On April 23 students will more than likely see a giant tour bus with the words “Soulforce” written across it. They might think “Soulforce” is a musical group, possibly a choir coming to sing during chapel, but they’d be wrong. Soulforce is an activist group that works to end instances of what it perceives as religious and political oppression among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning people (LGBTQ).
Soulforce will visit 16 different campuses on its fourth Equality Ride route. Soulforce “riders” travel across the United States to college campuses that they deem to have specific rules that discriminate against LGBTQ students. The goal of this Equality Ride is to pursue justice for LGBTQ’s through conversation, action and community involvement.
Sabrina Diz is part of the Equality Ride and has been coordinating Soulforce’s visit to our campus. Her hope is “for Malone to recognize that there are LGBTQ students on their campus and they are suffering in silence, feel oppressed, discriminated and unloved.” She said she wants to bring awareness to a campus policy that mentions “homosexual activity” as immoral and also hopes that the University “will come to an understanding on a schedule that is welcoming and that will foster dialogue between students, staff and riders.”
“A taskforce has been meeting all month to plan the arrival of Soulforce,” said Campus Pastor Randy Heckert. Heckert, administration and the taskforce are all planning on welcoming Soulforce with open arms despite any disagreements. The taskforce has created an entire day of events including open forums for students and faculty and a campus tour for members of Soulforce.
Heckert said he plans on spending time with Soulforce discussing this “hot button” issue of the church and sexual orientation. “We are not threatened by their visit because we are not afraid to discuss controversial issues. This is nothing new for us. I plan on spending time with them and talking to them.” Heckert also encouraged students to meet with the equality riders to discuss their opinions. “I don’t think any sort of dialogue hurts,” he said.
Luke Taylor, junior bible and theology major and member of our own justice group be:Justice said he is both excited and anxious for Soulforce’s visit. “I am excited because I think it will be a great opportunity for us to show welcome as well as grow in our faith and understanding regardless of any differing opinions on the topic,” he said. It is Taylor’s hope that our community will “choose to exhibit Christ and His love.”
Stephan Nzishura, senior nursing major and director of our campus house of prayer is also excited about Soulforce coming to visit.
“It will be controversial and at the same time beneficial to our campus and community,” he said. This is one of the biggest issues of our generation and I believe as a Christian University, we are supposed to fully engage ourselves instead of acting like we are better than homosexuals when we ourselves need to be revived back to God.”
Soulforce will be in Canton from April 23-April 25 where they will be talking with the campus as well as people in the community. “The trustees are behind us with this and the Eastern Conference is walking right along with us,” said Pastor Randy. “We will be welcoming Soulforce with love and hospitality.”
If students would like to become more educated on Soulforce’s mission before they arrive, visit Soulforce.org.
Abby Skiba is a contributing writer to The Aviso.