Advertisement:
Post a story

News ›
People ›
Schools ›

Wheaton College alumni: You can be gay and Christian

Wheaton College alumni Jessica Friesen, left, and Adam Hibma answer questions Friday night at OneWheaton's panel discussion at a Glen Ellyn church. (Michelle Manchir/Tribune)

Wheaton College alumni Jessica Friesen, left, and Adam Hibma answer questions Friday night at OneWheaton's panel discussion at a Glen Ellyn church. (Michelle Manchir/Tribune)

OneWheaton buttons were available for attendees of Friday night's concert and panel discussion. (Michelle Manchir/Tribune)

Hundreds of gay and lesbian Wheaton College alumni, students, staff, and supporters gathered at a Glen Ellyn church on Friday night to kick off Homecoming weekend.

For the first time, members of OneWheaton, the  recently formed group of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender alumni, and allies of that community, met near the Wheaton campus to enjoy a concert from Christian singer Jennifer Knapp and lead a discussion about being gay and Christian.

The pews of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Glen Ellyn’s downtown were mostly full as four openly gay alumni  answered questions from the audience and shared personal testimony about what it was like to struggle with questions about self-identity at a college where students sign a covenant that condemns homosexual behavior.

“If you identify as GLBT and Christian, you do not have to choose,” said Ruth Wardschenk, an ’89 alumna who brought her daughter and partner to the event and sat on the panel. “You can have a partner or a spouse, you can have a family, you can have a church community.”

Audience members, who ranged in age, laughed and applauded at various times during the hour-long discussion as they anonymously texted in questions to the panel, asking tough questions like how friends of gay people can help make a “coming out” process smooth and whether any of the alums had undergone therapy in an attempt to change their orientation. But they also asked more lighthearted inquiries, like what it was like to kiss someone of the same sex for the first time.

The gathering could be the first of many for the group, formed in early April to support current Wheaton students struggling with questions about their sexual orientation and as a networking resource for alums.

Jose Vilanova, a 1989 Wheaton College graduate who helped organize OneWheaton and now lives in Miami, said coming back to the campus as an openly gay man with a group of supporters was a “healing” experience.

“So many of us all over the country that share a very similar narrative have struggled with the same emotions and thoughts,” Vilanova said, calling the gathering an “extraordinarily beautiful experience.”

Kendall Park, a current Wheaton College student, said she attended the discussion because she has many gay friends and equality issues are “near and dear to my heart.”

While she would’ve have liked to see more of her classmates attend the talk, Park said overall the campus community is “really very sensitive toward this issue.”

“It’s just the fact that people don’t know how to talk about it,” Park said. “I really appreciate OneWheaton for stirring up conversation.”

For more information on the group, visit the OneWheaton website.

Share this story

Recommended stories