Dordt College welcomes Equality Riders for friendly, open & Christian dialogue

Equality Riders walk into the Dordt College Campus CenterYesterday, the 26 Equality Riders visited the campus of Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa. The school administration and student body gladly and lovingly welcomed the Riders on campus for open, Christian dialogue.

Picture Right: Riders walk into the Dordt College Campus Center

The day started out meeting with the administration, including President Carl E. Zylstra and other members of the campus faculty and staff including Vice President of Student Services Boersma and Dean of the Chapel, the Reverend Rod Gorter.

We took a tour of the campus, which I must say was quite beuatiful. The stain-glass chandelier in the campus center was especially nice.

After the graffiti we encountered on our bus when we woke up yesterday morning, I think I was a bit surprised to see how open the campus was for discussion. The students, many of whom said this was the first time they had the opportunity to openly discuss LGBT issues face-to-face with openly gay people, were hungry for discussion & conversation and to hearing first-hand our stories of living as LGBT people in this nation and within the church.

We were able to give a presentation to students, “Loving Like Jesus.” The presentation went extremely well and we were able to clearly lay out our beliefs about how Jesus and His Gospel applies to us and how it beckons us to come to Him, without reservation and just as we are.

The most exciting part of the day was certainly the one-on-one discussion with students, but I also enjoyed the “College Moderated Panel Discussion,” we held in the chapel. Members of the Dordt College community and members of the Equality Ride discussed the issues in a moderated, formal way.

Moderated panel discussion in Dordt ChapelDr. Daniel Hitchcock with the College’s Psychology Department showed a bried PowerPoint presentation regarding “psychological” issues playing into sexual orientation. In my honest, individual opinion, I thought the presentation was nothing more than a big, fancy way to tell us that being gay is a combination of choice, being sexually abused as children and having distant fathers or over-bearing mothers – It certainly was just like the mis-information and un-truths we hear from groups like Focus on the Family and its leader Dr. James Dobson.

Pictured right: Moderated panel discussion, l-r, Riders Bram Wispelway, Katie Higgins, Jarrett Lucas and Dordt/church officials Dr. Daniel Hitchcock, Rev. Rod Gorter and Rev. Aaron Baart.

The Reverend Rod Gorter, or “Pastor Rod” as he is called on campus, outlined the College’s so-called biblically-based policies and the various passages on which these policies are based, including the “clobber passages,” verses & passages throughout the Bible which have been used throughout history to oppress and malign LGBT people. The last panelist, a younger pastor in the area, the Reverend Aaron Baart, used his time to apologize for the mis-givings and short-comings of the church in regard to how it has treated LGBT people and how it has continued to focus so heavily on LGBT people but how it then forgets to chastise themselves for sins that they believe St. Paul condemns just as equally. Rev. Baart’s words were comforting – to an extent – and I appreciate so greatly that he was willing to step up and admit that, yes, the church had definitely messed up and come short of fulfilling the love and Gospel of Christ.

Rev. Baart’s apology is a start, but it can’t be the only thing… we must go further. The church and all of its various sects and denominations should step and apologize like Rev. Baart did. The church must also take action to include into the Body of Christ and full life of the church, LGBT people. Doing so will enhance Christ’s Gospel and fulfill it even more.

In the First Century Church, a huge debate arose regarding the place of Gentiles within the full life of the Church and Body of Christ. We all know how that story ended. The church accepted into membership the Gentiles and the church was enhanced and the church came closer to carrying more fully the Gospel of Our Lord.

I’ll leave you all with some more photos of the day at Dordt…

Rider Michael Goll from Northwestern College and Rider Casey Chandler-Alexander

The beautiful organ in Dordt Chapel.

Rider Co-director Jarrett Lucas (right) with Vice President Ken Boersma (left) and other administration officials during supper.

Riders speak with students during supper.

And… today’s article on yesterday’s visit from the Sioux City Journal

Gay, lesbian group harassed in Sioux Center

Shortly after they rolled into Sioux Center, Iowa, Wednesday night, members of a gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender social justice organization were harassed and found their bus vandalized with anti-gay slurs.

The 25 people, ranging in age from 19 to 28, are members of Soulforce Q, a division of the national organization that works to end political and religious oppression of GLBT people. They are in Sioux Center until Saturday visiting with Dordt College students, said media liaison Kyle DeVries.

It was the first stop in the organization’s Equality Ride 2007, aimed to bring the message of equality and inclusion to Christian colleges like Dordt that have policies punishing gays and lesbians and excluding them from the campus.

