Recently, two women, juniors Vanessa Zimmerman and Annalise Haldeman, came forward and said that they felt excluded from the Protestant Community at Ithaca College for being gay. