Meredith’s chapter of Young Life is currently being reviewed by the Student Government Association (SGA) Senate after a reported concern about anti-LGBTQIA+ policies. Young Life, a Christian faith group, focuses on outreach to students to help them grow their faith. Catie McAnulty, the SGA Senate advisor, told The Herald that the "SGA Senate has received reported concern regarding the Young Life organization at Meredith. The SGA Senate is reviewing and pursuing the concern. At this time, more information about the concern or review cannot be shared."
This isn’t the first time that Young Life’s policies have been called into question. In July 2020, an Instagram page called @DoBetter_YoungLife was created. The page encouraged users to share their negative experiences with the organization nationally, and in those responses, several incidents of LGBTQIA+, racial and gender discrimination were uncovered. Some former leaders came forward about Young Life’s policies that prohibited LGBTQIA+ members from holding leadership and volunteer positions. Young Life’s national organization responded by creating a “a diverse group of staff and non-staff” to review the stories and determine the best course of action. However, the website that details their response does not specifically denounce the discriminatory policies that the page highlights, nor does it mention changing them.
Experiences like these have also impacted Meredith students. One student in particular shared their experience with discovering Young Life’s policies concerning LGBTQIA+ students in leadership positions. The student’s pronouns are they/she, and they identify as a lesbian/woman-loving-woman (wlw). They first got involved with Young Life in high school after a friend invited them, and they continued their involvement through their freshman and sophomore years at Meredith. Once the student arrived at Meredith, she decided she wanted to become a leader in the organization.
Their queer identity was not discussed during events at Young Life, and they weren’t sure if anyone besides their Young Life leader knew. Her leader — who was a cisgender, heterosexual (cishet) woman — was unable to answer if and how her sexuality would affect her ability to be a leader. So, they took it upon themselves to look into the matter.
Finding the information was difficult, but they eventually found Young Life’s Statement of Faith and the Faith and Conduct Policy that leaders must follow. Though the statement does not directly reference LGBTQIA+ membership, the Faith and Conduct policies directly condemn homosexuality. Under the sexual misconduct section, it states, “with regard to the delicate matter of homosexual lifestyle and practice, in the light of the biblical data regarding creation, Young Life believes such activities to be clearly not in accord with God's creation purposes.” The document goes on to say that people who “engage in sexual misconduct or who practice a homosexual lifestyle” can participate in Young Life, but cannot serve as staff or volunteers “in the mission and work of Young Life.”
Upon discovering this policy, the student was distraught. “That was the first type of real and direct homophobia that I'd really ever experienced, and it brought my view of Young Life crumbling down,” they said. The student brought it to the attention of her Young Life leader, who was also unaware of these policies, and the leader was supportive of the student’s anger. “I thought I had finally found a place where I could grow my faith without fear of discrimination, and then this happened,” the student said. “That was kind of my breaking point with organized religion.”
Young Life has come under scrutiny for these policies on college campuses across North Carolina. In 2019, Duke University’s student senate declined to recognize the organization as a student group on campus due to the local chapter’s refusal to denounce the national organization’s leadership policies. At Elon University, their Young Life chapter is considered an external organization, meaning that they don’t receive funding from the school or abide by the school’s club organization rules. On the university’s website, all of the Elon-affiliated Christian organizations note that they are inclusive of LGBTQIA+ students and don’t discriminate against these students in membership or leadership positions. All of the external Christian organizations on Elon’s website — including Young Life — do not have similar statements of inclusivity. The Elon chapter requires that all student leaders adhere to their sexual conduct rules described in Addendum A in their by-laws, which asks for them to “refrain from sexually intimate relationships outside of a heterosexual marriage covenant.”
When looking at the Meredith chapter’s by-laws, it says to refer to the Statement of Faith listed on the national website. The statement doesn’t explicitly state that LGBTQIA+ people aren’t allowed to lead, but a copy of the Faith and Conduct Policy, which contains the condemnation of homosexuality, is usually only provided to those who hold leadership positions. Sarah Wallace, the president of Meredith’s Young Life chapter, did not respond to The Herald’s request for comment.
By Aminah Jenkins, Staff Writer