Point Loma Nazarene University Residential Life, in partnership with the Wellness Center, will host a panel discussion on faith and sexuality in the ARC on Feb. 28 at 7 p.m. Panelists include Dean of Students Jake Gilbertson, Title IX Coordinator Danielle Brown Friberg, Professor of Theology and Associate Pastor at San Diego First Church of the Nazarene Matt Wilson, Psychology Department Chair Kendra Oaks Mueller and Wellness Center Nurse Practitioner Lisa Roberts.
Under the new supervision of Wellness Center Executive Director Jen King, the center created a department that began operating this year. The Health Promotion Department is led by Health Promotion Specialist Kaitlin Sorgea.
“I think it’s because of their work that the word is getting out and they are trying to do more education on all kinds of different topics, sexual health being one of them,” Roberts said.
Roberts hopes that the panel will foster healthy conversations around sexuality and sexual health and said that these topics are often avoided within religious spaces because they are perceived as controversial and difficult to discuss.
“Many times the church has really stayed silent on really hard issues,” Roberts said. “Even like finances and things that are controversial or personal sometimes we don’t talk about and we really should.”
As a panelist, Roberts not only hopes to provide answers to medical questions but also wants students to know that the Wellness Center is there to give them care around these issues. She said she feels passionate about helping students navigate these areas in helping them be healthy and safe.
“I want to represent the Wellness Center in letting students know: we want you to come, we want to help you, we are here for you. I want them [students] to know that it’s completely confidential between me and them and their medical record and that’s it,” Roberts said. “I have only been here for a year, but what I am told is that a lot of students are afraid to come here because they think whatever they talk to us about, that we would share with other people, which is completely wrong and unethical, medically.”
Roberts said that a school-wide survey indicated that “an overwhelming majority” of students requested sexual health services from the Wellness Center.
“In the past I don’t think they have been advertised or as easily accessible from what I am told. I think there are some new voices around campus that are helping raise awareness that we are willing and able to provide services pertaining to sexual health,” Roberts said.
She also said that she noticed more voices within the church community speaking on sexuality and sexual health, specifically within the last five years.
Theologian and Pastor Wilson said in an email interview, “Faith and sexuality are deeply connected. If God is the creator of all, including our bodies and the physiological responses therein, God is, therefore, the creator of human sexuality. If sexuality and faith are connected theologically, they are then connected ethically.”
Wilson hopes that this conversation on the panel will “introduce a wider understanding of where faith meets sexuality and create more generous narratives around these two topics.”
He believes that faith and sexuality have been a prominent point of conversation for years at PLNU and will continue to be a topic of discussion.
“I hope to be a part of a community of dialogue in which the full breadth of God’s creative beauty and incarnated grace might be applied and understood in the midst of very real, tough conversations,” Wilson said.
Not only are the medical perspectives of Roberts and the theological thoughts of Wilson being promoted within the discussion, but also the viewpoint of Title IX Coordinator Friberg.
“My goals are to speak openly and honestly about my own journey with faith and sexuality, talk about the importance of consent in all relationships and contexts and provide information about the resources provided by the Title IX Office,” Friberg said in an email interview.
The hour-and-a-half long conversation is being promoted within PLNU marketing as “a panel discussion led in love, rooted in faith and free of judgment.”
“I think you leave the judgment out by seeing everyone as people. It’s kind of a level playing field, not one better than the other but a person who needs my help,” Roberts said.