Category Archives: Higher Education

A Story Full of Hope: Marion Design Co.

“And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.” Jeremiah 29:7

A fascinating story has been unfolding over the last few years – a story full of hope.  I have asked my communications assistant, Jill Pederson, to capture this story so that I could share it with you….

“It began four years ago when our Art + Design Division combined design, interior design, art and social impact into a new degree called Design for Social Impact – an idea originally birthed by Professor Wendy Puffer.

Professor Herb Vincent Peterson and Teaching Fellow Luke Anspach joined the ranks of faculty at IWU – each adding key talents, knowledge and passion to the list of instructors guiding the Design for Social Impact students.

In 2015, one IWU design student who enrolled in a typography class with Peterson also took a journalism class to fulfill a needed English credit.  An assignment for this journalism class connected her to the Mayor of Marion where she learned of the city’s desire to re-brand itself.  However, the city had a significant challenge in that they had virtually zero resources.  This student carried the message of the city’s need back to Peterson, who knew that IWU could help.

Word spread about the “re-brand Marion” project.  Perhaps the most amazing of all was a group of 17 IWU students who refused to go home during the summer of 2016.  They felt called.  They wanted to use their talents to make a difference in this community.

Wendy Puffer, Marion Design Co. Co-Founder

Puffer explains, “We had a meeting in my living room.  We explained to them that we could not pay them.  We told them that we understood the importance of making money during the summer months.  We prayed as a group about what the Lord would have us do; not one student backed out.”

Peterson began searching for studio space where their sizeable team could land for the summer to do their branding work.  Their number one desire was to be in the heart of Marion.  Through a series of remarkable circumstances, less than one week after his first inquiry, Peterson was holding a freshly cut key to the vacant bank building across from the courthouse – a space they were given to use at zero cost for the summer.

The space was perfect.  It had the exact number of tables and chairs needed for every member of their team.  The county (current owner of the building) took care of utilities and maintenance needs.  The students and faculty worked for free.

“This became a hub for an incredible, immersive learning experience for 17 students and 4 faculty.  We became a ‘thing’ that needed a name.  Someone mentioned the name ‘Marion Design Co.’ and that was that,” explains Peterson. “Marion Design Co. was a project grown by faith.  God was at work because things that are not humanly possible were happening every day.  We finished each day that summer saying, ‘What a day!’  We were living it together.  Our faith was stretched.  Our students’ faith was stretched.  We were learning alongside one another.”

They describe difficult days in the bank.  Their branding research was not easy.  They held design thinking sessions where people came in with heavy burdens, heavy concerns for Marion.  People had stories they needed to tell.  Stories of racism, poverty and unemployment that spanned generations.  They also learned encouraging things and discovered strengths of this community. When things got especially challenging, they took retreat in the huge bank vault to read scripture and pray.

The bank became a sacred space, a neutral ground.  In time, as they listened to people, talked to people, the students and faculty who made up Marion Design Co. became representatives of the city of Marion.

The result was something none of them could have imagined – work for a lifetime.  The Marion Design Co. has become marketing agents for the city of Marion seeking to change the visual vernacular of this city.  They are helping to revive, empower and propel Marion to a brighter future.

Like an army of ants, the people of Marion Design Co. are marching out to serve on boards, committees and work on projects on a scale of which I am incapable of fully explaining in one blog.  They are re-branding storefronts, re-branding businesses and schools, producing radio spots, volunteering time, creating spaces for conversations and infusing hope into every place they go. They are slowly, but surely changing perceptions.

They have completed two notable projects:  the re-branding of the City of Marion and a complete re-design of the City of Marion website.  If you have not visited the new website, here is a link:  https://cityofmarion.in.gov. Anyone who visits this website will see Marion through the eyes of people who care about their community.

“It is truly remarkable.  I just had a student tell me that he wanted to apply for a summer internship position with Marion Design Co. for this coming summer,” explains Anspach. “Just two years ago, all of this was just an idea.”  Anspach describes his joy in being a part of marrying design with passionate, creative college students and putting them to work in a community where they are genuinely making a difference.  As he explains, “To me, this is what it means to embody the gospel.”

