Refuge: a Community Group for Students who Experience Same-Sex Attraction


Refuge exists to provide a safe, encouraging, biblically faithful community for students who experience a sexual orientation and/or gender identity that varies from the majority. For these students, Christian faith and sexuality are both significant aspects of their lives, and it is the desire of the group’s participants to encourage one another to understand their sexuality in the light of their identity in Jesus Christ. Refuge’s guiding document is available here.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What are Wheaton College’s convictions regarding homosexual behavior?

Wheaton College’s convictions are described in our Community Covenant: We believe that sexual immorality is sinful and is to be avoided by all Christians. We are explicit about the definition of “sexual immorality,” defining it as behavior “such as the use of pornography (Matt. 5:27-28), pre-marital sex, adultery, homosexual behavior and all other sexual relations outside the bounds of marriage between a man and woman (Rom. 1:21-27; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gen. 2:24; Eph. 5:31).”

What is the nature of Refuge?

Refuge is a Community Group that offers Christ-centered encouragement and discipleship for students who self-identify as gay or same-sex attracted. Refuge was created to provide care, fellowship, and support for students in ways that are consistent with our Community Covenant. It is our institutional conviction that such a lifestyle includes a fervent striving toward sexual purity and holiness; such a lifestyle could never include homosexual conduct.

Refuge is not a gay-straight alliance, a social club, or an advocacy group; it is one of the pastoral care resources available to our students, who are expected to honor their commitment to our Community Covenant. Wheaton hosts several Community Groups for students who share a challenging life experience.

In contrast to student-led clubs, Refuge is under the leadership and oversight of the Chaplain’s Office. While the confidentiality of the Chaplain’s Office protects specific Refuge discussions, College leaders regularly meet with staff from the Chaplain’s Office to pray for student discipleship and to hear general updates about their well-being, including participants in Refuge.

Why was Refuge created?

In recent years, leaders in Student Development observed a growing need to provide care resources for students who experience same-sex attraction or identify as gay. Many within this population are vulnerable to isolation, depression, self-harm and suicide. We have sometimes failed in caring for these students, either by allowing them to struggle alone or through insensitivity or callousness.

While some who experience same-sex attraction may question the church’s historical, orthodox conviction on the commands God has given for human sexuality, we have found that many of our students are seeking assurance that God loves them, are open to friendship in genuine Christian community, and can live faithful, productive Christian lives characterized by sexual purity, whether or not they experience total freedom from temptation.

For about a year before Refuge was formalized as a Community Group, a Dean of Student Care and Services hosted informal gatherings for students who were experiencing same-sex attraction, including some who identified as gay, in order to provide a supportive community that holds to the biblical perspective on sexuality outlined in our Community Covenant.

The group was formally recognized as a Community Group in January 2013 under the Student Activities Office through a collaboration between Wheaton College students and administration. In order better to serve the students involved, at the end of spring semester of 2014, Refuge was reorganized from student leadership under a staff adviser to oversight from the Chaplain’s Office.

The Ministry Associate for Pastoral Care position was created to provide additional resources for pastoral care in the Chaplain’s Office to all students. The person in this position also co-leads Refuge meetings and is a key resource for students seeking individually and corporately to work out their faith in light of their attractions and the pain or shame some may feel.

Does Wheaton believe that God can change a person’s sexual orientation?

Wheaton College believes that God can transform desires and attractions through the power of the Holy Spirit, through His Word, and through the prayers and encouragement of God’s people in the Church. We also recognize that desiring change and seeking help does not guarantee that unwanted desires and attractions will be transformed. All Christians, whatever our desires, are called to anticipate the healing of our bodies, minds, and spirits when God makes all things new, and to walk in holiness as we live in the hope of our redemption.

What kind of guidance is given to students who experience same-sex attraction?

We counsel every student – regardless of his or her need or experience – to pursue Jesus with the help of spiritual disciplines; to find the help of God’s people through a gospel-believing, Christ-centered Church; to seek the encouragement of Christ-centered friendship; and to act in obedience to God’s plan for human sexuality as a celibate single person or as a person faithfully married to someone of the opposite sex.

Why do gay or same sex attracted students attend Wheaton College?

The uniting feature of Wheaton students is a personal testimony of willing surrender to Jesus Christ as Savior, Redeemer and Sustainer, regardless of the nature of their sexual attractions. Many young adults are still in a process of clarifying their experience in this area, and choose not to discuss sexual struggles in the application process. We strive to be a community marked by God’s undeserved grace and by our obedience to Christ out of gratitude for His sacrificial love for us. Students who repent of their sin, obey Jesus, and love others are welcome here.

The term “gay” typically is used to describe a person who feels same-sex attraction, regardless of how he or she chooses to respond to these desires. Wheaton College believes that biblical teaching prohibits same-sex sexual behavior. The experience of same-sex attraction or identification as gay does not mean, however, that a student is engaging in same-sex sexual behavior; every Wheaton student makes a personal commitment to uphold the Community Covenant.

We are seeking to minister to sincere and dedicated Christian students, some of whom experience same-sex attraction and have difficult life choices to make as they seek to follow Christ faithfully. We fully support, love, and serve students who are called to biblical faithfulness in obedience to Jesus Christ and who describe themselves by the term “gay,” meaning simply that they experience sexual attraction to persons of the same sex. Christians who describe their experience this way are wise to be clear that they do not advocate homosexual practice or find their identity in their sexuality, but in Jesus Christ.

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