In the 2019-2020 Eastern Nazarene College Student Handbook, human sexuality is referred to as “one expression of the holiness and beauty that God the Creator intended.” The next four pages go on to explain that marriage is between a man and a woman, bi-sexual or same-sex attraction can be combated by God’s grace, and even mentions divorce and adultery—all increasingly heavy topics for a young adult to cope with. However, the source of the words is not Eastern Nazarene College, but the 2017 General Assembly of the Church of the Nazarene.
Jason Govoni, Director of Student Conduct and Care, stated that the handbook undergoes minor changes each year. He noted that the handbook was not informative enough before explaining the decision behind employing a task force to revise the human sexuality section. “I’m going to be honest with you because you’re asking me this question,” he said, “the revisions weren’t necessarily done by the task force.” A revelation anyone could have guessed based on the copyright that closes that section, or even if they are acquainted with the Church of the Nazarene and their manual. Battling against time and trying to incorporate the Church’s new policy while also maintaining some care for the students, the decision was to copy and paste the Church’s new policy from their manual. Govoni added, “In my opinion, it’s not great.” He reflects on how the personalized, thoughtful side of the statement was lost when asked about the response from students.
“As it currently stands, it’s just a big statement,” Govoni commented. Revisions are being made and he hopes they are approved by the trustees during their meeting this October. ENC has rules to follow when it comes to how they conduct their school. It’s clear that they want to express care for all students, but how does that happen when the overarching organization makes a statement like the one in our handbook? It’s the question Govoni has been trying to answer for two years.
It is important to note that in the 2017-2018 handbook, this section was much shorter and not directly copied from the Nazarene manual. This edition of the handbook states on page 28 that “sexual intimacies are to be shared as God’s gift within the context of a committed marriage relationship between a man and a woman.” The next three paragraphs reference counseling for those struggling with sexual issues, and resources available in Brickley for students with same-sex attractions, transgendered persons, and students struggling with their sexual identity. This handbook stresses the care given for students and states, “we believe that all people should be treated with dignity, grace, respect, and holy unconditional love.” It goes on to address pregnancy and cohabitation in two short paragraphs.
Many students were unaware of the change, in part because new handbooks are not given out at the beginning of the year. Also, students don’t always bother to read it. Some had heard about the human sexuality section but hadn’t actually read it. If students recognized this issue and voiced how they felt about it, would the “task force” have been able to fix it by now? Is there a way to show care for LGBTQ+ students while also honoring the Church of the Nazarene’s views on human sexuality, and will we ever see the results?
This section is available on pages 42 through 45 here.