For the first time in its 150-year history, Wheaton College has formally instated a community group for same-sex attracted students. “Refuge” was recognized as a community group under the Student Care Committee for Student Government by President Philip Ryken Tuesday, and is composed of approximately 15 Wheaton students who identify as same-sex attracted.
According to a campus-wide email sent by President Ryken this week, all of Wheaton’s community groups under the Student Care Committee are meant to “bring students together for confidential support by others who share a similar life experience. They are not therapy groups, but they are venues to care for students, including students who feel isolated and have not found a place to connect in the Wheaton Community.”
The group is private and confidential, with an application process required for admittance. For the past 18 months, the group has been meeting with the Dean of Student Care and Services Melanie Humphreys, and has grown from two students to 15. According to Humphreys, “Refuge is one of the most at-risk student groups on campus…and what I mean by ‘at-risk’ is at risk for self-harm or suicide. Each of the students I have come to know have experienced significant loneliness and isolation on our campus.”
“Refuge saved (my roommate’s) life, and it probably saved mine, too,” a current Wheaton student participating in Refuge said.
For more information on Refuge, and other groups like it at Christian colleges around the country, read "Hope for the Gay Undergrad," a feature article I wrote for Christianity Today magazine last month. The Wheaton Record, Wheaton’s campus newspaper, also covered the history of the school’s same-sex attracted hospitality in a cover story published online today at this link: “Refuge Becomes an Official Group for Students Questioning their Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation.”
According to President Ryken, “Refuge” was chosen as the name for the group because: “There are many references to divine refuge in Scripture, such as the first verse of Psalm 46: ‘God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.’ The goal of Refuge is to provide support for students in their journey to understand their identity in Christ and its implications for their sexual orientation and gender identity.”
Today at 3:30 p.m., Wheaton will welcome Andrew Marin, founder of The Marin Foundation, a Chicago-based non-profit focused on building bridges between the LGBT community and the Church, to campus for a presentation at Barrows Auditorium.