Letter of Exhortation asked Board to maintain debated hiring policy

Student led group speaks out on their traditional viewpoints

Aubrey Rhoadarmer, Staff Writer

In response to the Letter of Lament written to the Board of Trustees by Seattle Pacific University faculty and staff, Senior illustration major Emily Lembke drafted what she called a “Letter of Exhortation”, asking that SPU not only maintain its debated hiring policy but also hold its faculty to a higher standard of orthodox behavior.

According to letter signee Carl Cederborg, a senior computer science major, the letter was not made public to students because it was not written for them. The goal of the letter was to share traditional viewpoints with the Board, not the student body.

Spanning eight pages, the letter was signed by 17 current students as well as four alumni. It was presented to the Board of Trustees in late February. It is not known if the board actually read the letter or if it ultimately had any effect on their decision this month to uphold the statement on human sexuality.

In the letter, Lembke outlines four claims:

That the Bible “clearly defines marriage as the covenantal union of one man and one woman,” “ clearly teaches that all other types of sexual activity are immoral,” “clearly states that the approval of immoral sexual practices is also immoral,” and that “SPU as a Christian University should hold its faculty to a standard not only of orthodox sexual behavior, but also orthodox teaching on sexual behavior, within the classroom and school-related activism.”

The letter argues that the debated hiring policy should remain intact, and that the Board of Trustees has erred in their expectations of staff and faculty behavior.

“Teachers should be expected to uphold SPU’s values, including orthodox Christian doctrine, in the classroom. The Board’s failure to require faculty to accept Christian doctrines has created a staff that organized rebellion against the behavioral standards that have been set for them,” Lembke wrote in the letter.

She goes on to write in the letter that many professors have set aside class time for LGBT activism, mostly in relation to the Rinedahl lawsuit filed against SPU early this year.

“Yet within that same classroom, no student would dare to openly admit that they supported a traditional stance on sexuality, for fear of public shaming, shunning, or even rebuke.”

Cederborg supports the letter because he believes there is a lack of free speech on campus. He said he wanted to be a part of an oppositional voice that wouldn’t be widely accepted.

“The ideologically driven (or hopefully, ignorant) misinterpretation of any sort of opposition as bigotry or some sort of phobia rather than earnestly held beliefs coming from places of good will is not only morally wrong, but it is also counterproductive to the conversation and makes people less willing to join in,” he said.

Senior political science major Lincoln Keller also signed the letter. Keller believes that SPU has strayed from the teachings of the Bible and that SPU’s moral framework has shifted from scripture to the world.
“Simply put, SPU as a whole needs to collectively return to the Bible. SPU needs to read it, study it, teach it, proclaim it, and build their lives upon it,” Keller said.

Senior computer science major Nathan Geddis, another signer of the letter, agreed with Keller’s assertion that SPU must return to the Bible as the Word of God.

“SPU must choose to either be a Christian school who submits to God and his word as the final authority. Or they must conform to the world and in doing so lose what makes this school unique and special,” Geddis said.

In the end, Lembke and all the signers of her letter asked three things of the Board of Trustees: “We urge the Board today to affirm biblical teaching on sexuality, to reject attempts to downgrade sexual ethics standards for the school, and to reinstate policies that require teachers to affirm biblical orthodoxy.”