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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
April 27, 2007

Equality Riders welcomed at their only Ohio stop

Cedarville, Ohio--Cedarville University met the eastbound bus of the Soulforce Equality Ride with a guarded welcome when it came through town on April 19 and 20.

Cedarville University is a Baptist school in this small town about 15 miles east of Dayton, exactly the sort of institution that the Equality Ride is targeting.

The Equality Ride is made up of dozens of young LGBT Christians on two buses, one headed east and the other west, to spread Soulforce’s message of queer inclusion in spiritual life. This was the Ride’s first Ohio stop in the two years that the trek has taken place.

While some schools, like Brigham Young University, have banned Soulforce and the Equality Riders from their campuses, Cedarville allowed them, although it did prohibit them from entering residence halls, staying on campus overnight or speaking in the chapel.

They were allowed to speak, although those opportunities were presented along with counter-points from Cedarville staff.

University officials, both before and after the visit, stood by their policies, which include a rule calling for immediate dismissal of any student who contradicts their biblical interpretation of homosexuality.

Vice President for Student Life Carl Ruby acknowledged that the school’s rules are strict.

“Cedarville has one of the most conservative policies among Christian universities,” he said. “Cedarville’s policy will continue to prohibit homosexual behavior, as well as any actions which would promote a homosexual lifestyle.”

“Our prayer is that the Riders’ experience on our campus clearly communicated biblical truth regarding human sexuality while doing so in a gracious, Christlike way,” said Janice Supplee, a university spokesperson. “We’re proud of the way our students, faculty and staff conducted themselves in what was really a very quiet day on campus.”

She commended the Equality Riders for engaging in a dialogue while obeying the ground rules set down for them.

“Soulforce also honored their agreement with us,” she noted.

Amy Scott, one of the Soulforce contingent, returned the compliment.

“My hosts were incredibly open to dialogue and we found many questions that we were able to mutually ask of our faith and where it needs to be challenged,” she said.

Days after the Cedarville visit, which saw Equality Riders attending the daily convocation in the school’s chapel, Soulforcers on the westbound bus were arrested on the campus of Trinity Bible College in Ellendale, North Dakota while trying to walk to their chapel.

On April 23 and 24, the eastbound bus riders found two starkly different welcomes in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Cornerstone University had Equality Riders arrested for trespassing when they attempted to enter the campus on April 23. Calvin College staff, however, spent the months since they were first contacted by Soulforce organizing events to bring their students and the Equality Riders together.

"They were going to come, we were going to make sure we had a worthwhile visit," Calvin College Vice President of Student Life Shirley Hoogstra told Grand Rapids television station WOOD. "We're very clear as a denomination: Marriage is reserved for a man and a woman, but that we have to offer pastoral care for persons with same-sex attraction."



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