Not enough questions asked about bisexual student's ouster from Lutheran worship team

December is a season where Lutherans shine: Advent hymns on Lutheran Public Radio, Julfests and St. Lucia Day celebrations on Dec. 13.

None of this Ikea “winter holidays” stuff. Lutherans who stick with their traditions know how to keep watch until Christmas.

And so, in keeping with this solemn and thoughtful season, we have a piece from the St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press about a bisexual student at Concordia University. When it comes to journalism issues, this story also includes a very crucial hole in the reporting.

A student at Concordia University in St. Paul is demanding protections for gays and lesbians after she said her relationship with another woman cost her a leadership role with a prominent student-led worship group.
Nikki Hagan, 19, of Woodbury said the student president of Concordia's 908 student ministry asked her to resign her informal post as the group's message coordinator soon after she posted on Facebook in November that she is bisexual and dating a woman.
"He asked me if I knew what the stance of the (Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod) church is against homosexuality," Hagan, a second-year student, said Friday.
Hagan said she told him she didn't think her sexuality would affect her responsibilities of lining up speakers for worship services, but he indicated he had no choice.

The article goes on to quote Concordia’s chaplain, who said the unnamed student president consulted with him but ditched the LGBT leader much too quickly for his taste. Then the university president is quoted thus:

University president Tom Ries, who since has met with Hagan, said she should not have had to leave her position.
"I think it's an unfortunate situation for everybody involved," Ries said Monday. "One individual made this decision asking Nikki to step down, and she agreed to do that. And I wish that hadn't happened."

If I were that student president, I’d be furious that Concordia’s top two officials were throwing me under the bus. The newspaper didn’t manage to get a quote from that person.

On the plus side, the article produces a recent link to a Pew survey –- surprising because this Lutheran synod is much more conservative than its sister movement, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America -– noting 56 percent of LCMS members believe homosexuality should be accepted. A sizeable minority (46 percent) believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases. What's up with that? This trend might have been worth a chat with a Synod leader or two.

The article includes lots of quotes from Hagan but nothing from anyone who disagrees with her. Surely there must be some students or faculty who do. The Star-Tribune published a similar piece but likewise didn’t manage to contact the student leader who asked Hagan to step down.

There’s a lot of unanswered questions here. A lot of Christian colleges obligate students and faculty to sign some sort of covenant promising to support, or at least not attack, basic Christian doctrines. Thus, they agree not to engage in certain sexual and social behaviors. It can't be too hard to find such a document on the college’s website. The only publication to name any official document was the Daily Beast.

There is a mystifying post on a pro-Nikki site alluding to the “lack of policies in our handbook.”  What does that mean? As I mentioned earlier, at the very least, most religious institutions ask students to respect the beliefs of the parent institution. Isn’t posting a Facebook message about your bisexuality rather like waving a red flag?

For the record, the LCMS is opposed to same-sex marriage and believes homosexual acts are sinful. Should the student leader have gone after a woman who was pretty low on the leadership ladder? Were university officials asleep at the wheel?

Just because a student’s protest fits the popular zeitgeist of the day (brave gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender, etc., student stands up to uncaring monolithic Christian institution) doesn’t mean a newspaper staff shouldn’t dig a bit harder to get more information from key voices on both sides to this story. Perhaps the LCMS folks should be given some benefit of the doubt?

Photos are from Nikki Hagan's Facebook page.

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