We write 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.

We write, not representing Westmont, but simply as your former professors and, we trust, your lifelong friends. We write, too, as more senior Westmont faculty members, affirming our shared commitments, and striving—always imperfectly— to live in accordance with the Community Life Statement, just as you did while you were here with us. We experience daily the privilege of being a part of this community, teaching and working with students like you.

We are saddened, though unfortunately not surprised, to read of the doubt, loneliness and fear you felt while you were here. We ask your forgiveness for ways we might have added to your pain. 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.

There’s more to say obviously, and we will work in other ways to say more. We can’t promise to say it in ways you find perfect, but we hope you’ll stay in dialogue with us, and with your churches. It’s wonderful to hear from good friends. Thank you for writing.

Grace and Peace,

Karen Andrews

John Blondell

Grey Brothers

Steve Butler

Alister Chapman

Steve Cook

Lisa DeBoer

Paul Delaney

Mary Docter

Deborah Dunn

Leonor Elías

Ron Enroth

Tom Fikes

Bruce Fisk

Chris Hoeckley

Dave Hunter

Patti Hunter

Wayne Iba

Thomas Jayawardene

Ken Kihlstrom

Kim Kihlstrom

Cheri Larsen Hoeckley

Chandra Mallampalli

David Marten

Eileen McMahon

Bill Nelson

Mark Nelson

Allan Nishimura

Edd Noell

Susan Penksa

Frank Percival

Helen Rhee

Marianne Robins

Warren Rogers

Ray Rosentrater

Sue Savage

Russell Smelley

Brenda Smith

Michael Sommermann

Jim Taylor

Mitchell Thomas

Niva Tro

David VanderLaan

Randy VanderMey

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Greg Spencer
    February 9, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    Thank you for writing this thoughtful letter. I will add my name belatedly to the list. I have a good excuse for being late but it is still an excuse! I hope this letter leads to many good conversations.

  2. February 9, 2011 at 5:15 pm

    I’m glad this response happened. The reason I didn’t sign wasn’t that I disagree with anything in it; I don’t. I just want to add more. So you can add my name with the following addendum:

    I too am sorry that you alums felt unwelcome to speak until after graduating. I wish I could have had conversations with you while you were here. 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. They would have honored confidentiality and exercised due discretion, both of which are Christianly appropriate in matters like these. They would have done this whether or not you and they came to agree with you over homosexuality, bisexuality, transsexualism, sex outside of or apart from marriage, or other such issues.

    I have trusted a number of people here at Westmont (fellow faculty and staff, and even some students) with such information over the years, and I’ve seen colleagues and students do the same. And I have seen these trusted people come through again and again with just the compassion, truthfulness, grace, integrity, and discipline that was needed.

    These people are heroes to me. Some are among the signers above; some are not. They cross the spectrum of American political views, as well as stances toward various LGBT issues. They cross academic disciplines, staff positions, ages, theological traditions, and walks of life.

    So I’m especially sorry to hear of your disappointment because Westmont has not disappointed me, or some others I know who are in some of your situations (and others too). We are certainly not perfect; but over and over I have seen us prove sufficient. Please keep that in mind in the context of this heartfelt apology.

    It’s not just you alums who signed your statement who need to know this. I especially want current students and other alumni to realize that the closet is not the only ‘safe’ option here. We all need to be careful with what we disclose and to whom. There are failures here to grieve and ways for us to improve. But there is also credit to give, and glory too, where they are due.

    Grace and peace, Telford Work

    • Marty Jenkins
      February 10, 2011 at 2:36 pm

      Dear Telford: Just a note to tell you how extraordinary your message is. It brought tears to my eyes and gives me hope that the hurts that some do to others in the name of Christianity are being met by those who elevate Christianity by being Christian. I honor you for the comfort that you have given to so many LGBT students, alumni and those of us heterosexual people who are hurt because of the pain that so many can inflict on our friends with a different sexual orientation than our own. I honor that you went beyond just signing the letter but decided to write your very thoughtful message that is so healing and hopefully leads to bringing out the best in all of us. I also hope that this dialogue opens the way for others at Westmont to be safe to come out in being loving and kind above all else. I hope that your and others statements and siginig will encourage the administration to open to the great possibilities that come from your type of leadership. I also looked at your website and was very impressed and felt how lucky your students are to have you as their coach.

    • Sue Sadler
      February 10, 2011 at 8:30 pm

      Mr. Work,

      You say “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. They would have honored confidentiality and exercised due discretion, both of which are Christianly appropriate in matters like these.”

      Respectfully, I disagree completely! It’s not clear to me whether you came out to your colleagues, but you cannot be “certain” of anyone’s reaction, whether it be faculty, staff or fellow students, nearly all of which in my experience wanted nothing to do with me because I was different or even “deviant.”