The county has given Marion Design Co. permission to stay in the bank building until they have a buyer for this building.  I have a hunch that one day, Marion Design Co. will be forced to vacate so that a flourishing, successful business that sees an incredible opportunity in Marion can move in.

Our students and faculty have big, beautiful ideas for Marion, Indiana.  Do you?”

“Even the largest avalanche is triggered by small things.” Vernor Vinge

The Blind Boys of Alabama to Perform at IWU

Friends,

You will not want to miss a very special event taking place this coming Friday in Marion on the campus of IWU.

The Office of Multicultural Enrichment and Employee Development, The Multicultural Enrichment Council and The MLK Planning Committee have planned a community-wide celebration to honor the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Friday, January 12, 2018.

The Blind Boys of Alabama will be the featured guests at our student chapel (10 a.m.) and during the MLK Celebration Concert, “Living the Dream” at 7:00 p.m. in the Phillippe Performing Arts Center.

The Blind Boys of Alabama are hailed as “gospel titans” by Rolling Stone and praised by the Washington Post for their “soul-stirring harmonies” and “range of cross-genre collaborations”. Rising to fame in the segregated south, group member Jimmy Carter reveals their goal has always been to “get out there and sing gospel music”.

Recognized worldwide as living legends of gospel music, The Blind Boys of Alabama have a 70-year recording career marked by 5 GRAMMY Awards (plus one for Lifetime Achievement), collaborations with greats such as Stevie Wonder, Prince, Lou Reed and Peter Gabriel, as well as television appearances and performances on some of the world’s most renowned stages. Indiana Wesleyan University is honored to have The Blind Boys join our community as we celebrate the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

For tickets to this free concert, visit www.indwes.edu/events/mlk

We look forward to seeing you at our 2018 MLK Celebration!

Proposed Tax Reform Negatively Impacts Private Higher Education

Those who keep abreast of political news may be following the tax reform legislation under construction currently.  We are monitoring the situation closely because of the current legislation in Congress (the Senate’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and H.R. 1 in the House of Representatives).  Both bills have serious implications for higher education institutions.

At this writing, both bills have passed in their respective chambers.  It may be possible to change the final version of the law during the Conference process when the House and Senate versions are reconciled with each other.

Here are proposed changes to tax law that could have serious negative consequences for higher education institutions:
  • Student Loan Interest – The current $2,500 student loan interest deduction would be eliminated. Result:  Student loans become more difficult to repay.
  • Charitable Giving – The standard deduction would effectively be doubled, significantly reducing the value of the charitable deduction. This change would result in a dramatic drop in the amount of charitable giving in the U.S. due to an estimated 32 million fewer people eligible to claim the deduction.
  • Endowments – Private institutions would pay a 1.4% excise tax on net investment income above a certain threshold based on the ratio of enrollment to endowment size. Result: This would reduce the amount of endowment proceeds available for operations and student scholarships for institutions that reach the threshold.
  • Tax Exempt Bond Financing – Private institutions would no longer have access to tax-exempt bonds. Result: Cost of capital for construction and improvements would increase.
  • Qualified Tuition Benefit Reduction – Tuition waivers for employees, spouses and dependents would become taxable. Result: IWU would immediate pay over $360,000 in new FICA taxes, and IWU employees would be liable for $1.4M in newly taxable benefits.
  • Lifetime Learning Credit – The current $2,000 per year tax credit for part-time, nontraditional students would be eliminated. Result: An incentive for adults to pursue degrees would be removed.

These changes directly impact the accessibility and affordability of private higher education at a time when these institutions are already vulnerable.  The Council for Christian College and Universities has been proactive in presenting our case against many of these measures. They seem to unfairly and inappropriately target private higher education.

