March 5, 2019

Dear Campus Community,

I write today to share my unwavering support for Ohio Wesleyan’s LGBTQIA+ community.

I write in the aftermath of last week’s meeting of the General Conference of the United Methodist Church (UMC), the global body of the UMC authorized to set church law. Like many of you, I was hopeful the General Conference would vote to permit same-sex couples to be married in the church and to accept gay people into the clergy. While much of American Methodism allows these practices, they remain formally forbidden in church law.

Though the Conference did not make the changes, I am heartened by the growing numbers of Methodists calling on the Church to remember its commitment to the sacred worth of all people and to social justice, exemplified historically by its positions on civil rights, women’s rights, and the rights of different ethnic communities. Like those vocal Methodists, I find last week’s vote unacceptable and in direct conflict with the gospel as I understand it.

Still, I am encouraged by conversations now happening either to revisit last week’s decision or to develop a new form of Methodism, fully inclusive of all people, in the American context. Further, I am heartened that two-thirds of the American voting delegates voted for full inclusion within the Church, laying an important foundation for the work ahead.

When leaders of the Methodist Episcopal Church founded Ohio Wesleyan and other colleges in the early nineteenth century, they expressed strong commitments to broad access to higher education and to the fundamental values of liberal education. Today, these commitments are embedded in our charter – as well as in our conscience and our character.

Much of what we value about the culture of OWU has grown out of our history with the United Methodist Church. In particular, the deep commitment to service learning, the strong presence of international students on our campus, and the passion for social justice are legacies of the early Methodist influence and reflect values carried by John Wesley, our namesake and the founder of the Methodist movement.

As we look to the future, however, I think it is important to note that the General Conference’s vote has no impact on OWU’s deep commitment to diversity and inclusion, including making campus facilities available for same sex weddings as has been our practice for many years. Nor does it have any impact on our governance, which is independent of Church control.

I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to lead a campus that expresses full support of the LGBTQIA+ community, including full inclusion in every form of leadership.

I am happy to visit personally with anyone who has additional questions. In addition, our Multicultural Student Affairs, Chaplain’s, and Counseling Services offices are always here to support everyone, as well.


Rock Jones
President
Ohio Wesleyan University