Sept. 15 chapel message prompted an apology to faculty and is missing from iTunes feed.
By Conrad Engstrom and Sarah Nelson
Guest chapel speaker Adam Dommeyer inspired both praise and resentment Sept. 15 after remarking that society is too easily offended and that God did not make a mistake when he created humans as male or female.
“We need to stop living in a bubble-wrapped society,” Dommeyer, a graduate enrollment counselor, said in chapel that Friday. “We need to stop getting so offended.”
Dommeyer, as part of Campus Ministries’ “Why Jesus?” series, was scheduled to share his testimony about finding God and renouncing Mormonism, a topic he features on his personal blog.
But at the end of the chapel service, Dommeyer began to preach about how Christian worldviews need to be synonymous with God’s image in the intent for men and women. His remarks gathered some applause, while others were offended.
Campus pastor Matt Runion sent out a faculty-wide email at 6:54 p.m. that day addressing the controversy.
“Some of the things that were said were not only off-topic, but may have been hurtful to some members of our community,” Runion wrote. “We were surprised and saddened by these things and we have already talked with our speaker about this.”
Runion encouraged faculty to include campus ministries in any follow-up discussion with students about the chapel and said the recording would be posted within a few weeks.
Two weeks later, as of the publication of this story, the chapel has not been posted. The Clarion asked for video or audio from Campus Ministries Dean Laurel Bunker and the office secretary, but was told that it typically takes two to three weeks to post recordings online. However, all other chapels through Sept. 25 are available on iTunes and video recordings through Sept. 10 are available on Vimeo.
Junior Nikole Cairns, who was upset by Dommeyer’s message, says she heard multiple people walking away from Benson Great Hall frustrated and offended after chapel that day. Cairns talked to a friend in class afterward about what they both found inflammatory about Dommeyer’s sermon.
“Really the part that frustrated me the most was where he talked about a transgender person and he said that they were living as transgender for 12 years and that through God’s love, they came out of it and were changed back to their gender. It made me so mad,” Cairns said.
“To come up and start spewing things like that, it was unwarranted and out of place and hurtful to a lot of people, members of our own community. Our own transgender members who hopefully feel they are part of the Bethel community.”
The Clarion reached out to Dommeyer, who said in an interview that he encourages students to continue in conversation with one another and seek the Word of God for clarification on these important issues facing society today. He declined to comment further.
For sophomore Britta Johnson, Dommeyer’s remarks about God, gender and the complementarian roles of men and women were “refreshing.”
“I understand that people are going to be offended by that. But that’s something, for me, that was a breath of fresh air to hear,” Johnson said. “I feel in today’s day and age, people who have differing opinions, their voices get muffled out. To hear him speak so clearly on that was really refreshing for me.”
Johnson sent an email to Dommeyer after the chapel, letting him know her appreciation of the message.
Campus Ministries Dean Laurel Bunker briefly addressed the service the following Monday before the day’s chapel.
“I thought it was important for me to come before you as your senior pastor to address Friday’s chapel. I was not here, I was home ill. But I got a call in the afternoon from my staff saying that something had not gone well during Friday’s chapel,” Bunker said. “While some people were pleased with the content, there were others who were likely deeply offended by some of the things our chapel speaker said on Friday.”
Bunker expressed apologies to those who were offended by what was said and thanked students for their grace. Speakers, she said, go through a vetting process that includes campus ministries seeing what they write.
“On behalf of our team who love you and serve you and try to preach a consistent and steady gospel, where we don’t mince words but we certainly love our students, we apologize for any of you or your friends who were wounded,” Bunker said. “And we will continue to do whatever we need to do to ensure that those who come to this stage are honoring in their conduct and their language to our community.”
Senior reporter Sarah Nelson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Editor-in-chief Abby Petersen can be contacted at 763-477-1367.