Drone photography of Milligan's Seeger Chapel & Sutton Hall

Human Sexuality at Milligan

Letter from the President

May 3, 2021

Dear Milligan Community:

Over the past year, some have raised questions about Milligan University’s views on human sexuality and the support offered to our students who identify as LGBTQ. Let me be very clear: Milligan is committed to providing a loving and caring community for all students—including our LGBTQ students—because loving one another is an essential attribute of a Christ-follower. Loving people well is also central to Milligan University’s mission, expressed through our core values of scholarship, community, and faith.

The University’s “Statement Concerning Human Sexuality” was approved by the Board of Trustees in 2015 following a year-long scholarly investigation of Scripture and input from a task force of faculty, staff, students, and alumni. The study affirmed our longstanding belief that the Bible portrays sexual intimacy as a gift from God intended to be expressed within a covenant marriage between one man and one woman. We also acknowledge that all persons are created in the image of God and therefore possess full dignity, value, and worth.

In recent years, the University has entered discussions with concerned students about how we can better support LGBTQ students, even while honoring our beliefs. Milligan does not have anti-LGBTQ student policies, and we have recently further clarified anti-harassment policies to protect our LGBTQ students. In 2019, we also approved the establishment of a student-led LGBTQ support group. And this Spring, we instituted a series of campus conversations to learn more about the experiences of LGBTQ students and discern how to better provide a welcoming and loving environment while still upholding the University’s biblical beliefs about sexuality.

Two weeks ago, as a result of these conversations, outside counsel, and research, the Board of Trustees reaffirmed the University’s position and approved a new, concise, and more pastoral “Statement on Human Sexuality” that continues to honor Milligan’s biblical beliefs while emphasizing that Milligan is a safe and loving community for all. This new statement reads as follows:

As a Christian institution, Milligan University believes that all persons are created in the image of God and therefore possess equal intrinsic value. As such, we seek to be a loving community showing Christ-like compassion, mutual respect, humility, forgiveness, and grace where all students are welcome to learn in a safe and supportive environment.  Though our Stone-Campbell tradition subscribes to no particular creed, we recognize that Christian individuals, denominations, churches, and traditions have come to various conclusions on human sexuality. Embracing the Bible as our sole authority, Milligan believes that God designed sex to be enjoyed within a marriage covenant between one man and one woman that is characterized by the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ.

This statement is supported by the 2015 document that the Board renamed the “Milligan University Biblical Foundations of Human Sexuality.”

In an effort to provide further clarity, allow me to highlight a few points of information:

  • Milligan welcomes admission applications from LGBTQ students.
  • Milligan is in compliance with Title IX and other federal and state regulations regarding the services and the support we provide to our LGBTQ students.
  • Students are not disciplined, expelled, dismissed from athletic teams, nor are scholarships at risk from Milligan for identifying as LGBTQ.
  • In addition to the ongoing presence of many caring, trusted faculty and staff members, Milligan provides resources for LGBTQ students through our Title IX Coordinator, Dean of Students, Campus Minister, the Counseling Center, a student support group, and more.
  • Milligan’s counseling staff does not practice or condone conversion or reparative therapy.
  • Our employment practices reflect our biblical beliefs and community expectations regarding sexuality. These practices are in compliance with federal and state guidelines.

Despite the steps we have already taken, we recognize that we can do more to demonstrate love and grace for LGBTQ students. Our recent campus conversations regarding sexuality revealed the need for more ongoing and robust dialogue and education for students, faculty, and staff on how we can better care for and support one another. Going forward, we commit to listening carefully and responding with empathy and authenticity as we live, learn, and lead in the tension of grace and truth.

Milligan’s updated “Statement on Human Sexuality,” our previous statement (now entitled “Biblical Foundations of Human Sexuality”), and several frequently asked questions on this important matter can be found at www.milligan.edu/human-sexuality. (Resources below.)

As our Lord commanded, loving one another well will always be a priority for us as we seek to fulfill the University’s mission of honoring God by educating men and women to be servant leaders, a mission that is supported by our core values of scholarship, community, and faith. Our mission can only be successfully carried out and accomplished with the understanding that we—a community of imperfect individuals—despite our differences and disagreements, have been called together by God for His purpose.

Sincerely,

Bill Greer, Ph.D.
President


Statement on Human Sexuality

As a Christian institution, Milligan University believes that all persons are created in the image of God and therefore possess equal intrinsic value. As such, we seek to be a loving community showing Christ-like compassion, mutual respect, humility, forgiveness, and grace where all students are welcome to learn in a safe and supportive environment. Though our Stone-Campbell tradition subscribes to no particular creed, we recognize that Christian individuals, denominations, churches, and traditions have come to various conclusions on human sexuality. Embracing the Bible as our sole authority, Milligan believes that God designed sex to be enjoyed within a marriage covenant between one man and one woman that is characterized by the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ.

Statement approved by the Milligan University Board of Trustees April 23, 2021


Frequently Asked Questions

What is Milligan's position on human sexuality?

