On the morning of Tuesday, Sept. 20, students, faculty, staff and Birmingham community members gathered on the front steps of the Wright Center to silently protest recent decisions regarding on-campus ministries. The protest took place during convocation hour, which was being held inside the building in front of which they stood in hushed unison.
Madison Vaughn, the Ministry Coordinator for UKirk Birmingham, a campus ministry through the Presbyterian Church (USA), alleged that UKirk and Trinity Commons, home of Birmingham Episcopal Campus Ministries, were uninvited from Samford University’s Aug. 31 on-campus ministry fair “due to Episcopalians’ LGBTQ+ affirming theology.”
Announcements for the silent protest were spread mostly through word of mouth and posts made by SAFE Samford, an organized group “working together to ensure that all LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning) members of the Samford community feel safe, welcomed, affirmed, and loved.” Demonstration organizers called the event a unified statement against the ministry’s choice to uninvite these organizations from the ministry church fair event.
During the hour-long protest, members of the Wright Center staff passed out water bottles to demonstrators. Employees said they wanted to make sure everything ran smoothly and no one fainted from the heat.
Junior Josh McPherson took part in the protest.
“After being surrounded by the community that was around today it feels good to be part of something bigger than myself,” McPherson said.
Sophomore Courtney Smith said she hoped the protest would lead to more inclusion on campus.
“If there are one or two kids who would benefit from the Episcopal church being here and being in the community, that would be really good,” Smith said.
Members of the Baptist Church of the Covenant, including Lead Pastor Erica Cooper, also attended to show their support for the LGBTQ+ community. Cooper’s hope is for students, faculty, and staff at Samford to know that her congregation is “available to be the Kingdom of God with them.”
“I hope we can get more conversations started at Samford,” she said. “It’s OK to have differences, even in orthodoxy.”
A few hours after the protest, Samford University President Beck Taylor responded with a school-wide email. Taylor remarked that both the convocation gathering and the silent protest made him “immensely proud of Samford.”
“Samford will always be a place where people can disagree, even with the university,” Taylor said in the email.
Nothing else has been said about the protest by Taylor, Campus Pastor Bobby Gatlin or Office of Spiritual Life staff.