“This is the reality created by fear and misunderstanding,” said Katie Higgins, co-director of the group. “It saddens me that people have such hatred in their hearts, but this just demonstrates why we feel called to spread our message of the inherent worth and dignity of all human beings.”

Wednesday night, three vehicles repeatedly circled the hotel where the riders were staying, DeVries said, and the people in them were making lewd comments and gestures such as dropping their pants. Thursday morning, he said they woke up to find anti-gay slurs, including foul language, written on the side of the bus.

“We’re prepared to run into things like this, but we didn’t expect it on the first night,” he said. The riders left Minneapolis on Wednesday to start their tour east across the country. “That this happened really shows how these words become actions. If you have an anti-gay policy, it’s only a matter of time until someone takes it to the extreme of vandalism, which can lead to violence.”

The group contacted Dordt officials a few months ago to set up a panel discussion between its members and Dordt officials about the college’s GLBT policies, also having students accompany members around campus and facilitate conversations, said Norlan De Groot, Dordt director of public relations.

“We allowed their visit for two reasons: We considered this to be a learning opportunity for our students and an opportunity for Christian witness,” De Groot said.

Included in Dordt’s faculty and student handbooks is that the college “specifically holds as unacceptable sexual relations with someone of the same gender. Dordt also prohibits promoting or advocating such activity.”

College officials were “saddened” to learn about the vandalism and apologized to the riders for its occurrence in Sioux Center, he said. Dordt maintenance workers cleaned the graffiti off of the vehicle.

“We don’t want to see that happen here,” De Groot said.

Regardless of the incidents, DeVries said they all felt the visit has been productive.

“We believe the students really opened their hearts and minds to us,” he said.

The harassment and vandalism was reported to Sioux Center police, DeVries said. There was no indication anyone associated with Dordt was involved in the incidents.

Also… another article on the situation, from the Des Moines Register.

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6 Responses to “Dordt College welcomes Equality Riders for friendly, open & Christian dialogue”
  1. Ally says:

    Talking is better than silence.

    Matt, do you know roughly what percentage the schools your visiting are doing something official to receive you?

  2. Matt says:

    Hi Ally, Sure… but let me preface this by saying that everything is ALWAYS in flux and negotiations are ALWAYS happening and what is right now, might not be later…

    March 12 – Central Bible College, Springfield, MO
    NOT letting us on campus

    March 14-15 – Oklahoma Baptist University, Shawnee, OK
    NOT letting us on campus

    March 19 – Baylor University, Waco, TX
    I’m not sure

    March 22 – Mississippi College, Clinton, MS
    NOT Letting us on campus

    March 26 – Union University, Jackson, TN
    Sorta on campus

    March 28 – University of the Cumberlands, Williamsburg, KY
    NOT Letting us on campus

    March 30 – Samford University, Birmingham, AL
    On campus

    April 2 – Covenant College, Lookout Mountain, GA
    I’m not personally sure

    April 4 – Bob Jones University, Greenville, SC
    NOT letting us on campus

    April 10 – Montreat College, Montreat, NC
    Friendly school, letting us on campus

    April 12 – Patrick Henry College, Purcellville, VA
    Not letting us on campus

    I’m not sure of the others

  3. Cecelia says:

    Matt: I’m so glad you are documenting this process. I had tears reading comments from your first visit. Thanks for all the work you are doing. Know that you are missed and loved in Greensboro. We would send you a care package, but its hard since you are on a bus. 🙂

    All my best, Cecelia

  4. Matt says:

    Cecilia!!!! I miss you too!!! I wish I could be back in Greensboro with all my friends and family doing activism there, but I’m really enjoying the trip so far and I’m learning SOOOO much!!

    Thank you so much Cecilia!!! Love ya!

  5. Matt,

    I have not read anything about Soulforce in the Baylor Lariat or the Waco Tribune. You may be at a disadvantage because Monday the 19th is our first day back from Spring Break.

    It’s doubtful that there will be a paper that morning so I’m not sure how students will find out that Soulforce is on campus.

    Baylor’s policy is somewhat sleazy – they don’t necessarily enforce the policy – but since the policy is on the books, they can potentially punish anyone for anything relating to homosexuality.

    We have a new President now, who is mdoerate, and should be more hospitable and friendly. Waco is the Baptist capital of the world. We have Baptist churches that condemn homosexuality, Baptist churches that don’t talk about homosexuality (such as mine, with gay members), and Baptist churches that welcome and affirm. It’s a mix.

  6. One more thing.

    When you have the details about when/where the Baylor event is going to take place, go to and post a message in the Religion/Politics Section. Hundreds and hundreds of Baylor students and alumni read that website everyday. That’s the best way to get the word out at Baylor.

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