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2 SPU board members resign after controversial decision regarding same-sex sexual activity

SPU employees are expected to "refrain from sexual behavior that is inconsistent with the University's understanding of Biblical standards."

SEATTLE — Two Seattle Pacific University Board of Trustee members resigned amid a Board decision to keep employee conduct expectations that ban employees from same-sex sexual activity, extramarital sexual activity and cohabitating before marriage.

Board Chairman Cedric Davis resigned on May 26. Board member Denise Martinez resigned on May 19, and board member Kevin Johnson departed after finishing his three-year term on May 20, according to SPU spokesperson Tracy Norlen. 

It is unclear whether the resignations were a result of the decision to maintain the employee policy. Norlen said she was unable to speak for the board members. 

Laur Lugos, a senior at SPU, said it was undisclosed how each board member voted. 

"I think that for myself and for other student government leaders, we're sad because we know that the people who resigned were affirming," Lugos said.

She and other students participated in a walkout on Tuesday and a subsequent "sit-in" to protest the Board's decision, and to make additional demands. 

Those demands include having board members disclose how they voted. The Associated Students of Seattle Pacific are also asking the WA Attorney General to investigate the board's actions.

"We are just doing everything that we can to try and find a way to hold our university and the board members accountable," Lugos said.

The board came to the decision after "thorough and prayerful deliberation," said Board Chair Cedric Davis. The board chose to have SPU remain in "communion" with the Free Methodist Church USA, which defines "Marriage, between one man and one woman" as "the only proper setting for sexual intimacy."

In a statement, the Board of Trustees admitted "sober acknowledgment of how this news will be received." 

"The board acknowledges that there is disagreement among faithful Christians on the topic of sexuality and identity," the statement read.

SPU's current employment policy requires that faculty and staff "affirm SPU's Statement of Faith" and abide by conduct standards in the employee handbook, which includes employee lifestyle expectations. 

While employees are asked to refrain from same-sex sexual activity, the school said it is "committed to diversity, equity and inclusion for all undergraduate students, welcoming and supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer students in all academic pursuits, faith practices and life together in community," according to an FAQ about the school's decision. 

Students have been vocal about their opposition to the university's decision. Many have actively lobbied for the institution to change its policy for years. 

"It's just frustrating to care so deeply about a university and want to believe in it but also not want people to come here and experience what we've experienced," said SPU student Chloe Gulliot.

"We have surveyed students, we have polled students, we have found that most students disagree with these policies and every year that is not respected or honored by a small group of people that get to decide what we stand for," Gulliot said.

Students protested after the school's board voted to uphold its employment policy relating to human sexuality in 2021. The protests were inspired in part by a lawsuit brought against the school by a former nursing instructor, Jéaux Rinedahl, who alleged he was denied a full-time position at the school because he is gay.

In a statement posted to the school's website, the university confirmed it had settled the lawsuit with Rinedahl out of court.


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