In the spring of 2018 Walla Walla University committed to the formation of an official group for our LGBTQ+ students.
To inform this important initiative, our attention turned to Andrews University and their extensive work to respond to questions about sexual orientation and gender identity that have arisen on Seventh-day Adventist college and university campuses. The Andrews taskforce reviewed research on more than 300 Adventist young adults who identified as LGBTQ+ to learn more about their experiences. From that inquiry they documented significant hurt in this population, noting their higher risk for marginalization, depression, self-harm, and suicide. Andrews recognized that LGBTQ+ students had started unofficial groups at most Seventh-day Adventist North American Division colleges and universities, groups that received little to no guidance or support from their institutions.
After many years of study, conversations, task forces, and church-leader gatherings, Andrews formed what they called Haven, an entity dedicated to providing care and education in their university setting. In conjunction with Haven, Andrews developed several key documents to ensure their approach was in keeping with biblical principles and the values of the Seventh-day Adventist church. The Andrews initiative created an official group, embraced by the institution, where students would receive confidential spiritual and emotional care.
Walla Walla University models our official, university-endorsed care group after the Andrews Haven initiative. We decided to use the name Haven at WWU also, with the goal of providing support for the larger Adventist LGBTQ+ population of college students who will be able to count on Haven as a tried and true place of confidential support during their formative years at college. We have formed our own framework to guide WWU’s Haven care group, a document written by theologians and pastors at WWU, in accordance with the university’s guiding values. A WWU Haven Advisory Council comprised of university administrators, faculty, staff, pastors, and students oversees Haven. Several of these members identify as LGBTQ+. WWU’s director of Counseling and Testing Center, oversees the Haven Advisory Council, and offers direct support for Haven’s leaders.