Posted by William Nunnelley on 2007-03-30

Samford University representatives held a series of low-key conversations March 30 with members of Soulforce, an equal rights group that is touring the nation visiting Christian colleges and universities.

Soulforce, a gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender rights group, told Samford in January that the Baptist university was on its spring itinerary. Samford was included because Soulforce officials believed Samford policies created "a disparity between treatment of homosexual and heterosexual students."

Matt Kerlin, Samford university minister, said at the time, "In keeping with the university's Christian mission, our student handbook prohibits all sexual activity outside of marriage regardless of sexual orientation."

The conversations of March 30 represented "dialog with the Equality Riders to clear up misconceptions and provide an opportunity to demonstrate the love of Christ," Kerlin said. "Our goal was to treat our Soulforce guests with the same courtesy and respect we extend to all guests, and to articulate clearly our convictions while reflecting the love of Jesus Christ even with those with whom we may disagree.

"We believe this was accomplished," Kerlin said at the close of a prayer session that ended the day's schedule. The Soulforce representatives, primarily college-aged men and women, joined Samford students and faculty at the closing session in Reid Chapel.

Soulforce representatives were paired with Samford student hosts for the day. Sessions attracted crowds from a few dozen to about 150 throughout the day.

Samford President Andrew Westmoreland said, "Our hope was that this day would provide an opportunity for the Samford community to exemplify our Christian witness and mission without rancor and without compromising the foundations of our faith. I am pleased that we were able to accomplish those goals."

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.