Reconciliation report

Student reactions to work group announcement

Seattle Pacific University’s LGBTQ+ Work Group met this week in Upper Gwinn for a panel to go over the work they’ve done so far and some possible solutions for the Board. (Santi Quiroga-Medina)

After months of meetings and deliberations, Seattle Pacific University’s LGBTQ+ Work Group publicly announced their recommendations to the Board of Trustees.

Across multiple meetings, the work group gathered in Upper Gwinn and detailed the culmination of their work, listing five possible solutions for the Board. 

The options ranged from maintaining the Statement on Human Sexuality and lifestyle expectations unchanged, to several changes in language and exceptions, all the way to removing the statement as a whole.

Freshman clinical psychology major Alyssa Hull struggled with the decisions announced.

“I want to support [the work group], but it is hard to support something that doesn’t answer the question fully,” Hull said. “I was kind of aggravated with the discussion as a whole. There were definitely contradictions that have been stated. I feel like it could have been a more solidified answer to the questions that students asked. I can’t say I’m completely mad with what they said so far, that’s definitely a step.”

Hull expressed which option she believes will move SPU forward.

“In my opinion, the fifth option is the best,” Hull said. “I know there may be some opinions against that, but eliminating the statement will be the best fit for SPU to move forward progressively.”

An email sent out by higher-ups in the Free Methodist Church to all FMC affiliated university presidents stated that changes to policy, like the “third way” options being considered by SPU, would not align with the church’s beliefs and could lead to disaffiliation from the university altogether. 

Laura Yukiko Shigeta, a 2020 graduate working towards her masters of divinity,  hopes that the Board will be able to find a balance between being Free Methodist and being affirming.

“It’s holding the ways of being in order to provide a safe space for people to share honestly, and we’re not perfect, but I think that’s one of the few specifically Free Methodist things that we can do to kind of bridge the gap between holding spaces where students can and still call it Free Methodist,” Yukiko Shigeta said.

Frustrations and confusion could be seen at both the faculty and student meetings, with emotions running especially high during the student meeting.Yukiko Shigeta acknowledges that this process is difficult for LGBTQIA+ students to hear about.

“As a queer student, a lot of the words were triggering,” Yukiko Shigeta said. “A lot of the questions or the ways that they responded were triggering of past experiences that I’ve had of church hurt.”

Fourth-year political science major Hannah Waterman broke into tears at the end of the workshop. Waterman thinks SPU’s direction toward upholding discriminatory policies opposes what she learns in the classroom.

“It is frustrating to have people saying that they do not advocate for a certain method of going about something,” Waterman said. “When as students, we were taught to tear it down.” 

Waterman felt furious and disagreed with some of the work group’s members.

“They said they did not vote for homophobia or hate when those are the policies they were upholding,” Waterman said. “I’m mad at the specific member that did not say a word during the entire workshop and then, in the end, said that they’ve never spoken to a student, while many students would have sacrificed time and resources to be able to have conversations.”

Yukiko Shigeta believes the work group did their best despite the controversy.

“I think they mean well and they have good intentions,” Yukiko Shigeta said. “It’s recognizing that we’re still learning what it means to be a Free Methodist community amidst conflict.”

It is clear from student reactions that tension and conflict continues as the Board meetings on May 19 and 20 approach. 

Waterman expressed her sadness for the university’s current climate as she prepares to move on.

“This is my fourth year going on with this conversation, and I’m about to graduate from the school that doesn’t love my friends,” Waterman said.