Last month, Trustee David Dimmich and I participated with about 40 CCCU presidents, trustees, and administrators in an intensive day of visits to our Congressional delegates in Washington, DC, to make them aware of our concerns.  We were well received by our Indiana legislators including Senator Todd Young, Representative Susan Brooks, Representative Todd Rokita, Representative Jim Banks, and Representative Jackie Walorski.

We have reason to believe that at least some of these issues will be removed from the final version of the new tax code.

Success or Significance? Stories of Alumni

Success. The desire for it drives us.

Yet one single, absolute definition of success eludes us as there are so many lenses with which to view success. Still, somehow, it seems easy to recognize when success is achieved.

Would you agree with those statements?

Even the conversation about success is subject to a person’s viewpoint. Is success measured by a position in life, accomplishments, wealth, outcomes achieved, a sense of inner peace, the ability to aide our fellow human beings, obeying the Lord’s will no matter the cost?

We at Indiana Wesleyan University think about success quite often because we want our students to succeed in the classroom and in life. We want our alumni to succeed professionally. We want them to be well prepared for the journey God has laid out before them.

But there is something we want for our students to achieve even more than success. That is significance.

Recently I heard someone say that success is what dies with you. Significance is what outlives you.

I ask you, if it is so very challenging to define success in one absolute way, what does it mean for our lives to have true significance?

Significance, in my viewpoint, is when an individual uses his or her God-given gifts and abilities to impact the world for Jesus Christ, wherever that may be. It could be in a classroom, an office, a lab, a tent or a concert hall. The light in their eyes, the joy in their hearts is obvious when they are using their God-given gifts to the fullest for His glory.

A favorite part of my role as President is celebrating our alumni. The stories are endless, they are wide-ranging in variety, and truly inspiring.

Perhaps it is because of my background as a missionary kid, that I cannot help but feel drawn to the stories of alumni who go to regions of the world where they are a light for the Lord in a place that does not yet know Him. I often think of simple truths found in God’s word such as “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established” (Proverbs 16:3) or “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24). Both are true! Alumni who take the truth of God’s word seriously and live their lives to please Him –wherever it is that God leads them after IWU – achieve significance in ways that make me exceedingly proud.

With that in mind, I close with two alumni stories which I have shared with our Board of Trustees recently. If you enjoy these stories and want to read more, visit the IWU Alumni website at https://www.indwes.edu/alumni and look for the Alumni Blog. Also, be sure to visit the IWU Adult & Online Facebook page where posts regularly provide updates of National & Global alumni accomplishing great things within our world.

 

 

Marie Beechy – graduated in 2017 with a Master of Science in Nursing Education. Marie is the Director of Projects for One Refugee Child, an organization which raises funds to improve the day-to-day lives of refugee children. They have raised over $100,000 in funds for refugee children, delivered winter wear and blankets, handed out hundreds of strollers along with infant care items, provided school supplies for schools and distributed hygiene kits to newborns in refugee camps.

 

Ruth Olson (middle) – graduated in 2015 with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. For Ruth’s first year out of college, she has been serving in Iraq meeting the medical needs of refugees with Samaritan’s Purse. She has returned home to Tennessee. Not only is she an awesome nurse, but she is a Christ follower who is choosing to use her gifts to help others and spread God’s love around the world.

 

Indiana Wesleyan University Welcomes Dr. Matt Lucas, Chancellor, IWU-National & Global

It is a special day for the IWU community.

I am pleased to welcome Dr. Matt Lucas as Chancellor of IWU – National and Global. Matt, his wife Tammy, and their daughters moved to Marion this past August. Since that time, Matt has been working alongside retiring chancellor Audrey Hahn as chancellor-elect. Matt assumes full responsibility as chancellor as of October 1st.

The chancellor serves as the chief administration officer of IWU-National and Global, which serves more than 10,000 students at 15 educational centers in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio, as well as all online students who come from the United States and 30 other countries. IWU’s DeVoe School of Business, the School of Nursing, the School of Health Sciences, the School of Service and Leadership, and the Division of Liberal Arts are all housed within the National and Global umbrella.

