Home > Evangelism, Excerpts, Fisks > Cliff Notes from The Edge: Alice Connor on “Those Other” Campus Evangelists

Cliff Notes from The Edge: Alice Connor on “Those Other” Campus Evangelists

6 February 2010
The Rev. Alice Connor, who is in charge of The Edge campus ministry at the University of Cincinnati, has of course, entered onto my radar screen before. As a matter of fact, I have already deleted one article about her, after a humbling conversation from a brother who happens to be post-gay. The humbling point of contention was not over whether a bisexual priest ought to be put in charge of souls, but rather how an evangelist ought to break the ice with university students in dire need of Christ.
 
 Ironically, Rev. Connor has written an article in DSO’s most recent edition of the Interchange, about this very subject.  I just had to excerpt it:
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When out-of-town preachers come to the University of Cincinnati campus with megaphones and hellfire and brimstone, a lot of us tense up. You can see our collective shoulders tighten toward our ears and the defensive thoughts start to percolate in our collective brain, afraid of what’s going to be said. Or of how students are going to react. Or of how we might react, given the right provocation. At one such corner-preacher moment, I overheard a student saying, “That is why I’m not a Christian” and it broke my heart. “Of course not,” I want to cry, “If that’s what Jesus is like, neither am I!” 

Now, we’re all adults here, and we know that these guys, just like the rest of us, are trying to live a faithful life, a good life. They are trying to do what God wants them to do. “Go make disciples,” Jesus said. We just differ in how we’re supposed to go about it. For many students, maybe even most, these guys are putting up a wall between student and Church: “If that’s the way I’m supposed to act as a Christian or if that’s what God’s like, I don’t want any part of it.” 

It’s certain that not a single one of these corner preachers are Episcopalians—we’d never be so undignified. But that might be the wall we put up. We couldn’t be so undignified as to tell someone about the joy we experience in worship or in mission or in bible study. And there’s the wall: I love this place/people but I won’t tell you about it. 

Taking a much different tack, students from another campus ministry take a week each year for evangelism on other college campuses. They go out armed with surveys on various topics, including religion and belief in God, the theory being that it’s less confrontational and less scary for the participants on both sides. Questions range from what people’s majors are to their attitudes toward Hollywood or campus drinking. At some point, they’re hit with, “Do you believe in God?” It seems to me that this approach puts up yet another wall between folk. On the one hand, it’s not entirely honest—survey-taking suggests a serious use of the data gathered but here it’s an ice-breaker. On the other hand, those doing the evangelizing are trying to enter into a relationship but with an ulterior motive – getting the other person talking is only a step toward getting them saved. The conversation partner is a project, not a person. 

You may see these experiences very differently than I do and, as a brand-new campus minister, I certainly do not have a monopoly on wisdom. However, my experience of Jesus is one of breaking 

down walls, of messy, non-linear, relationship-building. And my experience of college students is a desire to be known. Especially on a campus as big as UC, where it’s easy to fall through cracks, many students simply need to know they’re not alone and that their story is important to someone. That story may involve drinking or sex or cheating or despair, and neither shouting nor surveys will offer redemption. 

By and large, when I look at the article with an eye towards temporarily disregarding “the baggage,” I find nothing wrong with what is on the page. Where I start to disagree with the article, is in what gets left off of the page

But .. What do you guys think ??

– Elder

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Categories: Evangelism, Excerpts, Fisks
  1. Elder Oyster
    6 February 2010 at 1:44 PM

    Hi Michael,

    I believe the gist of your comment was directed at Christians, and I’m okay with that. However, I found your comment to be a bit too eh, ‘ethnic’ for comfort, which is why I removed the it. In the future, you are welcome to post in my blog, provided you keep an eye on that sort of thing.

