A recent allegation that Samford University Office of Spiritual Life uninvited two campus ministries from their ministry expo on August 31 has resulted in backlash from students, faculty and alumni. The two organizations who were uninvited from the event are Trinity Commons, an Episcopalian campus ministry, and UKirk Birmingham, a ministry through the Presbyterian Church (USA) that is also a More Light congregation.
According to UKirk Ministry Coordinator Madison Vaughn, Samford “uninvited” two church ministries from the fair because of unmet requirements based on the campus’s Guest Ministry Guidelines and mission, vision, and core values statement.
“Right before the event was to start, Trinity Commons received a phone call from [Campus Pastor] Bobby Gatlin, uninviting them from the event due to Episcopalians’ LGBTQ+ affirming theology,” Vaughn said. “This is in turn uninvited UKirk Birmingham, since we were to share a table with Trinity Commons.”
Rev. Kelley Hudlow from the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama confirmed that Rev. Emily Collette from Trinity Commons was “…contacted the morning of the Campus Ministry Expo event by Campus Pastor Gatlin and told that she could not participate.”
Samford’s Guest Ministry Organization Guidelines state that the Office of Spiritual Life, “and specifically the campus pastor is responsible for the approval and oversight of all on-campus ministry activities provided to undergraduate students.”
In an email sent to the campus community on Sept. 14, Samford’s Vice President of Student Affairs, Dr. R. Philip Kimrey offered his explanation behind this decision.
“At Samford, we strive to provide a nurturing environment for students to learn and live the Christian faith… a goal is to connect students with local congregations and ministry organizations for corporate worship, spiritual development, and personal relationships with other believers,” Kimrey explained.
In the email, Kimrey also wrote that Samford’s mission is to support and help student’s grow in their faith and personhood, and that “… decisions are made prayerfully and with the university’s theological commitments in mind.”
Kimrey continued to say that the Guest Ministry Guidelines are “… not new – they have existed for many years and consistently align with Samford’s mission, vision, and core values.”
The email assures that Samford is a community that is accepting to all students and supportive of all walks of life.
Kimrey’s office said no response or statement would be provided, beyond the email sent out to Samford’s community on Sept. 14. Gatlin did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
On Tuesday, Sept. 20, Samford students, staff and community responded to this decision with an organized silent protest.