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Wheaton chaplaincy staffer backs same-sex relationships, quits evangelical college

(RNS1-JULY 31) Julie Rodgers is a celibate, gay Christian blogger. For use with RNS-CELIBATE-GAY transmitted July 31, 2014. Photo courtesy Julie Rodgers

Julie Rodgers rocked the evangelical world last year when Wheaton College announced they would be hiring the celibate gay Christian as an associate for spiritual care in the Chaplain’s office. In a new blog post, Rodgers announces her affirmation of same-sex relationships and marriage equality.

And Wheaton College says Rodgers has since resigned.

In a post on July 14th, Rodgers wrote, “Though I’ve been slow to admit it to myself, I’ve quietly supported same-sex relationships for a while now,” she wrote. “When friends have chosen to lay their lives down for their partners, I’ve celebrated their commitment to one another and supported them as they’ve lost so many Christian friends they loved.”

Rodgers, who declined to comment for this article, says she plans to remain celibate saying she’s “single as ever.”

A short statement released by Wheaton College makes no mention of her new affirming stance. It says only:

“Julie Rodgers recently held a position at Wheaton College. Her work schedule was consistent with the academic year and as such, she finished her time on campus in May. Today, Julie notified the College that she is resigning her position, effective immediately, and will not be returning in August.”

The news of Rodgers blessing committed, same-sex relationships has upset many evangelicals who have presented her as a model gay Christian.

Recently, Rodgers gave a very popular talk at Q, a conference presented by Gabe Lyons for TED talk styled Christian talks. Lyons was criticized for inviting individual who identified as “gay.” He also invited Matthew Vines author of God and the Gay Christian but Lyons also was clear he disagreed with Vines. Still, he defended his decision saying Christians could learn from Rodgers. He did not respond to a request for comment on Rodgers by time of publication.

The most critical portion of Rodgers statement wasn’t her affirmation of same-sex relationships but her condemnation of how the church treats celibacy.

“I’ve become increasingly troubled by the unintended consequences of messages that insist all LGBT people commit to lifelong celibacy,” Rodgers wrote.

“No matter how graciously it’s framed, that message tends to contribute to feelings of shame and alienation for gay Christians. It leaves folks feeling like love and acceptance are contingent upon them not-gay-marrying and not-falling-in-gay-love…. It’s hard to believe we’re actually wanted in our churches. It’s hard to believe the God who loves us actually likes us.”

It should be telling that Rodgers, who remains committed to celibacy, is this critical of celibacy. Although some still hold the idea that being attracted to the same-sex is a sin, most in the church have moved to believe that only the act of sex between two people of the same sex is sinful. In order to answer to this paradigm shift, celibacy has been promoted for all people who are LGBT.

Celibacy, as described in scripture as a calling and gift, has become a mandate for LGBT people of faith.

Wesley Hill, author of Spiritual Friendship, is another leading voice in gay celibacy. Hill holds traditional views on sexual ethics but agrees with Rodgers criticisms of how the church handles celibacy:

“I wholeheartedly agree with much of what she wrote in her blog post about celibacy being a hard path to walk in evangelical churches,” Hill wrote me in an email. “I have often said that celibacy can’t be a solo project. If gay Christians are going to be able to live according to the biblical, traditional Christian sexual ethic, our churches will have to change. We have to become the kind of communities that can make healthy, life-giving celibacy seem like a viable option.”

As quickly as Rodgers was invited into evangelical circles, she’s being shown out. Pastor Denny Burk says she shouldn’t be treated like a Christian any longer and Eric Teetsel of the Manhattan Declaration says Wheaton College owes the students an apology.

Anyone who has spent even a few moments with Rodgers knows she is a devoted Christian and nothing Burk says will change that.

As for an apology, students are in mourning because Rodgers is a huge loss to the campus.

“Being at Wheaton College can be difficult for many people,” Sara Kohler, recent graduate from Wheaton College wrote on her Facebook.

“Julie Rodgers was without a doubt integral to the survival of my sanity. Her love for Christ and relentless pursuit of Him was evidenced by her unfailing love and graciousness for everyone she encountered. Truly a woman of God. Wheaton benefited from her presence and her loss will be felt from our campus.”

Rodgers is kind-hearted, godly woman who cares about people on a deeply spiritual level. That’s what made her a good chaplain. Her change of views changes none of that. If anything, it has only made her more capable of caring for people.

Updated: An earlier version of this post said Rodgers was a chaplain. Her role was an associate for spiritual care within the chaplain’s office. 

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