    Thank you,

    – Elder

  2. ChloeA
    6 February 2010 at 3:38 PM

    Might be time to catch up on Alice Connor, or at least get a little more current than the 2006 article. Are you aware that she’s now married (to a man) and has a daughter? If so, commentary about her bisexuality–past or present–would seem to be totally irrelevant, unless you purport to have knowledge of her being currently sexually active outside the bounds of her marriage.

    I can state for a fact that her current employers are happy with the job she’s doing, both at UC and Good Shepherd. What sin of omission exactly did you have in mind with respect to her comments you published?

    • Elder Oyster
      6 February 2010 at 5:09 PM

      RE: “Might be time to catch up on Alice Connor, or at least get a little more current than the 2006 article. Are you aware that she’s now married (to a man) and has a daughter? ”

      I wasn’t, but that’s great ! I have a relative who went through a similar phase, rejecting it later for marriage.

      RE: “If so, commentary about her bisexuality–past or present–would seem to be totally irrelevant, unless you purport to have knowledge of her being currently sexually active outside the bounds of her marriage.”

      How odd, because the brother I mentioned who happens to be post-gay, has as a portion of his Christian vocation, given several testimonies of how God pulled him out of his life of pursuing homosexual encounters, into a life of celibacy. Apparently, he doesn’t share your conviction that his past is irrelevant to his present; else, he couldn’t very well give those testimonies now, could he? 😉

      RE: “I can state for a fact that her current employers are happy with the job she’s doing, both at UC and Good Shepherd.”

      Ahhh, yeah. I don’t really care about what her employers think of her, or me. Hence, this blog. 😉

      RE: “What sin of omission exactly ..”

      Where did I use the word, ‘sin’ ? Here, let me go back and re-read to you what I wrote: “Where I start to disagree with the article, is in what gets left off of the page.”

      If you and I disagreed about whether or not Barney the Dinosaur is annoying, would it imply that one of us is in sin? Hopefully, not.

      …Unless of course, you found him charming. 😉

      RE: “..did you have in mind with respect to her comments you published?”

      Er, I excerpted comments that were already published. Is that a sin of commission? 😉

  3. ChloeA
    6 February 2010 at 5:36 PM

    I can’t speak for what parts of her personal history Pastor Alice finds “relevant,” only for what I do. I did want to point out, however, that to all appearances it’s history, and several years out of date at that. You’re correct, I should have referred to what you wrote as “re-published” or perhaps just “repeated,” though.

    Sorry you took the phrase “sin of omission” literally; I didn’t really mean it that way. I’m still waiting to hear what you personally would add to the material in the Interchange article, should you magically be appointed to run the Lutheran Campus Ministry yourself.

    Smiley-face backatcha.

  4. Elder Oyster
    6 February 2010 at 9:09 PM

    RE: “I can’t speak for what parts of her personal history Pastor Alice finds “relevant,” only for what I do.”

    I can’t speak for that, either.

    I do know that the homosexual community rationalizes the problem of people being “converted” as it were back to a life of heterosexual normalcy, that they’ll (eventually) refer to the person as bisexual.

    I also know that TEC and WELS are very much into the LGBT thing (the “B” standing for of course, “bisexual”).

    So, I’m at a loss. Should I ignore that information about Alice’s previous history? If so, I may be putting Alice back in the closet. All of the information I have about Alice, the LGBT Community, and TEC, suggests that I should affirm the information about her excursion into bisexuality.

    Think about it: Is bisexuality a bad thing? If it is, and if Alice thinks it is bad also, then perhaps the matter deserves a bit of discretion. If either of those conditions are not true, then perhaps it doesn’t.

    RE: “I did want to point out, however, that to all appearances it’s history, and several years out of date at that.”

    See above.

    RE: “You’re correct, I should have referred to what you wrote as “re-published” or perhaps just “repeated,” though.”

    Nah. Then it would have sounded even more petty and vapid, if that’s even possible:
    “What sin of omission exactly did you have in mind with respect to her comments you re-published ?”

