On January 26, 2018, The Optimist reported that Travis and Harmony Weber had been selected “to serve as the first university chaplains in a new position created as part of the Strategic Plan” and reported that “the Webers are connected to Altamesa Church of Christ and Galileo Church in Fort Worth.” The latter affiliation is alarming for the reasons described below.
On its website, Galileo Church identifies as a “progressive Christian community” that identifies “justice for LGBTQ+ people” as its top listed “missional priority.” That same website features several links to statements and sermons that highlight Galileo Church’s LGBTQ+ activism:
“We adopted the Pride flag for use in worship and public appearances…; we walked in Tarrant County’s Pride parade and hosted a booth there; … we gained recognition as an open-and-affirming congregation with the GLAD Alliance of Disciples of Christ; we have a presence on Gay Christian Network and gaychurch.org; we diversified our leadership team and staff to include non-hetero people.” –Galileo Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Missional Priorities, June 2016
“When we practice this wide welcome, inviting LGBTQ+ people into full participation in the church and making safe space for people to be themselves regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, we find ourselves at odds with centuries of religious tradition and the religious people who are invested in keeping that exclusive tradition alive.” –For the Bible Tells Me So (the church, the Bible, and LGBTQ+ Inclusion), Rev. Dr. Katie Hays, Oct. 2015
“For more official ideas about where we come from and who we’re connected to, check out these links: www.disciples.org… www.gladalliance.org… www.gaychurch.org.” –Our Roots Are Showing (2017)
In addition to its “missional” priority on LGBTQ+ activism, the Galileo Church website describes the church aesthetics as “unironic super-gay,” acknowledges that the Lead Evangelist may not be “someone you want to emulate,” and warns that children may hear an “f-bomb in a sermon.” And @Galileo_church on Twitter states, “Looking for a #weddingvenue in #fortworth? Check us out here: galileochurch.org/big-red-barn… #gayweddings #lgbtweddings #wemarryanyone …”
As a broad group of multi-generational ACU alumni, we believe Galileo Church’s “missional” priorities and “distinctives” stand in stark contrast to ACU’s historical faith. We are dismayed Travis and Harmony Weber’s affiliation with Galileo Church was cited as a qualification for a chaplaincy focused on “spiritual formation campus-wide for students, faculty, and staff” – not a permanent disqualification for shepherding souls at a university affiliated with the churches of Christ.
On January 29, 2018, The Optimist reported that Travis and Harmony Weber will no longer be serving as university chaplains. According to an email from the Vice President of Student Life, Chris Riley, “…after much prayer and consideration, the Webers have decided not to assume those roles.” Subsequently, The Optimist reported that Dr. Cliff Barbarick, a Bible professor and member of the search committee that selected the Webers, said, “I’m saddened that the Webers won’t be part of our community…”
We are troubled that ACU’s announcement that the Webers will no longer be serving appears to be the result of the Weber’s decision, not the university’s. Furthermore, we are surprised that a Bible professor who was familiar with Galileo Church is sad that members of said church won’t be ACU chaplains. These events increase the need for the Board to: 1) be transparent about ACU’s position with regard to the historical Christian understanding of human sexuality, gender identity and marriage, and 2) require ACU employees to annually affirm and sign a statement reflecting ACU’s position on such topics.
In April 2016, The Optimist reported that at its February 2016 meeting and in the aftermath of the 2015 United States Supreme Court decision legalizing same sex marriage, the Board “provided a base for the university’s administration to work off of in the evaluation and reconstruction of the student sexual stewardship policy and employee code of conduct.”
The Board Chair at the time said the Board decided the following values should guide the administration:
We believe Scripture teaches that God intends for sexual relations to be reserved for marriage between a man and woman.
We were encouraged by these reported expressions from the Board in 2016. But we were recently surprised to learn that ACU Board Policy 4.12 actually states in part, “We recognize that Christians inside and outside the ACU community have different interpretations of Scripture on same-sex relationships.”
The hiring of the Webers, statements about their withdrawal, and adoption of Board Policy 4.12 raise several concerns. As a response, we call on the ACU Board of Trustees to do the following:
- Adopt a statement of faith that reflects historical Christian orthodoxy and includes, among other things, language substantially similar to the following – “We believe that God wonderfully and immutably creates each person as male or female, reflecting the image and nature of God. We believe the term ‘marriage’ has only one meaning: the uniting of one man and one woman in a single, exclusive union, as delineated in scripture. We believe that God intends sexual intimacy to occur only between a man and a woman who are married to each other. We believe that God has commanded that no intimate sexual activity be engaged in outside of a marriage between a man and a woman, and that any form of sexual immorality is sinful and offensive to God.”
- Adopt a requirement that all ACU Board Trustees, administration, staff, and faculty annually affirm and sign the aforementioned statement of faith.
If these requests are not promptly acted upon, we are deeply concerned the Board is not prepared to govern ACU through the turbulent waters of our current culture. Such a statement and the practice of annual affirmation have been adopted by hundreds – if not thousands – of churches, schools and ministry organizations across the country. Such a statement and affirmation could have avoided the Galileo Church situation and would avoid similar events in the future.
We love Abilene Christian University, and we hope our children and their children will, too. But we love the Truth and the Church that is its foundation even more.
With respect in Love and Truth,
ACU Concerned Alumni for Truth (CATs)