Matt comes to IWU from Corban University in Salem, Oregon where he served most recently as Executive Vice President providing oversight of academics, enrollment and marketing, and strategic planning.

Chancellor

Matt Lucas, chancellor of IWU National and Global.

“As we come to the close of the first quarter of the 21st century, colleges and universities find themselves under increasing pressure to redefine and reinvent themselves to meet the demands of a dynamic market and rapid technological shifts,” Lucas said. “I came to IWU because I believe National and Global is poised to meet this challenge by building on a legacy of innovation and entrepreneurial spirit and creating relevant alternative approaches to higher education in the US and around the world.”

 

 

Those who know Dr. Lucas have described him as innovative, strategic, entrepreneurial, inspirational, globally minded and gospel-centered. We are delighted that Matt has joined our community. I believe Matt is the right leader for IWU-National and Global and I look forward to seeing how he and his leadership team will shape our institution in the coming years.

Dr. Colleen Derr to become President of Wesley Seminary

Wesley Seminary - Indiana Wesleyan

It is with great delight I announce that Dr. Colleen Derr has been named the new President of Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University. She will succeed Dr. Jo Anne Lyon, who has served as interim leader since the departure of Dr. Wayne Schmidt, the founding leader of the Seminary. Dr. Derr’s new role will begin July 1, 2017.

Dr. Derr has been a part of Wesley Seminary since 2011, serving as a faculty member and Assistant Dean. She has served as the chair of the Seminary faculty, as a member of the University Faculty Senate and been active on numerous university committees. She played an integral role in the development of the Master of Arts in Children, Youth and Family Ministry and is currently part of the team developing a Doctor of Ministry in Spiritual Formation that is scheduled to launch in the fall 2018. Dr. Derr is a respected teacher, researcher, leader and colleague.

Before joining the seminary faculty, Dr. Derr served as a denominational leader through multiple leadership positions in The Wesleyan Church. She is an ordained elder and has served in pastoral ministry.

Dr. Derr has earned a reputation as an advocate and resource for an array of church ministries, an effective administrator and a wise and dynamic leader.

Her educational achievements include an M.A. in Ministry Leadership from Indiana Wesleyan University, and an Ed.D. in Christian Education Leadership from Regent University.

Dr. Derr is married to Wayne Derr, and they have four adult children, Jerica, Zachary, Tyler and Anna.

We are grateful that God has prepared Dr. Derr for this work and look forward to her leadership.

Wesley Seminary is a special place that has developed quality programs and faculty since it opened in 2009 on Indiana Wesleyan’s Marion campus.  The seminary now serves more 500 students in 34 states and 11 countries. It is being used by God to engage and equip pastors to lead their churches and reach individuals for Christ.

We have a great sense of anticipation for the new vistas of service that God will open to the faculty, staff and students of Wesley Seminary in the years to come.

Please join me in welcoming Dr. Colleen Derr as the President of Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University.

Indiana Wesleyan University launches search for new chancellor

IWU - Louisville Campus

Indiana Wesleyan University is launching a nationwide search for a chancellor to oversee IWU’s National and Global campus, the campus that oversees all non-residential services.

The National and Global campuses serve about 11,000 students at 15 education centers in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio, as well as all online students, who come from the United States and 30 other countries. IWU’s DeVoe School of Business, the School of Nursing, the School of Health Sciences, the School of Educational Leadership, the School of Service and Leadership, and the Division of Liberal Arts are all housed within the National and Global campuses.

The successful candidate will replace Audrey Hahn, the current chancellor, who has announced her retirement. Hahn’s last day will be Dec. 31, 2017.

The university has established a search committee and is working with EFL Associates to help identify candidates for this key position at the university.

“EFL Associates is a firm that specializes in leadership searches in a variety of industries, including higher education,” said Jerry Shepherd, associate vice president of adult enrollment services and chair of the search committee, in a letter to university faculty and staff. “As applications are received in March and April, the committee will review and schedule interviews with the most highly qualified candidates.”