    Ditto for “repeated,” and also for the word I have used, “excerpted.”

    RE: “Sorry you took the phrase “sin of omission” literally; I didn’t really mean it that way.”

    I see. So, you use the word, ‘sin’ casually, in everyday conversation? How interesting. 😉

    RE: “I’m still waiting to hear what you personally would add to the material in the Interchange article, ”

    As pleased as I am that you’ve recognized, in spite of the rants over sins of omission and Alice’s supposedly irrelevant bisexual past, that my article is in fact about what a campus evangelist has to say on the topic of evangelism, I really can’t look over the fact that even up until now, you haven’t asked me nicely, let alone politely.

    (sigh) I’m afraid that until someone more thoughtful comes along, you’re just going to have to suffer in ignorance. But as someone else once said, relationships are non-linear. 😉

    RE: “should you magically be appointed to run the Lutheran Campus Ministry yourself.”

    Interesting thought. Except, I already have a Christian vocation, and then there’s the 9 to 5 thing.

    RE: “Smiley-face backatcha.”

    Thank you. And I don’t mind saying that this is the most sublime turn of phrase you’ve offered here, all day.

    😉

  5. NBS
    10 February 2010 at 4:13 AM

    Oh Elder Oyster. I will dig through my files. Some where around here I have the apology letter that the Redeemer Hyde Park issued to its congregants after the whole “Alice Conner is Married But Bi” fiasco.

    And just to clarify, CloeA, she was married WHEN SHE TOLD THE ENQUIRER SHE WAS BI-SEXUAL. Which is, needless to say, odd. As marriage implies you only going to be sleeping with one person, and that is your spouse. I.e., a member of the opposite sex, which her spouse was/is. So it’s not like she suddenly had a change of heart about being bi, and then got over that and settled down and married a nice young man, as your comment suggests. Oh no. To the extent that even that could be described as within the realm of normalcy, even that was not the case.

    As for whether one has knowledge of her being sexually active outside the bounds of her marriage, OF COURSE, no one has knowledge of that. That was denied at the time. But when you are married and then tell the Enquirer you are bi-sexual, it does raise eyebrows. Either you’re cheating or you’re chopping your husband’s nuts off in the press.* One or the other. Neither of which pleasant. Or Christian.

    But, she did get schooled by the Diocese and the parish (or at least, they pretended to school her). I’ll look for that letter. I think it’s around here somewhere.

    *Granted, I believe he did work for a comic book store.

    • Quasimodo
      11 February 2010 at 2:12 AM

      NBS,

      Thank you for broaching this topic. Indeed, she was married and in collar at the State House when she made the comment.

      I have a hunch, that she says things to “identify” and seem all so appropriately up to speed with the “edgy” elements of the culture. It makes her look cool. My guess is that she is not/nor ever has been “bi”, but why let the truth get in the way of a great “fact” you can trot out to be one of the gang.

      That is what is the problem, for me, in her latest missive. She is the ultimate culture junky and has a deep seated desire to be oh so “relevant” which is code for non-offensive. So evangelism is jumping on whatever the new hot trend is, baptizing it, and getting students to join.

      Just a thought, though…

  6. Elder Oyster
    10 February 2010 at 6:47 AM

    Hi NBS,

    Thank you for looking into that. I was rolling on the floor btw, with the “chopping” comment.

  7. Elder Oyster
    10 February 2010 at 6:54 AM

    Hi Fr. Theoden,

    Always a pleasure to have you write in here. My take on the article (which I think lines up with what you’re saying) is that she left out that the shouters and the survey takers are by and large, right. I agree with her that they might not have found that ‘sweet-spot’ point of entry for this generation (indeed, that’s probably something that needs to be changed once every generation), however.

    Johnny Price of the Caleb Group (see links) is a guy who I believe has both sides of the evangelism equation just right – style with substance. I’d love to fly that guy out here to do a Saturday symposium.

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