As discussions regarding the separation of Athletes’ Bible Study (ABS) from Williams Christian Fellowship (WCF) have continued over the last week, WCF has begun the process of formulating a constitution to direct the group in the future.
In an all-campus e-mail on Tuesday, Interim President Wagner reported the administration’s involvement in discussions regarding “religious groups and the role that sexuality might play in their selecting of leaders.” Wagner went on to emphasize that the College’s non-discrimination policy states that the College and its organizations “will not discriminate against people on a number of grounds, including both sexual orientation and religion,” and expressed hope that, in this context, the tensions between these two facets of identification can be reconciled.
Among the possibilities for WCF are division into several groups or an end to WCF’s affiliation with InterVarsity, a non-profit that works with Christian groups on campuses nationwide. Another option is that the group may continue its affiliation with InterVarsity while enacting a constitution that accommodates both the College’s non-discrimination policy and InterVarsity’s stance that the only appropriate context for any sexual interaction is marriage between a man and a woman.
WCF members are currently working to develop a constitution that abides by the College policy and allows students to openly discuss their religious beliefs. At an all-day retreat on Saturday, WCF members and InterVarsity staff member Matt Mascioli will discuss the constitution, as well as WCF’s affiliation with InterVarsity and other options for WCF going forward.
While Mascioli will be a part of the constitution development retreat, he will not be involved in discussions directly concerning WCF’s affiliation with InterVaristy. Queer Life Coordinator Justin Adkins and Jewish Chaplain Bob Scherr have been invited to share their thoughts as well.
“I think that it is up to the students of WCF to wrestle with these hard questions,” Adkins said. “Part of being a Christian is to wrestle with difficult questions and still love.”
According to College Council (CC) co-presidents Lizzy Brickley ’10 and Mike Tcheyan ’10, the decisions to be made are the responsibility of WCF for the time being, although the WCF members have discussed the relevant issues with many on campus. “College Council has been taking on the role of facilitator of conversations,” Tcheyan said. “At this point we are trying to be as supportive as possible to the overlapping interests that are involved in resolving the issue.”
Tcheyan and Brickley added that CC will await the administration’s decision as to whether or not the situation surrounding ABS’s separation from WCF violated the College’s non-discrimination policy. Given the option of having a student leader step down on the grounds that she is lesbian and does not agree with InterVarsity’s principles on sexual conduct, ABS instead chose to split from WCF.
Jim Kolesar, assistant to president for Public Affairs, declined to comment on how the administration was approaching the decision, beyond the information in Wagner’s e-mail.
ABS has not decided whether or not to apply to CC for status as an official club, though the group will continue to meet either way.
According to Brickley and Tcheyan, WCF is under pressure from the administration to act quickly. “While the administration’s public voice was non-committal, they are very conscious of the time factor,” Tcheyan said. “Right now they are in the talking stage but they want a decision to be made by WCF concerning their constitution and other possible actions soon.” Brickley added that Dean Merrill is willing to speak to students who have specific concerns about how the administration is handling the matter.
Despite the difficulty of the situation, Brickley and Tcheyan expressed pride in the campus discussions. “The response from the student body has been incredibly mature and conducive to helpful and productive conversations,” Tcheyan said.
“We hope people continue to engage with the very difficult opportunity that has presented itself,” Brickley added.