OBU Petition
Soulforce riders arrested while trying to attend chapel at Oklahoma Baptist University

What happens when you serve communion and no one comes?

[Wednesday, March 14]

Five people were arrested at OBU this morning for attempting to attend chapel. Five people were arrested for trying to participate in a worship service, and many more were prevented. I know it is more complicated than that, of course.

Oh, how complicated it is.

I stood there watching and crying as five young people were arrested at my alma mater. I stood safely on campus, as an alum, talking to administrators, many of whom I’ve known for some time.

It wasn’t a good day. Sometimes a situation cannot be redeemed, but an open wound, long ignored, must be exposed.

After last year’s Equality Ride visit to OBU I was confident, ebullient even, that positive steps had been taken. Though that enthusiasm also covered a deeper, internal struggle about what is the right thing to do in such situations. A struggle that has risen to the surface again in the last few weeks.

Should I have been arrested today? Last year I was prepared to, this year I was less convinced of its efficacy. But now I’m somewhat ashamed that others were arrested and that I was unwilling to cross that line.

What are the appropriate tactics in our activism? I feel judged by both those who think this particular action futile or misguided and those who think I should be pushing harder than I am.

Why is there only one gay OBU alum out there? A community would make it easier.

To me relationships are the fundamental thing, and I think it is important and valuable to maintain the relationships I have in the Oklahoma Baptist world. I think such relationships give me a witness.

But, then, how much do I end up participating in the system of evil myself? For it really isn’t simply OBU and its administrators, it is the system of religious based discrimination of which the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and many of its churches participate. Do I participate in and further that system of evil by not confronting it more directly?

Plus, I’m angered, disappointed, and hurt by those friends and colleagues at OBU or who minister in Oklahoma churches who are sympathetic to the cause of GLBT young people and may work quietly behind the scenes but who are unwilling to more boldly confront or abandon the system they participate in. Yet, I think I understand why they do, and I’m forced to be sympathetic because I face the same conflict, just a little further down the spectrum. I saw the struggle today in administrators who didn’t like arresting these young people. How can they participate in such a thing? How can students, faculty, and members of churches not be outraged?

Oh, it is all so complicated, and I grieve because I don’t know what the right thing to do is.

Plus, don’t different people have different roles to play?

So, I prayed silently for an hour in the gazebo on campus that my class built (at the leadership of three gay men, including myself). The Equality Riders were not allowed to join me, but sat and kneeled on a sidewalk twenty feet from me. The area around me was filled with police, security, and some press. It was the strangest thing to pray in such a setting.

I had communion elements set out, hoping that this sacrament of the church could be an opportunity for healing. But no one came to take communion.


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Tim Sean

I am one of those friends who did not
join you. Of course this is something you and I have spoken of privately and so I post here perhaps in part to try and help others who did show up understand.

The Equality Riders want systemic, institutional change. A tall order, particularly in the specific culture of Oklahoma Southern Baptists. There have been shifts in thinking. As a Baptist minister I have seen in the last twenty years a much greater willingness to understand the gay identity. I work with teenagers, who can be some of the most homophobic (let's just say xenophobic) people on the planet. Though they may often joke about things in the pejorative being "gay," they are significantly more tolerant than the teenagers I worked with twenty years ago. People's attitudes are softening, it is slow and more grass roots, but it is happening.

Is it happening fast enough? Comprehensively? I suppose the answer to that is no. But it seems to me that Jesus was not primarily concerned with changing Roman or Jewish relgious law legislateively but rather interpersonally. The human heart changes and bit by bit the laws and insitutions that we build and maintain will follow suit. Not to say that Jesus did not want to see the laws that hurt people change. He had some intense moments of activism himself, moments that eventually had him killed. Subsequently, I am not off the hook.

I am in a precarious position. As much as I want to be open-minded, progressive and accepting, as a heterosexual man I confess I am still conflicted about the issue. And it is the thing about myself that I hate. I wish it were not so, but there are remnants of doubt. The human soul is complex, sexual desire and attraction are a beautiful mess. I have confessed to God that if I am wrong about accepting gay and lesbian friends then I am sinning boldly, making an error to the side of grace. I still think it is the safest bet.

