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Azusa Pacific Univ. working to reconcile religion & sexuality in athletic department

Azusa Pacific University athletic director Gary Pine is working to build bridges between conservative Christian & LGBT athletes, coaches and sports administrators.

Azusa Pacific Univ. has a strong athletic tradition, including a 9th-place finish in cross-country regionals this year. They are new to Div. II.
Azusa Pacific Univ. has a strong athletic tradition, including a 9th-place finish in cross-country regionals this year. They are new to Div. II.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

On Tuesday I had a really great meeting with the athletic director at Azusa Pacific University, Gary Pine. The school is a religious institution where students are mandated to attend chapel, and there are policies that prohibit any sex outside of marriage, specifically calling out gay sex. From the school's Web site:

In Scripture, several sexual behaviors are expressly forbidden, which include but are not limited to: fornication, adultery, incest, unnatural sexual intercourse, and homosexual acts (Exodus 20:14; Leviticus 18:7-23, 20:10-21; Matthew 5:27-28; Romans 1:20-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 4:17-19; Colossians 3:5).

Azusa Pacific University pledges to guide the university community toward understanding and embracing their God-given sexuality as reflected in this statement. Any deviation from a biblical standard of sexual behavior is sin and therefore is an opportunity for repentance, grace, and redemption, so that as a community we might honor one another and glorify God.

With all of that said, my two-hour conversation with Pine and fellow LGBT sports advocate Josh Sanders could not have been more engaging, full of mutual listening. I was thrilled to learn that there is an openly gay student at APU - even if that student received a pretty nasty message from another student earlier this year (other APU community members defended the out gay student, including the school's administration).

There is also an (unrecognized) LGBT student group on campus, called Haven.

But the most important piece of my time there was how engaged Pine is in conversations about LGBT issues for student-athletes and coaches. Earlier this month the life-long devout Christian attended a religion and LGBT issues think tank - sponsored by the LGBT Sports Coalition, National Center for Lesbian Rights & the NCAA - designed to find "common ground" between religious and LGBT people. Pine told me it was a powerful, eye-opening event for him and has already generated conversation in the athletic department.

For many devout Christians, the idea of "accepting" LGBT people (and they sex they have) seems impossible. For many LGBT people, accepting devout Christians (and the beliefs they have) seems impossible. In the middle are people like Pine who are trying to find a path all athletes, coaches and sports administrators can walk together.

We need a lot more Gary Pines in athletic departments like Azusa Pacific University.