Alistar Begg chapel talk sparks campus discussion
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The Westmont body has been a whirlwind of confusion, concern, and debate following a chapel talk by Alistair Begg on Wednesday, October 18.
Several students reported objecting to Begg’s comments about homosexuality, “sexual impurity” and condemnation of Rap music. Students interviewed by the Horizon pointed to statements in Mr. Begg’s talk like,“Every kind of sexual sin that works against marriage is to be banished from the Christian community. Let it be known that the Bible makes clear that the only place for physical, sexual relationships is within a heterosexual, monogamous, lifelong marriage.” Following the above statement, over a dozen students walked out of chapel. Other students cited Mr. Beggs assertion that rap music as something to be shunned was culturally insensitive to Westmont’s Black students, especially given Westmont’s majority white population. Additionally, some students felt Mr. Beggs condemnation of “sexual impurity” made students who have been victims of sexual assault feel marginalized or condemned.
Begg is a conservative evangelical speaker who has spoken in chapel in previous years. Begg signed the Nashville statement, a somewhat controversial document created by The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) and signed by many prominent evangelical leaders with the aim of “...witnessing publicly to the good purposes of God for human sexuality revealed in Christian Scripture...” Several articles in the statement characterize homosexuality as sinful. In a previous sermon posted on his website, Begg asserts that homosexuality is “sinful, unnatural and perverted.”
The audio recording of the chapel was temporarily taken down from the Westmont website by the request of Edee Schulze, Vice President of Student Life, who told the Horizon that she “wasn't in chapel and...wanted some time to review the situation and make a wise decision about how to proceed.” Schulze had a conversation with several concerned students and members of Prism (an organization of LGBTQ Westmont students) “which resulted in a decision to put the chapel message backup” with the hope that a statement could be put up besides it to contextualize Mr. Begg’s talk. An all campus message was also sent out by Schulze at the recommendation of the concerned students and Prism members. Schulze met with stating: “Following Chapel on Wednesday, October 18th, some students felt marginalized or shame as a result of the message. We believe God loves all people and that we at Westmont are committed to loving all our students. My hope is that this situation will help us grow as a community and foster constructive, Christ-honoring conversations on campus that are filled with grace, mercy, love, truth and respect.
Schulze, alongside Prism representative Tanner Roberts, hosted an open conversation from 7-9 PM Thursday night in the GLC Multi-Purpose Room. Over sixty students were present at the event, which focused on processing what students felt they had heard and felt in chapel, what students hoped would come out of the event, and what Westmont’s administration could do in the future to make the LGBTQ community for more welcome on campus.
The meeting seemed to both satisfy and placate some attendees. Horizon staff in attendance reported a fairly respectful conversation with a variety of perspectives and responses to the talk expressed. Coming away from the meeting, Senior Tom Hamlin told the Horizon, “It is not until we understand that Jesus himself caused an uproar in the temple when he saw injustice, that we can truly say to our neighbors, “‘I am with you.’ This is not a call to debate but for each one of us to dive so deeply into this conflict that we hurt like those who hurt during chapel. That is when we’ve earned the right to speak of truth. When we are with the hurting.”
Still, the apparent goodwill of the administration is being received by some with a cautious optimism. Senior and President of the Feminist Society at Westmont Cecilia Bratton had this to say, “I thought tonight was quite productive. It seemed to me like many perspectives were presented, and the fact that a forum was held at all is a huge step forward.…To me, I won't know if what myself and others said was truly heard until I see how Westmont chooses to move forward in action, and if whether or not instances like what happened in chapel repeat themselves.”
In an emailed statement to Horizon, a Prism representative said "Prism is glad that dialogue has begun, but we recognize that there is still work to be done in making sure that Westmont is a comfortable place for everyone."
Campus Pastor Ben Patterson declined both email and in person requests for comment on the campus’s response, whether or not there were any concerns about bringing Begg, and if Begg had been informed. Patterson cited scheduling concerns for his unavailability this week and declining to comment by email.
As a follow up to horizons earlier article on Prism, Andrew Olson, Features Editor and Emily Backman, Staff Writer interviewed Dr. Edee Schulze, Vice President of Student Life and Dr. Angela D'amore, Director of Campus Life on the student life’s position on LGBTQ issues on October 3. After receiving a draft of the edited transcript of that interview in article format, Dr Schulze requested that the article be held a week to meet with other groups so that she could more fully answer the questions posed.