Following the decision made by administration at Samford University in Alabama to exclude two local churches from its annual campus ministry fair because of the churches' endorsement of same-sex marriage, a group of university graduates are speaking out against their matter.
Recent steps taken by the university, according to the leaders of the alumni association at Samford that provides support and advocacy for LGBTQ students, show that the institution is moving in a more conservative direction.
Samford University Excluded 2 Pro-LGBTQ Churches
On Wednesday, Samford University issued its first official response to allegations that it excluded campus ministry representatives of the Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church (USA) denomination from attending a ministry fair due to the fact that both of these denominations support same-sex marriage.
Reported by Al.com, Philip Kimrey, Vice President of Student Affairs, stated in a letter that the university is open to all denominations and does not have a policy or plan to exclude any denominations from their campus.
However, the university does have a duty to formally partner with ministry organizations that share their beliefs.
Meanwhile, Jonathan Coley, an associate professor of sociology at Oklahoma State University, said that in light of Samford's long history of welcoming members of the LGBTQ community, the recent decision to exclude the Episcopal Church and PCUSA from campus stands out as a significant setback.
The "exclusion" happened when Madison Vaughn, who serves as the ministry coordinator for the Ukirk campus ministry and who is a representative of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PCUSA), attempted to reserve a table for the Church & Ministry Expo event that was held on campus on Aug. 31.
According to the report, Vaughn was informed that she would not be provided with display space at the event. Subsequently, Vaughn contacted the Reverend Emily Collette, a chaplain at Trinity Commons, a college ministry group similar to the one that is affiliated with the Episcopal Church.
Brit Blalock, a 2008 Samford alum who launched SAFE Samford in 2011, explained that after Vaughn announced her intention to attend the event on social media, Collette received a call from Samford University Campus Pastor Bobby Gatlin uninviting her to the event.
Blalock claimed that Gatlin made it clear that Vaughn's denomination's pro stance toward LGBTQ members was the driving factor, and that Gatlin made no reference to any policies she had broken.
"Be More Supportive of LGBTQ Students"
President Beck Taylor took office last year, and many people, including Coley and Blalock, hoped he would be more moderate than his predecessor.
Based on a feature of a gay professor from Taylor's alma mater, Whitworth University, published in the New Yorker, one could suggest that Taylor would be more supportive of LGBTQ students.
As reported by Inside Higher ED, in light of the controversies surrounding his inauguration as president in November 2021, it is clear that Taylor will have to work within the conservative culture of the university throughout his time there.
After some students voiced opposition to historian Jon Meacham's appearance because of his advocacy for Planned Parenthood, the invitation to Meacham was rescinded.
Meacham was invited back to school for a second time in spring 2022 to speak at a separate event called Love Thy Neighbor, which encouraged peaceful conversation and mutual respect.
For Blalock, she noted that Samford's past as an institution that welcomed people of all faiths was a strength, and she expressed a desire to see that tradition resume.
As per the report, SAFE Samford has started an open letter-writing campaign to urge a policy shift. Over a dozen letters of support were received on the first day of the campaign, and Blalock anticipates several more, along with advocacy from student and faculty groups.