Arbor College Ministry loses funding due to supporting LGBTQ+ community

Arbor+College+Ministry+faced+pushback+after+announcing+its+commitment+to+LGBTQ%2B+inclusivity.+%28Graphic+by+David+Lloveras%29

Graphic by David Lloveras

Arbor College Ministry faced “pushback” after announcing its commitment to LGBTQ+ inclusivity.

Alyson Collins, Staff Writer

Arbor College Ministry, a Religious Life organization on campus, has received pushback since becoming vocal about its support of the LGBTQ+ community. 

Justin Samson, director of Arbor College Ministry, said Arbor College Ministry lost most of its funding since supporting the LGBTQ+ community.

“There are a lot of churches that we were affiliated with in the community that had a very anti-LGBTQ stance, and we were affiliated with them financially,” Samson said. “So we made the decision to go to our partners, and we’re like, ‘Hey, we’re gonna come out as an open and affirming community,’ and we did. We lost almost all of our funding, and all of our partners, except for one that we are now kind of under as well.”

Arbor College Ministry, an inclusive campus ministry, presents their booth to approaching students on The Quad during PrideFest Oct. 21, 2022. (Photo by Alyssa DeWig)
Arbor College Ministry, an inclusive campus ministry, presents their booth to approaching students on The Quad during PrideFest Oct. 21, 2022. (Photo by Alyssa DeWig)

Samson said when the conversation of LGBTQ+ or queerness came up to other Christian ministries on campus, it was “shut down.”

“Some of the ministries also have it in their bylaws that leaders cannot be queer or LBTQ+, they have to live a pure life,” Samson said.

They have been told their entire lives that they do not belong or fit with Christianity, which is absolutely wrong.”

— Justin Samson, director of Arbor College Ministry

Samson said he thinks Arbor College is one of the only open and affirming religious organizations on campus to talk about Christianity. He also said Arbor College Ministry always had a “passion” for the LGBTQ+ community. 

“They have been told their entire lives that they do not belong or fit with Christianity, which is absolutely wrong,” Samson said. “So for us, it was a decision of, this is where Jesus would be, Jesus would be here on campus talking about what it means to be a queer Christian, and what it means to love and care no matter what it is.”

Christine Hoehn, director of Religious Life, said she found Samson’s statements to be “challenging.”

“I have no problem with him saying we’re opening and inviting, but for him to say he’s the only opening and inviting group was a little challenging because I guess I don’t feel that way,” Hoehn said. “I think people are open in different ways.”

Hoehn said while some of the groups are more “mainline fundamentalist,” it doesn’t mean they are not welcoming.

“Now, as far as LGBTQ, I know, there’s been some struggles because some of our groups are more fundamentalist, mainline fundamentalist, I would say then not, but I don’t think that means that they’re not welcoming students,” Hoehn said. 

Samson said Arbor College Ministry is “loosely affiliated” with St. Paul’s Episcopal ministries.

“They are who I am under and I work for. However, Arbor College Ministry is more non-denominational,” Samson said. He said Arbor College Ministry looks at the Bible through a more  academic lens.

We’ve talked about gay rights in the Bible and just anything that’s really going on in the community right now that students are struggling with.”

— Justin Samson, director of Arbor College Ministry

Samson and Hoehn said they think Arbor College Ministry’s decision provides a conversation and outreach.

“We’re an open space for people to come and talk about what Christianity is and just study about it and, you know, do some kind of advocacy,” Samson said. “We’ve talked about gay rights in the Bible and just anything that’s really going on in the community right now that students are struggling with.”

“I was very happy and pleased that someone is advertising in that way, and that we’re responding to the communities that exist on our campus,” Hoehn said. “You know, part of what I feel like my role is to allow people to be who and how they need to be.”

Students at USI shared their opinions about a Religious Life organization announcing inclusivity.

“I think it’s great to include everyone because it gives a good understanding of just who the religion is and how they want to include everyone,” said Grace Weigenbenner, freshman elementary and early childhood education double major. 

Of course, you still want to make sure that everyone feels welcome, and that they have a space, so that may be an area that Religious Life may want to make sure is lined up with this inclusivity.”

— Dylan Moore, freshman business administration major

Dylon Moore, freshman business administration major said he thinks it was a responsible move for Arbor College, and they should make sure everyone feels welcome.

“Of course, you still want to make sure that everyone feels welcome, and that they have a space, so that may be an area that Religious Life may want to make sure is lined up with this inclusivity,” Moore said.

Samson said Arbor College Ministry is a place where students can be themselves.

“We want all people to know that they have a spot here and that God really does love them for who they are, he said”

Hoehn said she thinks students should experience religious life.

“If it’s not a good fit for you, then it’s not a good fit for you, but I don’t want people to shun or not attend something without having the experience,” Hoehn said. 

Samson said Arbor College Ministry plans to maintain inclusivity through love and affirmation. 

“I want people to know that if they want to learn about Christianity — the real Christianity — they want to learn about who Jesus Christ really is and who he is and the text in the back of the Bible, then they can come here to find that out, and they’re going to find it out in love and affirming,” Samson said. 

“I feel like it’s on a good track.” Weigenbenner said. “Signifying that they want to include everyone and they want to be welcoming, but they don’t really know how, so they’re trying to kind of promote their religious life to help out.”

Moore said he thinks Arbor College announcing their support of the LGBTQ+ community will get more students involved.

“I will say that it is nice to support people of different lifestyles, regardless of their faith, and if they do want to get involved, I think this will be a way to help students get more involved,” Moore said. “But you do still want to make sure, as a Religious Life organization, that you uphold the faiths that are being honored there and the members that are already participating.”