The committee will recommend finalists to David Wright, president of Indiana Wesleyan University.

“Ultimately, Dr. Wright will review the finalists and will select the individual he feels best prepared to lead the National and Global campuses,” Shepherd said.

IWU has begun advertising the position, and the description can be viewed here.

Spiritual Journey Draws High School Students to IWU Campus

Indiana Wesleyan University will welcome more than 22,000 visitors to its Marion campus this summer, but none on a more important mission than 21 high school students who will spend two weeks exploring spiritual matters and discerning if they feel a vocational call to ministry.

The students will form the inaugural class of Examen, a summer program funded by a $599,111 grant IWU received in January from Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment Inc. The students will live on the IWU campus from June 18-July 2.

The students, most of them high school juniors and seniors, were drawn from throughout the country after the program first was announced in December at an international youth conference, sponsored by The Wesleyan Church.

Forty percent of the participants are racially diverse and are split almost evenly between boys and girls. “All of these students have expressed an interest in discerning whether they might be called to full-time ministry,” said Dr. Amanda Drury.

Drury, an Associate Professor of Practical Theology at IWU, wrote the grant proposal and will serve as director of the program. She earned a bachelor’s degree from IWU in 2004 and now has master’s and doctoral degrees from Princeton Theological Seminary.

The initiative seeks to encourage young people to explore theological traditions, ask questions about the moral dimensions of contemporary issues and examine how their faith calls them to lives of service. The students also will earn three hours of college credit in biblical studies.

“My hopes for Examen are twofold: first, that we would be able to create an environment where women and men can explore whether they might be called into ministry. And second, that we would be able to model to these teenagers what healthy self-care looks like,” Drury said.

Drury and other IWU faculty members will lead the high school students through the study of scripture and pivotal theological texts.

“The students also will enter into daily times of discernment via the Ignatius Examen,” Drury said. The term refers to the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola, a set of Christian meditations, prayers and mental exercises, written by Saint Ignatius of Loyola, a 16th-century Spanish priest and theologian.

In addition, the program will include service projects and hands-on ministry, examine the moral and ethical dimensions of contemporary issues and discuss religious practices, including prayer, contemplation and worship.

“While Lilly Endowment is funding the program for four years, we already are addressing questions of sustainability so that the program can continue well into the future,” Drury said.

Lilly Endowment, as part of its High School Youth Theology Institutes initiative, is giving $44.5 million in grants to a select group of private, four-year colleges and universities around the nation. The grants are part of the Endowment’s commitment to identify and cultivate a cadre of theologically minded youth who will become leaders in the church and society.

“Young people today want to make a difference,” said Dr. Christopher L. Coble, vice president for religion at the Endowment. “These programs will connect them to faculty and religious leaders who will help them explore that longing by drawing more deeply on scripture and theology as they make decisions about their futures.”

Learn more about Examen!

Written by Alan Miller

IWU Recognizes Distinguished New Resource in Faith and Science Dialog

If a great Christian university makes any contribution to the world today it should surely be in bringing a Christ-centered perspective to the arts and sciences.  A great Christian university must stand shoulder to shoulder with the best universities in its intellectual exploration and teaching.

Our unique contribution must be to bring the critical perspective of faith to the assumptions, processes, and findings of scholarly inquiry.  Contrary to the prevailing narrative, learning is enriched when people of genuine, disciplined, irenic Christian faith engage deeply with the truth claims of the sciences.

IWU just recognized a wonderful new scholarly resource in this work.  More on that in a moment.

Thursday I had the privilege of attending the annual IWU Celebration of Scholarship Luncheon where we celebrate the vibrant engagement of our IWU faculty and students with the arts and sciences.  It was a special treat celebrate with Dr. Joanne Barnes as she won this year’s Outstanding Scholarship awarded by her faculty peers.

At the luncheon IWU’s John Wesley Honors College awarded this year’s Aldersgate Prize for outstanding Christian scholarship, and hosted the award recipient for a stimulating keynote speech.

