Sprinkle, Walker, and Questions about Lee University’s LGBTQ Controversy

Controversy and academia go hand-in-hand. Universities have long been the incubators of difficult conversations and the epicenter of groundbreaking revolution in thought.  Throw in thousands of young people who are still in the throes of self-discovery, developing their world views, and therein lies the perfect recipe for perpetual angst.  For this reason, nearly every campus has a weekly rendition of activism with some group or another marching, protesting, rallying, or “speaking truth to power” regarding any number of issues.

So, it should come as little surprise that Lee University, the flagship Church of God academic institution, has a controversy brewing.  The source of this controversy is somewhat surprising to many, but there are others who believe they felt the tell-tale tremors of a coming quake long before the current bruhaha was underway.

There is no need for rehashing the controversy.  Those that wish to learn more can find a basic recap here.

In recent days, social media has filled with Lee alum, State Administrative Bishops, and other church leaders speaking their words of affirmation for Dr. Walker and his stance through similarly worded messaging shared on their personal pages.

One widely circulated quote has been attributed to Church of God Executive Councilman Travis Johnson. The original source of the approaching-viral post was not public. However, Pastor Johnson confirmed his authorship with me prior to publication.

As with all controversies, the dust will soon settle, and the news cycle, even in a town the size of Cleveland, TN will move on.  Yet, we are left with some questions that must be answered.

Why were the comment sections of videos and posts flooded with “LGBT affirming” alumni and students?

Lee University, while important to the Church of God, is not a major force with tens of thousands of students. This controversy has not been covered by major market mainstream media. So, that could lead us to believe that the majority of these comments were coming from legitimate Lee students and their families, friends, and acquaintances. Thus, many of these individuals would likely be Church of God members or attenders. That raises concern. In the Church of God, has a weakness been revealed regarding teaching our children and teens a Biblical worldview? Perhaps, but maybe there is more to it.

Before we pass judgment on hundreds of local church staff and volunteers, we should remember that what we are hearing from these students and alumni is a far cry from what most Church of God congregations are teaching. In addition, many Lee students do not come from Church of God, or similar, congregations.

Why, at an institutional level, does this controversy even exist?

Breaking news, water is wet. No controversy, simply essential characteristic. Church of God congregations and clergy are overwhelmingly social conservatives. Church of God doctrine, teachings, and official position papers are overwhelmingly socially conservative. So, why would this even be seen as controversial at the denomination’s education flagship? Our position is clear. This, should be a non issue and Dr. Walker’s response should have overwhelming support from the denomination and from the staff and faculty of Lee.

Are Lee Faculty members in support of Dr. Walker’s response?

We have seen the support from Church of God ministers and denominational administrators, but they are not the ones who are educating our young people at Lee. That honor and responsibility falls directly upon the Lee University faculty. So, where do they stand? Are they in full support of Dr. Walker’s response? Some, who are very vocal on many social issues, have fallen silent during this time. Perhaps, they are gathering facts or maybe they have given up social media for Lent. However, it is important to know where Lee University Faculty members stand on the issue of repentance and affirmation of individuals not their choices.

It is important to know where Lee University Faculty members stand on the issue of repentance and affirmation of individuals, not their choices.

Are Lee Faculty members promoting ideology that is not congruent with Church of God doctrine?

The leading question raised the issue of the worldview of our young people. The second question reminded us that Church of God ministers and congregations are overwhelmingly social conservatives. Therefore, from where does this “progressive Christian” worldview originate in the minds of Lee students? Are Lee Faculty members, either in the classroom or out, affirming LGBT Christianity, gender fluidity, or other “progressive” ideals?

As goes the academy, so goes the society, or in this case, the Church.

What course of action can be taken to protect Lee from “progressive Christianity”?

If it is found that Lee faculty are promoting ideology that is in opposition to what the Church of God teaches, what sort of action is to be taken? Should there be policies in place banning the use of gender-fluid pronouns? Should professors and faculty members be asked to sign a statement clarifying their stance on LGBT Christianity, gender fluidity, or other issues? Should there be consequences for faculty that teach or promote unbiblical “progressive” ideas in the classroom? What about promoting LGBT activism, abortion rights, or transgenderism on social media? Should the Church of God General Council call for a review of hiring and employment practices at Lee University? Should the Executive Council call into question funds that are being sent to Lee from the Church of God if the school allows the promotion of ideology that is against Church of God teaching?

What, if anything, should be done to insulate Lee University from a potential, or realized, encroachment of ideals that are antithetical to Church of God teaching and a Biblical worldview?

The last few weeks have led to a few answers and many questions. These questions must be resolved. As goes the academy, so goes the society, or in this case, the Church.

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