As a Christian institution, Milligan University believes that all persons are created in the image of God.  We seek to be a loving community showing mutual respect, Christ-like compassion, humility, forgiveness, and grace where all students are welcome to learn in a safe and supportive environment.  Our Stone-Campbell tradition of faith subscribes to no particular creed, and we recognize that Christian individuals, denominations, and traditions have come to different conclusions on human sexuality.  However, looking to the Bible as our sole authority, Milligan ascribes to the understanding that sex is a gift from God to be enjoyed solely within a faithful, covenant marriage, which is monogamous, permanent, heterosexual, and characterized by the self-giving love of Jesus Christ.

Why does Milligan have a statement about human sexuality?

Milligan provides this statement so that those who join our campus community are aware of the University’s values and expectations. We believe that Scripture is the ultimate authority on how to conduct our lives and that it serves as a light to guide our way in a manner that honors God and others. (See Biblical Foundations of Human Sexuality below.)

What does this mean for me? What if I disagree?

The University recognizes that there are members of our university community who do not agree with Milligan’s statement on human sexuality. Milligan respects everyone’s right to his or her opinion. However, it is expected that Milligan students, faculty, and staff respect and comply with the university’s position on this, even if they disagree.

Regardless of one’s viewpoint on this issue, we believe that all people have been created in God’s image and that God loves all people unconditionally. Thus, Milligan supports the dignity and worth of every person and seeks to create a campus climate where each person is treated with love and respect within our caring community. We seek to provide a safe and trusted learning environment that encourages all students and employees, regardless of beliefs, to demonstrate grace, empathy, sensitivity, and respectful interactions with all people.

If I identify as LGBTQ, can I still apply to Milligan?

We welcome admission applications to Milligan from LGBTQ students. In fact, the admission application does not request information regarding sexual orientation. Sexual orientation and gender do not influence the admission decision or financial aid process.

Can students be expelled from school, face disciplinary action, dismissed from athletic teams, or lose their university financial aid for identifying as LGBTQ?

No. Students cannot be expelled from school, face disciplinary action, be dismissed from athletic teams, or lose their Milligan financial aid for identifying as LGBTQ. However, Milligan expects all students, including LGBTQ students, to engage in behaviors and conduct consistent with Milligan’s understanding of human sexuality. A student’s matriculation and enrollment at Milligan University is their pledge to uphold the policies and expectations outlined in the Student Handbook and Catalog.

What is the expectation for sexual conduct at Milligan?

Milligan is guided by the biblical understanding that human sexuality is a gift from God and that physical sexual intimacy is to be expressed solely within covenant marriage between a man and a woman. It is expected that Milligan students, faculty, and staff will engage in behaviors consistent with this understanding of human sexuality.

A student’s matriculation and enrollment at Milligan University is their pledge to uphold the policies and expectations outlined in the Student Handbook and Catalog.

What if an LGBTQ student feels threatened on campus? How will Milligan respond to the harassment of LGBTQ students?

Milligan serves a diverse student body and works to care for all students. There is zero tolerance for bullying, harassment, or assault at Milligan University, and campus leaders understand their responsibility to ensure that all students feel the full dignity, value, and worth they possess as a child of God created in the image of God.

As a loving and caring campus community, Milligan will not tolerate harassment of any member of the Milligan Community and will take appropriate disciplinary action against anyone found responsible for such behavior. Milligan is committed to promoting and maintaining an educational environment in which students can learn and grow without the fear of being harassed or subjected to any other forms of sexual misconduct. Students—including those who identify as LGBTQ—can report sexual harassment or sexual misconduct to the Title IX Coordinator, Dean of Students, or Residence Life staff.  If students feel threatened or are in immediate danger, they should contact the Elizabethton Police Department by dialing 911 and campus security at 423-461-8911.

Where can LGBTQ students go on campus for support and community?

Milligan University seeks to be a place where all students feel safe, supported, and welcome. We know the college experience can be stressful, and even more so for LGBTQ students who are working to understand how their sexual orientation intersects with their personal faith.

We recognize that exploring one’s sexual identity in isolation can be overwhelming for students and that positive and nurturing community support in a trusted environment is essential. Thus, the University provides several areas of support for LGBTQ students.

The Milligan Counseling Center provides professional, short-term, mental health counseling services at no cost for Milligan University students, faculty, and staff as a way to further enhance Milligan University’s Christian community of caring. The Center provides a level of professional care that promotes emotional well-being, spiritual growth, academic success, multicultural diversity, and healthy interpersonal relationships.  Milligan counseling staff do not practice or condone conversion or reparative therapy for LGBTQ students.

Milligan’s Campus Ministry Office provides pastoral care and guidance to students.

Sanctuary is a group established to provide, in a Christian context, support for students who identify with or wish to minister to members of the LGBTQ community. The group meets weekly, and all are welcome.

Are diverse perspectives discussed or taught at Milligan?

