New England's only nondenominational Christian college is hosting a controversial group of traveling homosexual activists for a few days of dialogue.
In response to a request from Soul Force, a gay-rights organization that advocates nonviolent resistance against "spiritual violence," Gordon College in Wenham, Mass. agreed to host the group for a series of presentations slated for Apr. 16-17 that are to be facilitated by the school's Center for Christian Studies.
While Soul Force's goal is to show religious institutions' "misuse of religion to sanction the condemnation and rejection of any of God's children," Gordon leaders still support the college's biblical founding that homosexuality is unacceptable. They do feel that these students must be embraced, however, in a compassionate manner.
"We intend to receive them as guests to our campus and listen with compassion," explained an event description. "We will also ensure that they hear the theological basis of our Christian beliefs that marriage is defined as the union between one man and one woman and that sexual activity is limited to the context of the marriage relationship. Gordon has not abandoned and will not veer from this biblical perspective."
Although students are not required to attend any of the events, the school's dean of students, Barry J. Loy, emailed the entire campus to let them know about the upcoming appearance. He feels that the occasion is an educational opportunity that many, including the visitors, should take advantage of.
The administrators hope to exhibit God's overflowing grace to all attendees, especially those with same-sex attraction, during the campus visit and activities.
"As a Christian college we are a redemptive community that endeavors to be a channel of God's grace – grace that deals with sin and grace that we all need," added the event description. "It is in this light that the College will offer our visitors a welcome that is gracious while affirming the historic, orthodox Christian position regarding homosexual behavior and the appropriate biblical instruction of responding with love for them."
This is the second year that Soul Force has had their campus activities. The group travels from campus to campus in two buses, one of which has 25 riders assigned to meet New England religious institutions.
In the past, the group went to visit a number of institutions including Wheaton College, Bethel University, Azusa Pacific University and Biola University. They have increased the number of campuses they visit this year to 33.
The travelers have been barred from most colleges that they have visited, and have even been arrested on campus nine times. Gordon College is the fifth campus to welcome them during this year's tour.
"I'm hoping that we'll be able to open some hearts and minds over at Gordon while we talk with students," explained Kyle DeVries, a spokesman for Soul Force, in the Boston Globe. "One of our main goals is to put a human face to an often abstract issue, and to share our own spiritual experiences and faith with students while they share theirs with us."
Students at Gordon have shown an overall interest in the event, despite whether they may agree with the activists.
"I don't believe in a fortress-like approach to life," said John Stoeckle , 22, the executive president of Gordon's student association, in the Boston Globe. "I find myself growing and realizing that the world is also a very complicated place, and we're often not really very good at loving people. We let beliefs become abstractions, and not people."
Tuesday will be the final day of the visit, where the riders will attend classes and talk informally with students.