By Jonathan Smith, Editor in Chief
Students begin scattering to all corners of the country and world today as Spring Break Campaigns begin and willing students take the Gospel and the message of Christ to people they do not know and have never met.
A commendable goal to be sure as students try to live out the words of the Great Commission. But students will be faced with perhaps even another critical Great Commission test when they return to Abilene from their trips.
The Soulforce Equality Ride, a gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender activist group, will arrive on campus March 27 to engage in discussions about discrimination against homosexuality.
Unlike Spring Break Campaigns, that day students won’t have the option about whether or not they want to participate or be confronted with the issue. Students can decide their level of involvement, but with a group of several dozen on campus, total avoidance will be difficult.
Though this university is Equality Ride’s seventh stop on the month-and-a-half tour, ACU very well could be the first university to openly welcome the group on campus. We will know more about the group’s intentions and methods Friday as the group begins its tour in Lynchburg, Va., at Liberty University, which apparently will not allow the group on campus.
Just as other universities and people around the country will watch with interest the reactions of the Equality Riders when they are not allowed on campus, anticipation will be high regarding the reactions of the group and members of the first university to allow them on campus and engage in discussion with them.
Although media and outside attention shouldn’t change students’ and the university’s response one bit, it does make the portrayal of that response even more important.
So far, university administrators have responded admirably, agreeing to welcome and facilitate the visit. No students will be forced to participate in the discussions, but the university and Equality Ride have made several opportunities available to meet together for dialogue.
Even the Equality Ride Web site had positive comments about the university and its administration:
“Abilene Christian University has extended a warm welcome to the Soulforce Equality Ride,” according to the Web site www.equalityride.com. “ACU administrators have worked with Soulforce Equality Ride members to come up with a day of scheduled activities. The members of the Soulforce Equality Ride look forward to our day at ACU and are confident that it will be an excellent learning opportunity for all involved.”
The next step is for students to decide how they will respond when Equality Ride arrives on campus. Students can watch the news to find out how the other six stops on the trip have gone, if we are the first university to welcome them on campus, reactions largely will be unknown.
Regardless of how the other visits go, ACU students should be determined to show Jesus to those who freely come to this campus hopefully seeking discussion.
Granted, it is much easier to be able to fit showing Jesus to people into your schedule on a one-week campaign. But it is perhaps a more meaningful and difficult display of Christ when we aren’t the ones controlling and initiating the discussion.
So go ye into all the world next week, but come March 19, be ready to be Jesus to all those you encounter here in our own small world.