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Trinity Western students won’t have to sign covenant banning sex outside straight marriage

Students at Trinity Western University will no longer have to sign an agreement promising to abstain from all sex outside of heterosexual marriage.

The board of governors for the evangelical Christian university in Langley, B.C., voted on a motion Thursday to make the strict community covenant optional for students.

The motion said the change was made “in furtherance of our desire to maintain TWU as a thriving community of Christian believers that is inclusive of all students wishing to learn from a Christian viewpoint and underlying philosophy.”

The change will come into effect beginning in the 2018-2019 school year, and applies to new and continuing students. 

But faculty, staff and administrators will still have to sign the restrictive covenant, a school spokesperson confirmed.

‘I learned not to trust my heart’

The covenant binds students, staff and faculty to a code of conduct that includes abstinence from “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.”

Megan Jespersen, who graduated from TWU in 2005, said her hands were shaking with excitement when she heard the covenant would no longer be mandatory for students. She didn’t realize she was queer when she entered university as a 20-year-old, and says the agreement just amplified the shame she felt as she came to terms with that identity.

“What it created within me was a mistrust of my own heart,” Jespersen said. “That was one of the most traumatizing parts of that whole experience for me. I learned not to trust my heart because I felt that my heart was betraying me.”

But the thrill she experienced when she heard Tuesday’s news was tempered when she learned that faculty and staff would still have to sign the covenant.

“I really have no words for that,” she said. “That is not good enough when you’re not engaging the entire Trinity community.”

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