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Joy to the world

Hillsong Worship

My name is Nicole, and I am one of the pastors at Refuge. I earned a BA in Biblical and Theological Studies and enrolled in a master’s program at Pentecostal Theological Seminary to become a mental health counselor.Unfortunately, the seminary expelled me in January 2024. I had completed the fall semester and was preparing to start the spring. My goal was to be a mental health counselor, not a minister. I sought a Christian education to support this career.

The Story

In a capstone paper, I proudly identified as a member of the LGBTQ+ community and discussed how it impacted my faith, life, and career. On January 22nd, one week before classes began, the school expelled me for “living an unscriptural lifestyle.”

For those who claim “rules are rules,” there is no specific rule against being gay. The institution hides behind the term “unscriptural lifestyle” to avoid explicit discrimination, knowing it would violate federal funding regulations. This institution tolerates many “unscriptural lifestyles” but singled me out. The fact is an institution that receives federal funding unjustly expelled me.. Title IX protects against discrimination in federally funded education programs, making this expulsion a potential violation of federal law.

I am a Christian, a pastor, and I love Jesus. My sexuality is secondary, just as it is for the professor who wrote the letter. This discrimination disregards my humanity and the truth that I am an image bearer of God. It goes against the Christlike behavior Jesus taught when he said, “When you do this to the least of these, you do it to me.”

Expulsion Letter

January 22, 2024

Dear Nancy:

Greetings!

Pentecostal Theological Seminary (PTS), as a ministry of the Church of God (Cleveland, TN), is committed to educating women and men in pursuit of their vocations in Christian ministries.

We share with all applicants our commitment to a fair and equitable application process. However, our admission policies also make clear that any applicant who does not adhere to the doctrinal and practical commitments of the Church of God will not be granted admission. 

For this reason, the seminary’s Nondiscrimination Statement on the application makes clear that “unscriptural lifestyles is a ground to preclude the applicant from participation in the Seminary” (see below). It has been brought to our attention that you have identified yourself as a member of the LGBTQ+ community admitting a violation of our admission policy. After consultation with the Seminary administration, the faculty in clinical counseling program, and admissions staff, we have reached the conclusion to rescind your admission and cancel your enrollment for the Spring of 2024. 

We regret that this was not identified sooner to avoid an untimely disruption in your study and vocational pursuit.

Grace and peace,

David S. Han, PhD

Vice-President for Academics | Dean of the Faculty
Professor of Theology and Pentecostal Spirituality
Ray H. Hughes Sr. Professor of Evangelism
PENTECOSTAL THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY

PTS Nondiscrimination Statement

The Seminary does not discriminate on the basis of race, gender, handicap, age, class, veteran status or national/ethnic origin in the administration of any of the policies of the Seminary, including admission, educational programs, and financial aid. It is the policy of the Seminary in its common life and classroom to use inclusive language, and to exercise respect and Christian love toward each member of the Seminary community. The Seminary, as part of the Church of God, adheres to its practical commitments and hence regards unscriptural lifestyles as a ground to preclude the applicant from participation in the Seminary.

PTS Applicant Verification

I hereby apply for admission to the Pentecostal Theological Seminary and verify that the information provided on this form is truthful and accurate. I understand that the application fee submitted with application is non-refundable. Also, I have read and understand the Seminary’s Policy of Non-Discrimination, listed above. If accepted, I will subscribe to the purpose and procedures of the Seminary as presented in the current academic catalog and student handbook. I will also seek to contribute to the spiritual and academic life of the Seminary community.

My Response

January 25, 2024 

To Whom it May Concern, 

I am writing to formally express my profound disappointment and concern regarding the recent decision to expel me from the program, communicated just a week before classes were set to begin. This last-minute notice has placed me in an untenable position, as it is now too late to enroll in alternative programs for this academic year.

My experience as a student in the counseling program, reflected by my excellent GPA and consistent academic performance, underscores my commitment to my studies and the field of mental health counseling. However, I find myself deeply troubled by a glaring contradiction within the institution.

During an ethics class last fall, led by Professor Justin Harley, we delved into the following case study;

Christine is a 31 year-old client from Tennessee. She sought counseling for anxiety related issues, including frequent panic attacks. Her counselor, Patricia is a devout Christian who is active in ministry in her local church. After four sessions, the frequency and intensity of Christine’s panic attacks are beginning to decrease, however during the fifth session, Christine discloses to Patricia that she recently started dating a female and identifies as a lesbian. This causes her counselor, Patricia to feel a significant amount of dissonance towards her, and she wonders how helpful she might be to her in the future. She is considering referring Christine to a counselor that is more LGBTQ affirming to complete the treatment.

The class, guided by Professor Harley, agreed: discrimination based on sexual orientation is unethical and against Christ-like compassion and love.

This situation deeply hurts and troubles me. The counseling program’s teachings explicitly oppose discrimination based on sexual orientation. However, my expulsion seems motivated by that same form of discrimination. People might perceive this discrepancy as hypocrisy.Frequently in scripture, Jesus rebukes the self-righteous and religious for such hypocrisy. This situation arguably reflects an “unscriptural lifestyle.” It’s disconcerting to see the institution teach one set of principles while the faculty enforces another, undermining the school’s mission.

Additionally, this inconsistency raises significant concerns given the institution’s utilization of federal funding, despite its assertion of being a “private institution.” The reliance on subjective interpretations of scriptural texts complicates this situation further, justifying actions inconsistently. I must also highlight the conflict this presents with the mission statements and core values upheld by CACREP, suggesting a departure from established standards of educational and ethical conduct.

I am a lifelong Christian with deep roots in the Church of God. My commitment to my faith and calling to ministry has been unwavering. My academic and personal journey culminated in a Bachelor of Arts in Biblical and Theological Studies. This journey has been driven by a relentless pursuit of understanding and serving Christ. The decision to deny me the Christian education I sought, therefore, is not just disappointing but profoundly unjust.

In the spirit of the teachings of Jesus Christ, I extend forgiveness. However, I cannot ignore the injustice and discrimination inherent in this decision. Such actions contradict the principles of justice, respect, and inclusivity that should be foundational in any Christian institution.

I hope the institution will reflect on its practices and prevent future students from enduring such unfair and disrespectful treatment. I require no further communication on this issue. 

Your Sister in Christ, 

Nancy Earp

Capstone Paper

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