Letter By Augustana President, Steve Bahls - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Letter By Augustana President, Steve Bahls

Dear students, faculty and staff:  

Earlier this fall, Richard Priggie and Kristen Glass Perez, our campus chaplains, recommended that the college consent to same-gender weddings on campus.  I agreed to do so, and I would like to provide our students, faculty and staff with my reasons.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), to which the college is related, permits same-gender weddings so long as the local congregation consents.  Because Augustana is a church-related institution and not a congregation, the Bishop of our Northern Illinois Synod of the ELCA determined that it was up to me as President of the College to provide or not provide consent.  I decided to consent.

When I came to Augustana 10 years ago, I wanted to give meaning to our existing assurance to students and staff that they would not be discriminated against based on their sexual orientation.  To me, it is about integrity.  If we say we do not discriminate, our policies and practices should honestly reflect it. 

Nine years ago, the college extended our health insurance plans to cover same-gender couples.  At about the same time, we affirmed God's love for all people by becoming one of two "Reconciling in Christ" ELCA colleges.  As such, Augustana publicly welcomes gays and lesbians to full participation and leadership in our campus ministries.

One of the Five Faith Commitments articulated by the Augustana College Board of Trustees in May 2005 is that "Augustana College celebrates God's regard for the worth of all persons," and the document extends an explicit welcome to "persons of all sexual orientations."  Several of our most faithful faculty and staff, who serve our students exceptionally well, are gay or lesbian.  We thank God for their talents and service to Augustana.

Though same-gender marriages are not recognized by all states, including Illinois, both Augustana College and the ELCA will now allow public rites that recognize, support and hold accountable lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships.  Because it would be inappropriate for the college to dictate to presiding pastors the exact content of these rites, it will be up to presiding pastors and the couples to determine whether to refer to these rites as "marriages," "blessings of unions," or something else.

While I understand that reasonable minds within the ELCA currently differ about same-gender weddings, few would dispute that marriage is a beautiful commitment of two children of God to one another.  To make a life-long commitment of love and fidelity is an extraordinary act of faith.  We need more of those commitments in this broken world, and I am proud of our campus chaplains for bringing this request forward. 

Sincerely,

Steve Bahls, President of Augustana College

 

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