One example I used was Abilene Christian’s Christ-like reception of Soulforce, a group whose purpose is to discourage discrimination and violence against gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgendered individuals and to promote greater acceptance. In 2006, this group notified Abilene Christian University that their campus would be included as part of a cross-country bus tour. Some Christian universities around the country attempted to ban the organization from their campuses. Some threatened arrest. How did ACU respond?
“After careful consideration and discussions about who we are as a university, we decided the best way to affirm our core Christian values would be to treat Soulforce as Christ would – to have peaceful, patient dialogue about these issues while respectfully and clearly articulating why we believe as we do," said Dr. Royce Money, ACU President.
Soulforce members said they knew ACU continued to affirm the belief throughout the day that God intended sexual relations as an expression of love between a married man and woman. They also agreed that ACU offered the love of Christ, despite theological and academic disagreements.
"I think that in some ways, we can disagree but still acknowledge each other's humanity," said one Equality Rider in a discussion session. "I don't want to be here to push an agenda. I want to be here so that we can learn more about each other.”
Dr. Dwayne VanRheenen, Provost of ACU, said, "Part of our calling as Christian educators is to prepare our students to think through a wide variety of issues they will face while in college and after graduation. This visit showed students that there are real people dealing with the issues we hear about in the national press – and that these issues are complex and require deep, critical thinking to understand and to respond to as Christians."
"I believe Soulforce was unprepared for the depth of the love they would be shown by people on this campus," said Dr. Wayne Barnard, Associate Provost and Dean of Campus Life. "The Equality Riders expressed several times how unfamiliar that experience is for them, and we pray that somehow we touched their lives in a positive way.”