Julie Rodgers, a self-proclaimed celibate lesbian, submitted her resignation to Wheaton College July 13, less than a year after taking a position in the college's chaplain's office as an associate for spiritual care.
Rodgers, who was the college's first out LGBT staff member, was hired to lead Refuge, the first LGBT student group at Wheaton College. Wheaton College students Justin Massey, Wesley Davison and Tory Leonard co-founded Refuge, leading students for more than a year; however, upon Rodgers' hiring, the administration took over the group in the fall of 2014.
In a wide-ranging blog post following her resignation, Rodgers made note of her support of same-sex relationships.
"Though I've been slow to admit it to myself, I've quietly supported same-sex relationships for a while now," she wrote. "When friends have chosen to lay their lives down for their partners, I've celebrated their commitment to one another and supported them as they've lost so many Christian friends they loved. When young people have angsted at me about the gay debate, I've just told them to follow Jesusto seek to honor Him with their sexuality and love others well.
"For some, I imagine they will feel led to commit to lifelong celibacy. For others, I think it will mean laying their lives down for spouses and staying true to that promise to the end. My main hope for all of them is that they would grow to love Jesus more and that it would overflow into a life spent on others."
When contacted by this publication, Rodgers declined to comment.
LaTonya Taylor, the college's director of media relations, confirmed Rodgers resignation via a link to Wheaton College's media-relations site.
"Julie Rodgers recently held a position at Wheaton College. Her work schedule was consistent with the academic year and as such, she finished her time on campus in May. Today, Julie notified the College that she is resigning her position, effective immediately, and will not be returning in August."
"It burdened my heart to hear of Julie's resignation. In my final year at Wheaton, Julie had become a mentor and a dear friend to me," said Massey, a 2015 Wheaton graduate. "Her deep care and commitment to the well-being of Wheaton's LGBT community was revolutionarysomething many of us had never experienced. The entire community and campus is losing something of great value.
"Many of us have questions about the future of Refuge, which I co-founded my sophomore year. Many of us fear this might mean a campus next year with no specific, incredible staff person LGBT students can turn to with our concerns, difficulties and even joys. However, that pressure is not and shouldn't be on her. The weight of caring for the LGBT students of Wheaton, a marginalized and at-risk demographic, is fully on the administration.
"I anxiously await and expect them to act quickly and with the utmost care in filling her position and discerning further ways to care for their LGBT students. As for Julie, I fully trust her in this decision to move forward out of Wheaton, and I am excited to see where she will go as she continues to live in truth and integrity as she has so clearly already done."
Several current Wheaton students/Refuge members have also released anonymous statements regarding Rodgers' resignation.
"As far as Julie's leaving Wheaton, I'm sad that she's gone," one Refuge member posted. "It was hard to find someone at Wheaton who would listen to your story and not respond immediately with value judgments about your character or your faith life. She would listen and truly respond with love and care. Everything she did in her ministry pointed me towards Christ. It's hard to find individuals like her who treated me with the humanity of a child of God; not like a personal project, a moral dilemma or a political problem."
Another Refuge member said, "Without her on campus, I fear that the administration will be less aware of the LGBTQ students on campus and less proactive in meeting our needs. My worry is that those of us who identify as a minority sexuality will be isolated and ignored. I'm far too aware that my remaining years at Wheaton will be difficult as I work to create relationships, seek knowledge and grow in Christ while also striving to maintain a voice and a place within this community.
"Since I'm queer this was already hard, but without Julie's willingness to listen and love, it will be even harder. I'm so grateful for all that she did for me and for the other students in the LGBTQ community at Wheaton, and her presence on campus will be greatly missed in the fall. Wheaton took a major step forward by hiring Julie and it took two huge steps backward in the wake of her resignation."
In the same post, Rodgers also spoke about being on stage at the ex-gay ministry she attended for eight months as a teenager and how that experience led to her to becoming, as she phrased it, the "good kind of gay" that stays celibate.
"I wanted to do right by the gay youth silently suffering in the pews. I wanted them to know Jesus loved them and they didn't have to go it alone," Rodgers wrote. "Twelve years later, I care a little less about approval and a lot more about the gaybies."
Rodgers went on to say that since she cares about the gaybies she has to "keep it real even if it comes at a cost." That cost, it turns out, was walking away from her post at Wheaton College.
"My goal now is the same as it's always been: to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with the God who's been my first love all along," Rodgers wrote. "When it comes to this conversation, my goal has been to help Christians create the kinds of communities that make LGBT people feel wantedwhere we can worship God, use our gifts, serve our neighbors, and find a family to share in the joys and sorrows of living in a world where so many people are so lonely. That looks a little different to me now that I've seen so much fruit in affirming communities, but it's a widening of my circlenot a move in a different direction."
Rodgers noted in her post that although she supports same-sex relationships/marriages, she is currently single.