Just days after Noozhawk reported on the struggles of gay students and alumni at Westmont College, the signatures of nearly 50 faculty have been posted online in solidarity.
The signatures of the faculty, while not representing Westmont, were listed to “acknowledge that we have heard your voices.”
“As you know, it’s not news to us that there are LGBT members of the Westmont community, or that being here can be painful,” the faculty statement reads.
More than 130 alumni of the private interdenominational Christian liberal arts school have signed on to the first open letter in support of LGBT students at Westmont, located at 955 La Paz Road in the Montecito foothills. The letter, which began circulating on Facebook in December, calls for dialogue between students and the administration in an effort to prevent “current students from feeling the same isolation that many (alumni) experienced as Westmont students.”
According to Westmont’s Community Life Statement, the school does not condone practices that the Bible forbids. “Such activities include occult practices, sexual relations outside of marriage, homosexual practice, drunkenness, theft, profanity and dishonesty,” according to the nearly 1,000-word statement.
The faculty group letter acknowledges the emotions that LGBT alumni may have felt while enrolled, and asks for their forgiveness.
“We share your hope for richer, more gracious dialogue on issues of human sexuality that trouble the church and that have too often been neglectful of the minority voices among us,” the statement reads.
While the post lists signatures from senior Westmont faculty members, other professors and nontenured faculty signed the statement in the post’s comment section.
Telford Work, a theology professor who has worked at Westmont since 1999, expressed his apologies on the page’s comment board toward Westmont alumni who felt unwelcome to speak about their sexuality until after graduating.
“I wish I could have had conversations with you while you were here,” he wrote. “Moreover, I wish you had availed yourselves of some of the many people I trust here. Personal experience has made me certain that they would have heard you and walked alongside you during your time here.”
Work offered a “heartfelt apology” to the alumni, and said he wants current students to feel comforted as well.
“I especially want current students and other alumni to realize that the closet is not the only ‘safe’ option here,” he said.
The Web site also states that “the signers of the attached letter write with humility to our former students who have been hurt, and whom we cherish as members of our community. We also write with confidence in a perfect love that casts out fear and that can redeem broken communities.”
The conversation might be a difficult one, the statement acknowledges, and is unlikely to satisfy all participants.
“In spite of these shortcomings, we affirm our commitment to rigorous, faithful, honest dialogue for the sake of our students, our alumni, our churches, our profession, and to the glory of a loving God,” it read.
Jennifer Lorden, a 2007 Westmont graduate and one of the three authors of the alumni letter, talked with Noozhawk on Thursday and offered her response.
“We were pleased to see we’d been heard,” she said. “We hope this is a signal to current LGBT students that they can begin to study and live openly within the Westmont community. As alumni, we’re already living openly in our own communities, so we hope the dialogue will now turn from us to the current Westmont students who don’t have that freedom.”