      When my sexual orientation was discovered, a “counselor” made it very clear to me that I had only 2 options-1) be celibate or 2) be expelled. That was it. No talk of understanding, no sympathy, only reminders to pray that God would ease my sinful desires.

      Westmont has taken the view that homosexuality is a choice not the way some people are born, that we can choose to be straight if we want to. Hopefully, this naive position has changed since I was there in the 80′s.

      By signing the Open Letter, it is my hope that current and future LGBT students or those who are questioning their feelings, will have a more loving, nurturing and positive experience. Westmont must stop ignoring or shunning those who don’t meet their Community Life standards. As students and young adults they are learning academics and learning about themselves, who they are, and where they fit in in this crazy world. Westmont needs to embrace this individuality, not stifle it.

    • Sarah Groeneveld
      February 13, 2011 at 3:51 pm

      Dear Telford,

      I’ve been meaning to respond to your post since I first read it a few days ago. While I am very glad to hear that in your experience Westmont staff and faculty have been supportive and honored confidentiality, I think it is important to be clear that this is not always the case. In talking to my fellow alums over these last few years, I have heard stories similar to those you describe of students who have had helpful and affirming conversations with faculty. However, I have also heard story after story from students who were threatened with discipline or expulsion after confiding in various members of Westmont’s community.

      I also think that it is important to make the distinction that this is unique to issues surrounding homosexuality and gender identity. While other difficult issues such as “sex outside or apart from marriage” are, without a doubt, tricky to talk about openly on Westmont’s campus, LGBT students who disagree with the statement about homosexuality in the Community Life Statement find themselves in a unique and difficult position.

      Speaking for myself, when I found myself in this position I realized that in fact staying in the closet was my only “safe” option. Without a public statement by the college assuring me that it was “safe” to confide in faculty, I would not have risked doing so. Even though there were faculty who I would have felt comfortable talking to on a personal level, I did not know what obligations they had to enforcing the Community Life Statement. As a result, I felt that not only was my emotional and spiritual safety at risk, but my education as well.

      Until the college makes it clear that a student who is out on campus will not, as a result of being vocal about their identity and positive views toward homosexuality, be subject to discipline or expulsion, and until the atmosphere changes so that students feel safe coming out to their peers, I do not think that the interactions that you describe will be consistently available to LGBT students at Westmont.

      I am incredibly thankful to all the faculty who have signed this letter, and I hope that the next step of providing a safe atmosphere on campus for LGBT students will quickly follow your words so that no one else will ever feel the doubt, loneliness and fear that we experienced.

      All the best,
      Sarah

  3. Scott Anderson
    February 9, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    A disclaimer: this letter was circulated only among tenured faculty, and so non-tenured faculty such as myself only learned of its existence upon being published. Consider this comment my signature to the letter above.

  4. Chelsea (Bair) Nunziato
    February 9, 2011 at 5:34 pm

    Thank you for your concern for the wellbeing of the Westmont community. May we live in Love and Righteousness, LGBT or not, those living in the space of the Community Life Statement and those past it.

  5. Angel Blanco
    February 9, 2011 at 8:22 pm

    I want to thank everyone who was a part of this and say that it is things like this that make me proud to be a part of the Westmont community. It gives me hope when I see a community come together to support our fellow brothers and sisters with love and compassion. I only hope that this will be the beginning of something and not merely a response. This speaks not only to issues surrounding LGBT, but other sensitive subjects also. I pray that not only would people come to feel more comfortable and safe sharing themselves, but that people would reach out to others as well.

    - 1 John 4:7-21

  6. Melissa J. Durkee '00
    February 10, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    Dear former Westmont professors and lifelong friends,

    As a former student, a Westmont alumna, and a lesbian, I offer my sincere thanks for this brave statement of support and invitation to a dialogue. I see many named here whom I counted as mentors at Westmont and for whom I’ve always carried a debt of gratitude. You expanded my horizons. You helped me think clearly and cogently about important issues. You invited me to nuanced conversations about the calibration of a moral compass. You have formidable intellectual tools and you wield them with reason and compassion and abundance. So I see the invitation to dialogue you are offering here as something of substance. If you bring the conversation about lgbt issues into your classrooms, your chapels, your faculty meetings, your lectures, and out into the world of Christian academics, I trust that good things will happen. Thank you for having the courage to engage in that conversation.

    The doubt, loneliness and fear I experienced at Westmont has faded over the years. This letter nevertheless felt like balm. Thank you for that, as well.

  7. Stephen M. Contakes
    February 11, 2011 at 9:08 am

    Please consider this comment as my signature to the letter above.

  8. Sara Volle '05
    February 12, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    Dear Westmont faculty,

    I appreciate your public acknowledgement of our LGBT alumni voices. I know this was a courageous letter for you to write and for the sake of past, current and future Westmont students, I am thankful the college has supportive, caring and thoughtful faculty members like you.

