Bethel’s Campus Ministries office is located across from the library in HC325. | Photo by Callie Schmidt

Campus Ministries’ response to the missing chapel audio

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The Clarion recently reported on Adam Dommeyer’s chapel service from Sept. 15 and its absence on Campus Ministries’ iTunes and Vimeo websites. To follow up, we sat with head campus pastor Laurel Bunker to understand why it still hasn’t been posted.

By Sarah Nelson

You’ve encountered people (over email and phone) saying the missing chapel service audio is a form of censorship, while others are saying it’s a matter of protecting those who were harmed by the sermon. In light of this, what should people know about your reasons for not posting the iTunes audio and Vimeo online?

Our staff has talked about posting the piece and I want the Clarion readers to know I am not afraid of posting the piece. Nor am I one who believes in censorship. We have not posted it because what I have received in this office has been mean-spirited, fact-finding, nosy, self-reporting that has come with a spirit of accusation. And I am not one to be bullied or cajoled or required to do anything.

I think a lot of what Adam said, from what I heard, was very valuable. But there are also people here who were hurt. And when a portion of our community is hurt, my job as the pastor is to do what I need to do to rectify that. And that is why I offered the apology and that’s why we pulled it down: to allow the smoke to clear before we considered putting it back up. So this isn’t about censorship and it’s certainly not about fear. I don’t fear anybody. And for anyone to even suggest that, please be the first one at my door. I fear God, not any human being. So will we put it up? Probably. But do you want us to put it up? Stop calling my office. And stop sending me emails. Consider coming in a humble spirit if you want to see that up.

Where do you see this situation, that some say brings up censorship and political and theological issues, in comparison to similar current events?

I’m honestly baffled at the response of this one message. I’ve been preaching here for 10 years. And for people who say that this is the first time they’ve heard this kind of message, then you either haven’t been listening or haven’t been here long enough. I don’t know what “this kind of message” means. If it means that Adam spoke your language, that’s great.

But even if a message is true, if it lands hard on somebody, should our response be, “Well that’s too bad, you need to be a believer,” or should it be, “Wow. Lord, let me pray for that person. Maybe that person was really hurt”? The word of God calls for people to know that they are Christians by our love, not by our “rightness.” And what I have seen is an absence of love and respect. And when I think about what’s happening in Las Vegas, Puerto Rico, the island nations and the fact that people have no water and no food, and yet this is the thing that’s preoccupying people’s time and energy? I would love to get an avalanche of emails saying “Pastor Laurel, we need to do something about Puerto Rico.” You think I’ve ever gotten an email like that?

What do you hope happens from here on out?

I hope we leave it alone and press on. I hope that those of you who want to know what we’re preaching in chapel actually come to chapel, because it makes me wonder how many of you that are questioning this thing even come to chapel. I hope that we will wrestle with these things with courage and love. I hope that we will be careful about what we speak to each other. And I hope that we will do more than be consumed by this email, by this threat. I would prefer that we be consumed by the love of God rather than one moment in time and one person who preached one message in the midst of dozens that get preached this year.

What are your final thoughts on what else students should know?

Our office is in relationship with Adam. Part of being a mature Christian is being able to get past difficulties and maintain relationship. Don’t think Adam won’t ever preach again in the chapel. We’re fine. Adam’s fine. We all learned something from this.

If people have any problem about what gets preached in the chapel, come tell us. If there’s something heretical–which is what one person wrote in an email to me, how they’ve heard plenty of heresy over the years–point it out. Don’t sling stuff and think that that will make me flinch. There are lives to save right here on this campus. So that I’m spending this kind of energy on this as opposed to trying to keep other young people alive is really sad to me. Because if we all look up around us and we walk in the spirit, you’ll recognize that there are people all around us on this campus who are hurting and are looking for a place to belong.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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