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Walla Walla, WA
Friday, December 8, 2023

Of Inestimable Value and Worth

May 18, 2023
Garrett Christensen

John McVay Gives a Statement About WWU’s Ministry to LGBTQ+ Students

Garrett Christensen and Ashley Herber

During a Walla Walla University faculty-staff meeting, President John McVay gave a statement about how WWU will remain committed to Seventh-day Adventist values by ministering to LGBTQ+ students. 

On Thursday, April 13, 2023, McVay began his presentation by telling a story. McVay had recently asked someone from a declining SDA campus what it would take for “Adventist higher education to once again thrive” at their school. This person’s response was that they would have to change two narratives: that the institution is failing, and that the institution isn’t really Adventist. [1] 

This second narrative is especially crucial in a post-pandemic context, where a new level of concern regarding WWU’s stance on LGBTQ+ issues is being voiced, not only externally by stakeholders, but internally by employees. This concern stems from WWU’s identity as an institution that is Seventh-day Adventist — a religion that believes “human sexuality is not something to be paraded and celebrated so much as something that should be the focus of confession and repentance.” [2] 

In response to this concern, McVay posed a question: how does WWU create a narrative of both ministering to LBGTQ+ students and doing this ministry in ways that are thoroughly Adventist? He then set out three convictions that will support these ministry efforts. 

The first conviction stated: “We should accept LGBTQ+ students (which is the practice insofar as I am aware of every institutional member, some 150 institutions, of the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities, as well as all Seventh-day Adventist institutions in North America).” [3] 

The second stated: “We should come alongside these students through efforts like our support group [Haven] staffed by a qualified employee or employees of the University and focus on helping LGBTQ+ students navigate life, and life on our faith-based campus. This ministry is not about forming an advocacy structure including allies and non-employees from outside the University, establishing a club that would develop and foster club-like events, or shaping a university entity that would be responsible for events and programming.” [4] 

The third stated: “We should step away from the ‘don’t be seen or heard’ framework that has historically been part of the approach to LGBTQ+ students in Adventist higher education in North America. In the current context, such an approach is not functional.” [5] 

In light of these convictions, WWU will not conform to the calendar or symbols associated with the LGBTQ+ community but will organize opportunities for LGBTQ+ students to gather with faculty and staff, giving spaces and voices to LGBTQ+ students and providing opportunity to faculty and staff to get to know them.  

McVay went on to affirm Seventh-day Adventist theology on sexual ethics but disagreed with “a confrontational strategy for approaching LGBTQ+ students” who often know the church’s stance on sexual ethics but who may not know that they are loved. [6] 

“Our current mission statement calls us to approach our LGBTQ+ students as people of inestimable value and worth, in awe of their value to God,” said McVay. [7] 

This subject is something that has concerned McVay for a while because it touches many people at WWU. He wanted to make this statement to help lead the University through this complex issue and said he has never felt so compelled during a difficult moment for WWU to create clarity. With this statement, he wanted to connect often-disparate conversations regarding LGBTQ+ issues by accenting alignment with mission, including love for all students.  



  1. Mission Presentation Summary WWU Faculty-Staff Meeting, April 13, 2023. Retrieved on 5/9/2023 from John McVay via email. 

      2-6. Ibid. 

  1. Phone interview with John McVay on 5/4/2023.
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