    I am, however, disturbed by the seemingly unquestioned assumption (in both this faculty letter and other current/past conversations I’ve had on this topic) that the College’s Community Life Statement should remain unchanged. One of the main points of the alumni open letter seems to have been conveniently and consistently overlooked: Westmont’s unequivocal condemnation of homosexual practice IS the problem.

    I have many painful and frustrating memories of trying to engage in “open dialogue” with the Westmont community–whether in private conversations or publicly as an editor of the Horizon and so I am doubtful any meaningful dialogue (short of “let’s just be nicer to each other” and “there are a few people on this campus you can trust”) can take place so long as Westmont’s official stance on the topic remains the same.

    I am disappointed by comments on this thread such as “we all need to be careful with what we disclose and to whom,” because that is a phrase I heard many times as a student at Westmont and this attitude has continued to affect me negatively into adulthood. An institution of higher learning should be a place where all students feel safe, where all students are legally protected against discrimination, not a place where we have to carefully navigate between which instructors/administrators/peers are “safe” and which ones are not.

    If there is to be further dialogue at Westmont, I hope it will lead to the College revising its discriminatory and offensive institutional language and policies. Until that change is made, Westmont will always be a place where LGBT students experience “doubt, loneliness and fear.”

  9. Someone
    February 13, 2011 at 11:15 am

    Hi,

    This is just a response to thank the faculty for taking the time to write this letter. Seeing such a response, especially from all of my current professors, is truly encouraging to me, a gay student at Westmont.

    Just echoing and affirming what a few of comments have said, it feels impossible to talk about your orientation at Westmont with anyone if you are LGBT. I was even scared to tell my closest friends for two years: not because of them, but because of the school’s stance towards homosexuality. I considered going to counseling on-campus during my Freshman year. In both these cases, I did not know whether I would be rejected, so I decided the potential consequences were too great, and kept it to myself. And for what feels like the longest time, I believed I was the only one.

    Seeing a response from alumni, and a response from the faculty is something I thought I would never experience in my time at Westmont, and I really hope that the conversation does continue. I hope, if anything, LGBT people at Westmont are eventually able to be themselves without having to worry about such rejection.

    Again, thank you to the faculty, and to everyone else, for finally getting this conversation going.

  10. Sue Sadler
    February 13, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    To Sara Volle and “Someone”-

    I appreciate both of your comments as they truly express the fear we live(d) with at Westmont, the isolation and lack of support, afraid to reach out because of the college’s stern rejection of being LGBT and the ignorance of our peers. Sara nailed it on the nose when she said, “An institution of higher learning should be a place where all students feel safe, where all students are legally protected against discrimination, not a place where we have to carefully navigate between which instructors/administrators/peers are “safe” and which ones are not.”

    I agree it is time for Westmont to take a long, hard look at their Comm. Life policies. It is time to decide whether continuing to take its ultra conservative interpretation of the Old Testament on homosexuality is appropriate given the many testimonies of former and current students of discrimination, fear, disdain and rejection. Is this what Westmont wants to become known for? If nothing changes, if Westmont hears our cries for understanding and ignores them, then it will become known for its hypocrisy and lack of compassion!

    As the bumper sticker says “What Would Jesus Do?”…

    To “Someone”, you are NOT alone! Contact Santa Barbara’s “Pacific Pride Foundation”-
    http://pacificpridefoundation.org/LGBT_Services/lgbt01_Youth_Services.htm

    You will find TRUE support there…spread the word.

  11. February 15, 2011 at 9:38 am

    We have posted everything that has come to us so far, and are grateful for the thoughtfulness of each person who has contributed comments. This site will stay up for awhile as a reference, but there will no longer be a moderator to post comments.

    We genuinely seek honest, respectful conversations of the kind that has begun here about human sexuality, so signatories of the letter now encourage others to carry on these conversations in other venues, both on campus and in the broader community.

    • Marty Jenkins
      February 15, 2011 at 9:56 am

      I encourage that this blog be continued. I feel that it has been highly constructive, civil and for the most part caring and compassionate. I feel the dialogue and being able to do something practical with the dialogue will be lost elsewhere.

      It appears to me that despite the exellent exchange of ideas/experiences – that there is not yet a path to do something practical with all this. Almost all of those who have revealed themselves have only been those who have protection from recourse – i.e. tenured professors and student alumni. Those who are not protected – i.e. current students, non-tenured professors and maybe most important the Administration have not shared their truths and most probably do not feel safe to do so.

      My guess is that those that feel most entrapped are many adminstrators who agree with the alumni and tenured professors who have revealed themselves and expressed a passionage desire to try to be a part of the solution – but the Administrators fear sharing what is really inside them. How can they be given a safe place to be real. How can they overcome the fear of how some of Westmont’s donors or more Conservative friends will react.

      My hope is that this blog will continue and find a solution to these challenges.

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