Hello PLNU Community,
This is Lainie Alfaro, the previous editor in chief of The Point. As we wrap up this semester, I’ve spent some time reflecting on my experiences working at The Point. I’ve learned a lot about journalistic integrity, balanced storytelling and how to listen, often, louder than I speak. But now, it’s come to this: since I am no longer an editor (it was my choice to step down and focus on the rest of my senior year), I would like to say a few of my own words. To be abundantly clear, I am not writing as an editor. I am not writing as a journalist. I am writing as me — someone who has their own beliefs and opinions. I am a college student, just like you.
I want to speak on the coverage we’ve done for almost a year and a half, not counting the reporters who have come before us, on multiple ground-breaking issues including changes in the Church of the Nazarene. I want to recognize the hours of interviews and research done to understand this denomination. I want to recognize the people who requested anonymity for fear of retribution and loss of employment in this pursuit of storytelling. I want to recognize the tears and the loss that First Church of the Nazarene experienced on Sunday, Nov. 26, as Pastor Dee Kelley gave his final sermon. I want to recognize the current sense of fear and anxiety on our campus and in local Nazarene churches.
I’ve covered the protests that happened on our campus last semester. I’ve reported on the initial breaking news about Pastor Dee Kelley’s dismissal. I’ve interviewed numerous people on the direct effects of the elevation of the Covenants of Christian Character and Conduct. I’d like to think that I’ve done my job as a journalist to offer balanced perspectives, to do my due diligence in research and to make sure all sides have been represented.
But this week, I’m left feeling a bit of a loss for how a journalist is to respond in a scenario where someone has lost their job of over 17 years. I’m at a bit of a loss on how anyone can say it was a correct decision, when a congregation of about 200 people gathered on Sunday, and lament filled the room. I’m at a bit of a loss with the blatant disregard of care and support for this congregation as they are going through this change. I’m at a bit of a loss regarding the clear actions of exclusion that these covenantal changes will enable, making the church an even more inhospitable and unsafe space for the LGBTQIA+ community and allies.
I ask the Church of the Nazarene’s General Superintendents and Southern California District Board: how do you justify these actions when they’ve caused so much harm? How do you remain unresponsive when so much hurt was palpable in that room? Where is the clear explanation for your denial of the appeal? Why haven’t you offered space for support and grief? Have you listened to the stories that I’ve heard?
I ask PLNU’s administration: why was Melissa Tucker not asked to return as an adjunct professor at our university? How are you planning to make sure LGBTQIA+ students feel like they can exist and thrive here with the covenantal changes that are occurring in our sponsoring denomination? Will these covenantal changes inform our chapel services? When will we as journalists be able to interview our professors on topics like this without getting emails asking for prior review for fear of being fired from their jobs?
In forming doctrine based on theology, I’ve learned that the Church of the Nazarene created covenants as a way to find common ground and common identity. There’s the Wesleyan Quadrilateral of Scripture, tradition, reason and experience that inform what the church believes as a unit.
I think covenants and collective values are important in defining a community and helping us remember truth, but in their position of power, the Board of General Superintendents have elevated certain aspects of their covenants that were not originally written to have this sort of weight. These were not originally written to be equivalent to the Articles of Faith. What makes them eligible to be so now? Is it the increasing anti-transgender rhetoric forming in many states across the nation? Is it the banning and censorship of LGBTQIA+ authors in libraries? Or, is it simply a doubling-down in beliefs that the church has held for years?
The Point will continue to report on changes in the church. As a journalist who covered this multifaceted issue, I’m simply asking for answers. No more silence. No more unresponsiveness. Please just answer our questions or at least say you can’t answer them. Journalists are not trying to paint you in a bad light; it’s just hard to know what is happening without transparency. It’s hard to know what’s going on given the cacophony of other things happening in our country that aim to divide and polarize our campus and church communities.
My hope is that on this campus we are in spaces of learning and growing. I think it’s time for a perspective shift. Perhaps, it’s time to listen to others’ stories that might not look like our own. This practice helps us maintain generous assumptions and open-mindedness when meeting people who might look, sound or act different from us. I have interviewed people on all ends of political and religious spectrums. It’s both a humbling and extremely educational experience to do this and that’s what I’d like to see from our community.
Please do not take this opinion piece as a slight against this school or the Nazarene Church; this is simply a request for communication.
I’m not trying to change your mind or opinion on topics such as doctrine and religion, but I would offer that perhaps it’s time to ask hard questions and also listen well. What are the real implications of these changes that are affecting congregations and our campus? Where is the communication? Our words and actions speak loudly of our character and beliefs.
As I wrap this up, I want to say the opinion section is for everyone at PLNU. Please use this resource. It’s not every day we have spaces in this world where we can hold opinions in tension — Pastor Dee Kelley’s trial shows that. Do not be afraid to stick up for what you believe in and know there are journalists out there who want to do their job well and who want to tell stories truthfully, but we are humans too.