The 2015 Aldersgate Prize was awarded to Professor Peter Harrison for his book, The Territories of Science and Religion (Univ. Chicago Press, 2015).

 Formerly the Idreos Professor of Science and Religion at the University of Oxford, Harrison is currently the director of the University of Queensland’s Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities.

Here is how Dr. David Riggs, Executive Director of the John Wesley Honors College, describes Professor Harrison’s work.

“Selected from over seventy nominations for this year’s prize, The Territories of Science and Religion is a highly learned and penetrating refutation of prevailing notions that the conflict between science and religion is timeless and inevitable. Harrison’s analysis calls into question the very legitimacy of mapping the cultivation of knowledge according to categories known as “science” and “religion.” He demonstrates that this boundary making is a deeply modern invention that is neither self-evident nor coherent.  Beginning with antiquity, Harrison systematically traces the historical transitions of the concepts underlying the modern categories of “science” and “religion” from their status as complementary virtues to the polarized domains of knowledge familiar to us today. In the process of exposing the dubious foundations of the modern mythology of the conflict between “science” and “religion,” Harrison offers up a thought-provoking recovery of the alternative ways that the pre-modern western world conceived of the relationship between the study of nature and theological reflection on it.”

“The Aldersgate Prize selection committee believes The Territories of Science and Religion has the potential to alter the course of some of our most important cultural conversations. Harrison’s book is a highly accessible clarion call to think more reflectively and creatively about the “territories of science and religion.” And the text equips its readers to navigate these territories with fresh maps: maps that illuminate more clearly the essential intersections and boundaries and, accordingly, the most constructive paths forward.”

My Testimony

Several people have asked if they could see my testimony at the Senate hearing.  Here is the text of my testimony.  Time was severely limited so I was not able to share all of this.  I have provided this written text to the Senate Committee.

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM/CIVIL RIGHTS TESTIMONY

January 27, 2016

Indiana Statehouse

It is a privilege to be able to contribute today to the deliberation that might lead to the creation of the laws that govern our common life.

My name is David Wright.  I serve as President of Indiana Wesleyan University, a private university owned by The Wesleyan Church, a denomination of about 800,000 adherents headquartered here in Indiana.  IWU is one of five colleges and universities owned by our Church in the United States and Canada.

IWU serves a student body of about 15,000 students at our main campus in Marion, at our 17 regional education centers in the Midwest, and in over 40 states and 26 foreign countries.  We have over 80,000 alumni and 1100 full-time employees.  We serve a student body that is highly diverse in race, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, faith, nationality, and political persuasion.

IWU is a Christ-centered university that pursues the best traditions of academic inquiry and teaching while remaining grounded in the rich intellectual and spiritual tradition of the historic Christian faith.  For 95 years our university has served the public good of our state and region by graduating exceptional citizens who serve as some of our region’s best teachers, nurses, counselors, business people, pastors, and scientists.

We do not exist for the purpose of proselytizing people to our denomination though we are happy when our students find their faith strengthened and made more meaningful in their lives as a result of studying with us.  Instead we exist to serve the public good.

Here is our mission:  Indiana Wesleyan University is a Christ-centered academic community committed to changing the world by developing students in character, scholarship, and leadership.

So I come today to offer you reflections on the current intersection of civil rights, public and private moral values, and religious freedom from the perspective of a deeply religious, conservative, yet irenic and hospitable university community.

First, I wish to call our legislators to safeguard the right of Indiana’s many religious institutions and social service providers to continue serving the public good while maintaining the deeply held religious convictions that give us our unique identities and out of which we serve the public good of our state and country.

We believe that the quality of life and the economic competitiveness of our state are greatly enriched through the many services provided by Indiana’s rich network of faith-based organizations – including hospitals, child service providers, community development organizations, and universities.  The right of these organizations to maintain their unique identities has long been recognized through religious protections afforded by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and Executive Order 13279, which amends Section 204 of Executive Order 11246.  We believe that any law passed by our state legislature must align Indiana’s religious protections with those long established constitutional protections also upheld in federal law.

