After denying the charter of a student-led LGBT support group—Love of God Bringing Triumph—the President’s Cabinet has approved an LGBT support group facilitated by the Brickley Center, ENC’s counseling, career, and health services center.
Senior Athena Horton, who took ownership of the initial proposal that was reviewed by the President’s Cabinet, announced the news on the group’s Facebook page earlier today.
The post reads, “After discussions have been had between administration, the Brickley Center, and us, we are happy to announce that ENC has approved having an LGBT support group through the Brickley Center.”
It continues, “The group will be open only to members of the LGBT community, and will walk alongside them as they wrestle through issues that are common to being LGBT.”
On Feb. 27, the student-led group was denied charter because the administration had “…significant concerns for the well-being of struggling students in the event of a breach in confidentiality or support.”
Horton met with Brickley Center Director Brad Thorne on March 21 to discuss potentially running the support group through Brickley. The two brainstormed ideas to “mesh the ideals/objectives/concerns of the Brickley Center with that of our group,” said Horton.
Earlier this week, Horton reported that the meeting went well.
“At this time, all I can share is that the Brickley Center could facilitate a support group for LGBT students creating a safe place for students to share their struggles as it pertains to orientation, faith, and other issues that may come along with being LGBT in this community,” said Horton.
Thorne was pleased with the conversations between the administration and Brickley about having a support group.
“There was very open conversation with [the administration] and I think they were really very much interested in providing some support for students that struggle,” said Thorne.
He continued, “That was the really nice thing about all that conversation—we have to find support, so what was the best venue to do that? And I think they thought the Brickley Center with its confidentiality and the idea that this has always been a safe place for students regardless of issues, because they know it’s safeguarded—very confidential, very protective, and that’s all by law.”
Vice President for Student Development Dr. Vern Wesley explained that two different departments were discussed to facilitate the group, not only Brickley.
“In meeting with the group leaders, we suggested either Spiritual Development or Brickley as acceptable outlets for such groups. Our thinking is based on their description of these students in their proposal,” Dr. Wesley wrote in an email.
Based on the proposal that Love of God Bringing Triumph submitted to the Student Government Association in January, Dr. Wesley said that a club was just not an option.
“It was based solely on the proposal’s description of the students dealing with these life issues. Therefore, a ‘club’ just would not be an adequate vehicle for what they described,” wrote Dr. Wesley.
Dr. Wesley said “of course” there were still concerns from the administration about approving the group, even through the Brickley Center.
“The questions of ‘affirming’ and ‘condoning’ as a Christian college continue to hover over us,” concluded Dr. Wesley.
Although the group’s initial option was a student-led support group with allies—non-LGBT students that want to support the group—Horton is satisfied with the approved group.
“I am very happy that the administration is allowing the group to happen through Brickley,” said Horton.
She continued, “As someone who has utilized Brickley’s counseling services myself, and who also knows quite a few LGBT people on ENC’s campus who have gone to Brickley, I have full confidence that they are the best people to facilitate discussion surrounding being LGBT in the world.”
Senior Alicia Mahony, a member of Love of God Bringing Triumph, agrees that the Brickley Center is an appropriate venue for the support group.
“I think for the sake of confidentiality for those who are not sure of their sexuality, it is a proper solution,” said Mahony.
She continued, “Dealing with those feelings, especially those with a conservative Christian background, is difficult enough. They shouldn’t have to worry about who will become aware of this struggle.”
Senior Mónica Gonzalez, however, doesn’t think that the Brickley Center is the right avenue for this support group. She said that students in the LGBT community need support, not counseling.
“I don’t want this to be an excuse for those kids to be put into counseling, because that’s not what they need, they need our support as a community,” she said.
Thorne said that the type of support that will be offered through the group is still being discussed.
“We would like to hold an information meeting for people that identify as such—gay, lesbian—so that we can get a sense of what the needs are and how this group can form, and the issues around confidentiality. When we say safe, what do we mean by safe? We want to iron those things out with the group members themselves,” said Thorne.
Horton sees the biggest downside being that non-LGBT students can’t be a part of the discussion in official Brickley meetings.
“The biggest downside to not allowing supportive members to the community to join is that it remains difficult for the LGBT student body to know who is safe to be open with and who isn’t,” said Horton.
She continued, “This also doesn’t allow heterosexual students who want to be active supporters of their peers to have a formal platform to do that. I think that a group like that can happen in time, but right now this is a big step in the right direction.”
Horton believes that the Cabinet’s approval of the group shows that they are committed to caring for all students.
“By even allowing a group to happen in this format, ENC’s administration is saying to the student body that they care about the well being of all of its students—not just the straight ones,” said Horton.
“I am certainly grateful that we have that, and that we are beginning a journey that is moving in a positive direction when it comes to the LGBT among us,” she said.
Student Body President Payne Ford, who spoke out about the necessity of having LGBT support groups on Nazarene campuses at Nazarene Student Leadership Association meetings this January, voiced his pleasure.
“I’m happy that a group of people on our campus that has felt neglected for such a long time finally has a place to go for love and support,” said Ford.
The Brickley LGBT support group will not begin until this coming fall semester.
“The major concern is that you don’t want to start something at the end of the semester and then we’re off for the summer,” said Thorne.
He continued, “Any time you start a group that may stir the waters for people, you just want to make sure there’s some ongoing support and that you’re walking with these people through the semester rather than just starting something, we have three or four meetings, and then we’re gone for the summer.”
Anyone interested in joining or finding out more about the group can contact Thorne.
“[Anyone interested] would need to contact me confidentially. Generally, it would probably [start with] a meeting with me to assess where they are, how they are identifying, maybe what some of the issues might be that they might bring into the group and just make sure a group setting is a good place to be doing this. Some may want to start individual and then join the group,” concluded Thorne.