Despite assurances, efforts to fill “diversity and global engagement” position appear stagnant after six months
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In his email naming Dr. Scott Lisea as the new campus pastor and assistant to the president for church and community relations in April, Westmont College President Gayle Beebe said that Raymond Chang, the other finalist in the campus pastor hiring process, had “prayerfully declined a position within the campus pastor’s office.” Beebe assured the community that the search team, which conducted the hiring process, would “continue interviewing candidates capable of advancing Westmont’s diversity and global engagement goals from a biblical and theological perspective.”
Sixth months later, the college has yet to hire another member of the campus pastor’s office.
When The Horizon asked President Beebe about the status of this hiring process, he reaffirmed his earlier position, saying Westmont will continue “seeking to address diversity and global engagement as part of the campus pastor’s office.” Vice President for Student Life, Edee Schulze, when asked the same, declined to comment.
Many in the Westmont community still hope a candidate will be found. When Chang’s name surfaced as one of the final candidates for the campus pastor position on April 10, students, faculty, and staff expressed enthusiasm for a campus pastor with a background in engaging with pressing issues facing the church today, such as racial diversity initiatives, theology related to Christians who identify as LGBTQ+, and the role of women in leadership.
In this aspect, Chang seemed to many like the person for the job. The results of an all-campus survey taken in the days after Ben Patterson, Westmont’s previous campus pastor, announced his retirement, reveal that respondents identified an “ability to advance diversity” and a willingness to “engage relevant issues” as two of the top ten traits a new campus pastor should have.
Before applying for the campus pastor position at Westmont, Chang served as the Special Projects Director for the Korean American Coalition, led small groups for Asian American students and students who identified as LGBTQ+ at Wheaton College, and served on Wheaton’s Diversity Committee. He has traveled to more than 40 countries in a variety of capacities.
Documents obtained by The Horizon show that the Search Team recognized Chang’s qualifications. During the hiring process, the Search Team members rated the candidates in a number of different categories. One of the largest disparities in these ratings occurred when the Search Team was asked if the candidate “demonstrated an ability to be a key partner on diversity and global engagement programs.” Chang was given a nearly perfect rating in this category. The Search Team also considered him ready to “proactively engage with cultural issues” surrounding LGBTQ+ Christians and women in leadership roles.
The Search Team showed strong support for Chang to continue in the hiring process, with nine members supporting his advance, one member undecided, and no members opposing his advance in internal feedback collected before the Search Team’s final meeting on March 12.
In the wake of the Search Team’s vote, the campus pastor position was bisected in an effort to accommodate both Chang and Lisea, according to several people familiar with the hiring process. In the end, both candidates were offered campus pastor positions, but Lisea would specialize in “church and community relations” while Chang would focus on “diversity and global engagement.”
The Horizon reached out to Chang for more information regarding his reasons for declining the offer, but he declined to comment.
“[Chang and Lisea] were the finalists out of many candidates,” said a member of the Search Team, who asked to remain anonymous. “They both had strengths and were both very good.”
In addition to the position of the Search Team, more evidence of support at Westmont for hiring Chang came from the Student Focus Group (SFG), six students who were charged with interviewing the finalists and reporting their reactions to the Search Team.
“The Student Focus Group was clear in its enthusiasm for Chang as a candidate,” said a person familiar with the feedback provided by the students.
One of the students chose not to offer feedback to the Search Team, confident in the strength of the SFG’s recommendation that the college should hire Chang. The student, who asked to remain anonymous, reported being disappointed upon learning that Chang had declined a position in the campus pastor’s office.
“The fact that Chang has experience pastoring LGBTQ students means that hiring him would have made Westmont a more inclusive and welcoming place,” the student said.
The Horizon reported in September that the campus pastor’s office began the year with a foray into diversity-related topics in chapel, which some students felt were clumsily executed.
But Lisea enjoys a positive reputation on campus.
“We’re delighted with Scott’s service to date as our campus pastor,” President Beebe said in a statement.
Fourth-year Lucas Vieira, who was one of the students on the SFG, agrees. “Scott Lisea is a true man of God with a love for students and the church,” he said.
Whatever happens, it appears Lisea will remain the campus’s sole pastor. The WCSA meeting minutes for August 28 indicate that Edee Schulze informed WCSA President Sam Brakken and Vice President Heidi Pullman that if the diversity and global engagement position is filled, it will no longer be a campus pastor position.
The minutes also indicate that Schulze said Westmont is “still looking” for another candidate. However, it appears no fruitful efforts have been made to find one. Several members of the Search Team, which Beebe said in his April 24 email “will continue interviewing candidates,” confirmed that the Search Team has not been reconvened.
“I would love to see someone in the campus pastor’s office who is actively participating in conversations surrounding racial and ethnic diversity within the church as well as sexuality and the LGBTQ community,” said third-year Jaclyn Smith. “We need to be able to engage in these conversations through a biblical lens.”