Be patient with me, with the evangelical church. Most people have a hard time talking about sex. Talking baout homosexuality? Wow! That is a tall order. And I don't mean to minimalize the darker issues associated with the struggle of gay people. I know there have been many horrific occasions when young adults have been sorely wounded by the actions of those who believe homosexuality is altogether wrong, who see it as a clear-cut issue with no room for shades of complexity. I know people have been hurt. I hate that as well. But I also know that many young adults have come out of the closet in evangelical contexts and been affectionaly cared for, loved and accepted by people in that community. It is the tapestry of sin and redemption we are born into, however you parse that in your theology or world view.

I believe that the ER ride would be more effective if every year they drove to schools like OBU, parked the bus off campus, and in small groups came on campus and had some coffee, struck up conversation. Not sure how that would go over. Admittedly, it would not garner the kind of press attention getting arrested would. Which I believe in the short term hurts the cause at OBU more than it helps.

I do love you. I know my love for you is incomplete. I am working on it. What a strange and wonderful ride were on.

Jacob Zimmer

Thanks for going, thanks for being there, thanks for sharing, thanks for offering communion. I am sorry for your pain, your sense of loss and grief. Keep up the good work and your ministry.

billy bob

whatever happened to NOT being quarrelsome?

Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.
2 Timothy 2:22-26

Scott Jones

I've been in LA since last Thursday. I missed the second day of arrests. I did get word that some of the young activists were frustrated or even angry with me because they perceived me as not being "on their side." How sad.


Scott, Scott, Scott....
So sorry to hear about the arrest of the Equality Riders at OBU. It is especially hard, when after last year's visit it looked like there may indeed be hope. However, it seems like maybe "Hope" got lost in the back of the box, and many of the other villians scrambled out. I only pray that "hope" was not completely lost.

I read the letter you sent from the Executive Director of Soulforce, and also I read with interest you blog entery. I can understand why you must feel sadness, despair, and guilt. I am so sorry that you did not have the courage to cross the line. Many times in life we have to draw the line in the sand, and say to ourselves: "this cannot be crossed, this cannot be tolerated." As GLTB, we should be even more aware of this line.

My questions to you: Are your Baptist Convention ties more important to you than your own sexual orientation? How can you be so outraged at OBU administrators when you are doing the same? How could you allow the Equality Riders to be twenty feet away--and not go to them? Not cross the line? As a minister of COH; are you not representing the whole church? Your actions or even lack of actions affect the church and GLTB community. Have you possible thought how much you could have helped the cause? A local gay minister arrested---who just happens to be an OBU

Just a few questions for the soul.....

Scott Jones

Mykael (aka DANA),

As I've responded to you via personal e-mail, I have for fifteen years lobbied OBU on this issue. To be arrested would have ended my ability to be involved in those on-going conversations.

It would have also made it more difficult for me to minister as a pastor to the gay students at OBU, with whom I have met and been in contact regularly since last year. I was standing with them when the arrests were made, making sure that they were okay.

In any on-going effort, one must evaluate what tactical steps will best achieve the strategic goals. Even the Equality Ride plans ahead of time for a select few to be arrested so that the remaining ones can engage in conversation with the people, students, and press that are present. Among the considerations that went into my personal tactical choices were the following. I was conducting the vigil that began shortly after the arrests. To be arrested would have meant that vigil didn't occur. I was also able to engage the administration and police directly in conversation about what they were doing. And have had on-going conversation with OBU folk in the weeks since the incident.



Why do you think that Mykael wrote the comment?? Do you think that he is the only one that has questions? I do admit that my middle initial is a "M", however I assure you that my middle name is not Mykael.

I was going to visit with you on Sunday about this event, when I inquired about the
dropping attendance and the huge budget. The subject got changed to the fact that it was Spring Break.....

In closing, this is not Mykael, nor Monty, or even Judith....just me.

Scott Jones

I actually did think it was Mykael and not you. I only realized this morning that it was from your e-mail address, so I went to change what I had written, when I saw your comment.

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