“Our primary focus is to prepare students for the Church as grateful lifelong followers of Jesus Christ,” proclaims the introduction of the Campus Ministries’ mission statement. For many students, the tri-weekly event of Chapel nurtures discipleship and encourages mindfulness in the midst of busy college schedules. However, there are also a number of students that perceive Chapel as an exclusive entity, unwelcoming of them and their identities. On Friday, Campus Ministries hosted pastor Kevin Slusher (’10): a son, brother, uncle, baker, theologian, reader, and avid swimmer and biker. In the familiar walls of a full Dimnent, Slusher brought his journey as a celibate, gay man to light. Alongside his friend and fellow pastor Steve Rodriguez (’07), Slusher brought a new discourse to the Hope community. Slusher explained how he found rich Christian community through his relationship with the Rodriguez family after years of wrestling with his sexual orientation and trying to reconcile his identity to his faith. In his blog, “Thou Art Lighting and Love,” Slusher honestly shares his navigation of faith and scripture. Within the post “To Walk in the Light: An Embodied Witness,” posted in 2017 in which Slusher first came out to his online audience, he says “I affirm, and submit to, the Church’s traditional teachings on sexual ethics,” and went onto explain that he chooses to live a life of celibacy as a result of this.
This semester, Campus Ministries, along with other platforms for student discussion, have been increasing their dialogue around the LGBTQIA community. Hope’s removal of the “Hope College Position Statement On Human Sexuality,” which until this past summer has stated that marriage was intended to be between a man and a woman, has allowed space for honest discourse and more genuine welcoming of students identifying within the LGBTQIA community. However, the first half of the semester has demonstrated that the discourse and welcoming can be efforts in opposition to each other. Although Slusher’s articulate words resonated with some students, others felt that this message was a step backwards for Hope’s mission to become a more inclusive community for LGBTQIA students. Towards the end of his blog post, Slusher says that, “I feel called to offer my life to the Church in the hope that my embodied witness might give glory to God.” The Anchor staff will continue to gather thoughts, insight, and facts on Slusher’s Chapel talk over the coming days and invite you to take part in this process. Please reach out with your questions, comments and concerns.
Edited by Ruth Holloway