Change, the Mennonite Way

Last summer when I was contacted in regards to being a co-president of Safe Space, I was enthused—even elated. I had the opportunity to continue the work I did with Soulforce on the Equality Ride in my own context. I would have the chance to change my situation, my condition. My heart leaped with this thought. Little did I know I would share leadership with Jacob Mack-Boll who spent his summer working on mountaintop removal justice.

We entered into the fall semester with energy to change ourselves, our context, and our world. We hit the ground running. We kept the initial mission of Safe Space to be a place where LGBTQ people could gather, be loved, and welcomed. Once we secured that mission within our programming, we began the organizing and strategic plan that we yearned to begin. We gathered folks and talked about an area of growth for our campus in regards to LGBTQ rights. After three or four meetings we came to the conclusion that we needed to talk policy and about what is in the books.

Dinner conversations in the Den quickly transformed into a letter that was presented to SGA to raise the concern of the constituents of Safe Space and the Queer community. Our letter was received well and discussed. This was only our first step on the long road ahead of changing our campus into a place that is more welcoming. Now that our superiors knew that we as a group were having this conversation, we went ahead and opened this conversation for the entire campus. We titled the event, “I’m queer but my Prof’s not here.” This title alone incited so many folks to attend and join in this conversation. Through email and personal conversations, I heard from those who agreed and those who stood in disagreement. It was absolutely beautiful to see the campus to come together no matter where people stood.

Having everyone at the table, I believe, is the goal of the current administrative action and call to a listening and discernment process. This is the beginning; as a millennial I need to constantly remind myself that sustainable change is not an overnight processes. I want for us to celebrate queer, partnered professors who have been called to the place to instruct. Just as much as I want that, I also want the table of EMU to be full and beautiful. I want the transparency of the conversation Safe Space held a little over a year ago.

In order for this listening process to truly work, we need everyone. Safe Space has committed itself to the same process of listening; we have begun to reach out to those whom we suspect to not be in total agreement. The hope is that we can finally create a space where true, deep listening can happen. We want to truly create community where all can bring who they are to the table. For now we wait and we pray. We push and we work. I wish I knew where this process is going to end, but thanks be to God for this process in the first place.

-Chris Parks, Guest Writer


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