Christian students wrongfully labeled anti-gay

I remember talking with a good friend about how I did not attend our hometown’s pride parade. Apparently, some in my circle of friends thought I didn’t go because I hated gay people. “Why do you all think I hate gay people?” I asked, insulted by the assumption. “Well, you do go to TCU,” my friend simply answered.

One can find both the most virtuous and the most self-righteous persons in a church. Though Christians are scattered along that spectrum, I believe that they’re mainly known as self-righteous frontrunners of anti-gay demonstrations. I find the media also portrays them as close-minded, armed and ready to attack issues with their “God Hates Fags” signs.

And at a school like Texas Christian University, that’s the same label given to its students and faculty.

Many students are stereotyped by something as simple as the word “Christian” in the school’s name. When I tell friends I attend TCU, they pay attention to the “C” and automatically label me as religious and anti-gay.

Let’s look into the history of the foundation of TCU. According to Universities.com, in 1873, brothers Addison and Randolph Clark founded the AddRan Male and Female College. They were part of the Campbellite movement of the 19th century, an ancestor of the Disciples of Christ church. The Campbellites were proponents of education and endorsed open-minded intelligence, and the TCU of today was born.

As for the relationship between the Christian Church and TCU, TCU is self-governing and is merely affiliated with the church. The two institutions operate with different boards of trustees and act independently of each other in various policies. Those policies include ones of open-mindedness and anti-discrimination.

I decided to investigate what the “C” in TCU means as far as homosexual issues go. I began questioning some Christian minds at TCU, and my research took me to Stephen Sprinkle: an openly gay associate professor in Practical Theology and director of Supervised Ministry. Preaching in the church since he was 15 years old, Sprinkle is ordained in the denominations Disciples of Christ and Alliance of Baptists.

“I feel good about being here,” Sprinkle said. “I have faced problems in my life, but no more or less than any other gay person.”

Sprinkle even holds the title of first field educator ever to be tenured at Brite. Field Education is described as the experience in the real world of the field you’re studying in and including it in your education.

He also said that he’s part of a silent curriculum theory – a theory involving professors who belong to racial, gender or sexual minorities. With their teachings, there’s another certain learning that goes along with them.

“TCU is no more conservative or liberal than North Texas,” he said. “But I stay at Brite because this institution is a good one. The administration is supportive of diversity. As for the church, sadly, there is a deep anti-gay feeling in almost every denominational group that I know anything about, although there are notable exceptions, including the United Church of Christ and Protestant Episcopal Church.”

Sprinkle said Brite is the only seminary in more than a third of the country that welcomes people without regard to their sexual orientation, gender expression and gender identity.

Sprinkle is scheduled to teach the course “Ministry in the LGBT community” starting in the spring semester of 2010. Apart from teaching, he has devoted more than three years researching hate crimes of homosexuals in the U.S. His work can be found on a blog titled: “Unfinished Lives” (http://unfinishedlivesblog.com/). His site tells dozens of stories about the lives and deaths in the LGBT community.

“LGBT people are still supposed to be invisible and silent,” he said. “I want to make sure their stories aren’t lost or forgotten.”

According to my research, TCU is welcoming as is its affiliate, Brite Divinity School. While the media portrays the Christian community as it currently does, people on the outside will never know TCU’s open-minded policies. Gay people do exist in the ministry, and though Brite is included in this wave of acceptance, it won’t be recognized for a long time.

Courtney Emerson is a senior Ad/PR major from Kingwood.