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Wheaton College Student Pelted With Apple as a ‘Warning Against Insulting Spirit of Grace’ after Questioning Treatment of Gays

( [email protected] ) Feb 26, 2015 12:46 PM EST
A student at a prominent evangelical Christian college outside Chicago questioned his school’s stance in regards to homosexuality, which led to an apple being thrown at him on Monday as a “warning against insulting the Spirit of grace.”
A note on a student bulletin board at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill., Feb. 24, 2015. Photo: Sara Kohler

A student at a prominent evangelical Christian college outside Chicago questioned his school's stance in regards to homosexuality, which led to an apple being thrown at him on Monday as a "warning against insulting the Spirit of grace."

According to Elizabeth Dias of Time, the apple-throwing incident took place on Monday at Wheaton College, a Christian college just outside Chicago that was also Rev. Billy Graham's alma mater. Justin Massey, a self-described gay Christian student, talked about the incident in a blog post.

"There was no applause for one student who spoke against the injustice he has witnessed his LGBT peers experience," Massey wrote. "A brother in Christ and ally to the LGBT community, he boldly questioned the oppression and exclusion that has harmed a demographic we should be embracing and loving."

Massey added that the student "faced mostly silence" before someone in the crowd threw an apple at him. According to Dias, it took place during a campus-wide question-and-answer session known as "Town Hall Chapel," where college president Philip Ryken took questions from the student body.

"No matter why this individual decided to throw the apple, it was more than simply disruptive. It was hurtful," Massey wrote. "For some of us in Wheaton's LGBT community, it felt as if this student was spitting in our face as this ally voiced the deep pain we experience day-to-day."

Time identified the affected student hit with the apple as Philip Fillion, a class of 2015 organ performance major who was a straight, married man. He asked Ryken a question about Wheaton's position against homosexuality, comparing it to theological consistency; he publicly posted the question on Facebook, according to Time.

"Why is it the case that our college, in documents we all must agree to or be expelled, insists on formally condemning and denying equality to our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, on spurious theological grounds, yet completely leaves behind baptism and Eucharist, which Jesus Christ himself instituted to grow and strengthen the Christian community?" Fillion asked.

Through asking his question, Fillion argued that the college's sexual ethic "is not at all universal and depends on a reading of scripture that is incredibly narrow and ignores history, culture, and science." He added that "the Statement of Faith and the Community Covenant also lack any language about the sacraments of the Christian church."

"All students, via the Community Covenant, and all faculty, via the Statement of Faith, are required to affirm a sexual ethic that denies everyone except celibates and married straight people a place in the kingdom of God," Fillion wrote as part of his question.

Fillion told Time that the apple hit him on his left shoulder while he asked his question.

"There was no response when the fruit was thrown. No boos, no gasp," Fillion said. "A student was in line after me and when it was his turn to ask a question, he began his time at the microphone by calling out whoever had thrown the fruit, remarking that such behavior was inappropriate and disrespectful. There was restrained applause for this."

Massey wrote in his blog that he was disturbed by the reaction of others to that incident.

"I saw peers exert more effort into rationalizing the offense rather than demonstrating support to the LGBT community whose experiences were disrespected," Massey wrote. "This incident affected more people than just the student who was hit. While it is wrong to show disrespect to any person, acting against an individual who raises minority concerns holds a different weight."

In response, Wheaton College issued a statement to Time contending that "President Ryken did not see the incident and did not fully understand what happened until after chapel ended." The Christian college also requires both students and faculty to uphold the sexual ethic that marriage is only between one man and one woman.

"Christian colleges such as Wheaton have been at the center of the evangelical fight over lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) acceptance, especially as younger generations grow increasingly more accepting on issues such as same-sex marriage," Dias wrote.

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