At the suggestion of a college student who was attending TABOO, the Rev. Eric Andræ, assistant chaplain at the conference and LCMS campus pastor at various schools in Pittsburgh, and Shana Ziolko-Marting, director of the Lutheran Campus Center at Northwest Missouri State University, bought the students hot chocolate on behalf of the conference.
This simple act started a conversation that lasted more than two hours and included about a dozen people on each side of the issue.
“They had a lot of misunderstandings about what we are really all about in terms of what love is, what repentance and forgiveness are, what hate is and is not, what the Bible actually teaches,” Andræ recalled.
“One of the students said, ‘I don’t think you realize how hard it is. You’re asking [homosexuals] to be celibate for life,” he continued. “I said, you’re right. I can’t imagine it. All I can tell you is you won’t be alone. We’re willing to walk with you as you struggle under that burden and to support you and hear you. And the Lord will be with you.”
Ziolko-Marting called the experience “very positive.”
“We weren’t just talking about the issues on an island, we got the chance to experience it and do that ministry,” she said. “Talking, being civil, not yelling — this was the ideal version of the ministry.”
Continuing the Debate
The debate that started on the final day continued even after its closing worship service.
In the following weeks, the SLU student newspaper reported that the Rainbow Alliance sent the university “a list of demands,” which called for disciplinary action against the staff members who allowed LCMS U to rent space for TABOO and a public apology, among other things. The group claimed the conference violated SLU’s mission as a Jesuit institution.
In response, Bethany Glock, a senior undergraduate student at SLU and an LCMS member from Wenona, Ill., wrote an editorial that was published by the same paper Jan. 29.
“We, the members of the St. Louis LCMS U chapter, … hold that this conference was in line with the Jesuit mission, SLU policies and the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church,” she wrote.
“If open discussion and dialogue are something to be desired at SLU, why would an effort be made to ban events like this from campus and to marginalize conservative religious groups like the LCMS, of which many SLU students are members?”
At the time of this writing, SLU’s president had agreed to review the university’s policies on renting space to outside groups.
“These kinds of situations will increase, where we are confronted, where we have to face not only the issue but those who stand at the forefront,” Andræ said. “That’s why we need conferences like TABOO that equip pastors and laity and especially students. They are going to be the generation that will reach out the most, and they are indeed already doing this a lot on campus.”
• Read the Reporter article: reporter.lcms.org/2015/lcms-college-students-tackle-taboo-topics-2
• Read Glock’s letter to the editor: unewsonline.com/2015/01/29/a-call-for-diversity-of-opinions