Milligan University is a Christian liberal arts university that encourages our students to be thinking and acting Christians. Our educational process provides students with a working knowledge of diverse subjects and viewpoints, encouraging them to use a Christian worldview as their lens of perspective.  This does not mean that Milligan University endorses all viewpoints presented. But Milligan believes the information and resulting dialogues are important to the educational process of developing Christian servant-leaders.

These ideas are expanded upon in Milligan’s Statement on Cultural Competency, adopted in 2020: Milligan believes our mission as a Christian liberal arts university requires that all students learn to effectively communicate and interact with people of other cultures and beliefs. For this reason, we want all of our students and employees to value, respect, and learn from diverse cultures, races, ages, genders, sexual orientations, and religions. Educating and understanding differing perspectives does not equate to endorsement of all beliefs presented, but we encourage and desire for our students and employees to demonstrate openness, inclusiveness, sensitivity, and the ability to interact respectfully with all people and understand individuals’ differences.

Can I work at Milligan if I disagree?

We recognize that there are members of our university community who do not agree with Milligan’s statement on human sexuality. However, it is expected that Milligan employees will conduct themselves both personally and professionally in a way that demonstrates support for the institution’s mission, purposes, and policy positions in every respect, including their personal lifestyles and interactions with colleagues and students.

Employees play a critical role in the fulfillment and protection of the institutional mission. The right of Milligan University to hire employees who will teach and impart its convictions to the next generation of believers is protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which empowers faith-based organizations to make personnel decisions based on the tenets of their faith.

What legal authority does Milligan have to support its religious views?

Milligan is in compliance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and other federal and state regulations regarding the services and the support we provide to our LGBTQ students. Milligan has not claimed or requested an exemption from Title IX.

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides protection for Milligan University to teach and impart its convictions to the next generation of believers. Faith-based higher education has always been an essential element of the diversity of the higher education system in the United States, and it is crucial that students continue to be given the opportunity to choose and access the college of their choice in a diverse educational landscape.

Who can I contact if I want to discuss the University’s tatement on human sexuality?

Milligan is committed to learning, growing, and deepening our understanding of how we can provide and strengthen support for all students.

Students: Campus Minister Rich Aubrey

Faculty: Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean Garland Young

Staff: Vice President for Business and Finance Jacqui Steadman

Alumni: Milligan University Alumni Office

Media or Community: Milligan University Public Relations Office


Biblical Foundations on Human Sexuality

The Christian scriptures portray human sexuality as a gift from God intended to be expressed within the context of chastity in singleness or covenant marriage.  The totality of the biblical witness sets forth four criteria for the marriage covenant.

  1. The Bible portrays faithful monogamy as the model for marriage.  In Gen. 2:24, God created persons as male and female, and the text advocates that the two become “one flesh.”  Jesus employs this same image in describing marriage (Mark 10:8; Matt. 19:1-5).  The Book of Ephesians compares the relationship between a husband and wife to the love that Christ has for the Church (5:23-31).
  2. The ideal Christian marriage is permanent.  God desires marriage to be a lifetime commitment, and human failure to achieve that goal is never part of God’s ideal for marriage (Mark 10:9; Matt. 19:6).
  3. Biblical marriage is heterosexual.  Both the Old and New Testaments prohibit homosexual activity (Lev. 18:22; 20:10-16; Rom. 1:18-32; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; 1 Tim. 1:9-11).
  4. God’s aim for marriage is that it be characterized by the self-giving love that Christ showed in his sacrificial death on behalf of the Church (Eph. 5:23-31).

Milligan recognizes that all persons are created in the image of God and that God desires that we reflect God’s image in our thoughts, words, and behavior.  God also designated the sexual binary of male and female as part of what it means to be created in God’s image (Gen. 1:27).  God desires that we reflect the divine image within the context of the sex with which we were biologically born.

We are persons for whom Christ died and who possess the potential to glorify God within the context of our sexual being.  We achieve such potential only by submitting ourselves to the teaching of the scriptures, aided by the guidance and support of a faith community, and subject to the leadership of the Holy Spirit.

However, we also acknowledge that we are all sinners who have fallen short of God’s desires for us.  This sinfulness leads to estrangement and brokenness in every aspect of our being, including our sexual being.  Only by choosing to accept the redemptive power of Christ are we able to move beyond this brokenness.  Milligan University expects and challenges all members of its community to fulfill God’s intention for appropriate sexual expression.  The University provides appropriate guidance and support in encouraging persons to achieve this ideal, considering all circumstances relevant to a particular situation and responding in a manner that is most consistent with its mission as a Christian institution.  This response will reflect our commitment to maintaining an environment that reflects both the Bible’s model for appropriate sexual expression as well as the grace and forgiveness that God has shown us in Christ.

By joining the Milligan community, we covenant with each other to demonstrate faithfulness to the scriptures in our personal behavior as well as forbearance toward one another as fellow disciples of Jesus Christ. We recognize that not all members of the Milligan community will agree with every aspect of our understanding of human sexuality.  We welcome respectful dialogue and careful discernment as we work together to nurture a Milligan community that values both the authority of scripture and the needs of persons.

Approved by the Milligan College Board of Trustees – October 23, 2015