United We Listen series aims to listen to those in the margins

The 2015-2016 series United We Listen, hosted by the LGBT+ Task Force Committee, aims to listen to the voices of those in the margins and understand Christian responses to these margins.

Goals for the series include creating dialogue about difficult topics, showing love to every human being God has created and ensuring Union College is a place where people feel included and not marginalized.

These goals, along with tension between Biblical interpretation and social, culture, and political climate, are some of the biggest issues currently facing the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

The United We Listen series was inspired by the 2013 In God’s Image: Summit on Sexuality conference held by the General Conference in Cape Town, South Africa. The conference aimed to see real people grapple with issues as they sought to understand how to love as God loves and how to ensure that every human being experiences that love.

On August 3, 2015, the eight-member committee presented the topic and an activity to Union College faculty and staff.  The presentation focused on what it means to be on the margins. The committee members made lists of types of students who are marginalized on the Union College campus.

They then played cross the line and afterward compared their experience—their own marginalization—to the list of characteristics they had earlier made. They realized that living in the margins can include a plethora of barriers that put people outside the social norms, such as poverty, faith, family functionality, depression and academic struggles.

“Almost all of us are in the margins at some point in our lives,” explained Dr. Becker, the vice president for Student Services, “and empathy is what we’re called to provide.”

The LGBT+ committee have stated their guiding philosophy as, “Recognizing and affirming our belief that God’s ideal is that marriage is between a man and a woman, and recognizing that there are some who struggle within this framework, Union College seeks to develop a culture of respect and love for all of God’s children. We also recognize that an important part of Christian education is learning how to enjoy open, healthy conversations with someone who is different from us, and with whom we may not agree, while treating each person as Jesus did with unconditional love. This open dialogue leaders to better understandings and deeper relationships.

“We as a campus community believe that God loves every person – regardless of sexual orientation, ethnicity, physical ability, racial background, gender identity, or theological persuasion. Union College seeks to demonstrate God’s unconditional love through the four ingredients of lasting peace: dialogue, justice, forgiveness, and reconciliation (taken from ‘A Seventh-day Adventist Call for Peace,’ voted by the General Conference Executive Committee, April 18, 2002).”

Chris Blake, associate professor of English and communication at Union, commented, “As a result of listening, people find there is room to grow.” He continued by saying how people and issues are characterized matters, which is what the series is geared to show.

The current United We Listen series outline is as follows and includes topics such as poverty, sexual violence and abuse, alcoholism and ethnic marginalization with dates and titles yet to be set.

August 27, 28, and 29 Power Pac: Matt Gamble – Dealing with Addictions
September 22, Leadership Symposium: Steven Ford – Growing up in the White House
October 13, Chapel: Chuck Sandefur – Growing up Adventist and Understanding LGBT+ Ideas
November 17 (Tentative) ASB Convocation: Shawna Herwick and Trudy Holmes-Caines
February 9: Dr. Jon Paulien – Homosexuality and the Church
February/March: Dr. Peter Landless – Medical Perspectives on LGBT

Stefani Leeper is a junior Communication major with emphases in journalism and emerging media. She enjoys visiting her home state of California, and studying cultures is a favorite pastime. This biography would be longer but she’s an INFJ.