Second, I wish to commend those of you who, under exceedingly difficult and contentious circumstances, are seeking ways to wisely balance the civil rights of all of Indiana’s citizens, while also safeguarding the religious freedoms we enjoy as Americans.

We are in the midst of a time when our social fabric is stretched close to the breaking point over these intensely contested questions of sexual orientation and gender identity. As a university president I am afforded an unusual perspective as I listen to the concerns of our students, faculty, trustees, donors, and friends.

I am struck with how often fear and anger are the subtexts of the conversations.  Fear and anger are present on all sides of these debates.  Unfortunately, when we are fearful and angry we easily forget our better selves.  Our debates become centered on the question: How can I be sure to win?  We use the metaphor of warfare to describe our interchanges with our fellow citizens.

If we are intent on following the metaphor of warfare to its conclusion, this means we will be locked in combat until one side dominates or destroys the other by force.

But I ask you, how can we embrace a trajectory of warfare that leads us to seek the destruction of our enemies when our enemies are our neighbors?

Should we not at least entertain the question: How might neighbors who hold strong and divergent convictions create a framework in which to live together peacefully?

With that in mind, please allow me to be transparent about both the convictions and the desires of our community.

We do not believe that gender and sexuality are self-defined human constructs.  Instead, we believe that human beings are created in the image of God.  God took great delight in creating human beings as men and women.  We may choose different ways to live with our gender and sexuality, but we are not and never will be anything other than women and men intended by God to live in fruitful and enjoyable partnership with each other.  We believe that we will find our greatest personal satisfaction, and social well-being, when we accept and live according to our God-given identities and relationships.  It is our sincerely held belief, a belief that we have held generation after generation after generation that encouraging one another to view our gender and sexuality as fluid and self-defined constructs will ultimately lead us to experience confusion, isolation, and unhappiness.  We cannot be in favor of any legislation that would require us to capitulate, abandon, or be silent about these things we hold to be true.

In America, it is our right to hold these convictions, to speak about them, and to participate in public life while holding such sincerely held beliefs.  Indeed, we believe that any society that takes away its citizens’ right to the religious freedom that informs these convictions ultimately will remove all other rights as well.

By the same token, our religious convictions also call upon us to honor the dignity and worth of our fellow citizens who, for their own good reasons, disagree with and choose to live in ways contrary to our convictions.  In fact, in this intensely conflicted debate about sexual orientation and gender identity, most of us who hold the religious convictions I have described know, care for, serve, and associate with persons who are either uncertain about their sexual orientation or have come to the settled conviction that their personal happiness lies in the pursuit of a life different from the one we would choose.

What do we want for these friends and neighbors of ours?  We are not at war with them.  We are in conflict with their understanding of the pathway to personal and social well-being.  But we do not view them as enemies to be ridiculed, bullied, punished, or persecuted. They are the neighbors whom Jesus has called us to love as we love ourselves.

They are men and women just like us who are doing their best to find their pathway to well-being and happiness.   Our love for them means we cannot affirm a pathway that we sincerely believe is mistaken, but neither do we want them to be denied the basic human rights that are their due as fellow citizens.

We believe all of us who live together as law-abiding citizens of this state must enjoy the basic protections of the law.  To deny one person the protections of law is ultimately to lay the groundwork for denying all persons the protection of law.

In summary, then, we believe that our laws must honor the fundamental rights of freedom of religion, of conscience, and of peaceful coexistence granted us in the constitutions of our state and our nation.  If we abandon or curtail the right to sincerely held religious convictions, peaceably pursued among fellow citizens, we will in time deny all other rights as well.

We commend you for attempting to find wise ways to protect the legal interests of all Hoosiers.  Above all, we call upon you, in the midst of this intense moment of social conflict, to safeguard the right of Indiana’s many people of faith, and of Indiana’s many excellent religious institutions and social service providers, to continue serving the public good while maintaining their deeply and sincerely held religious convictions.

Thank you.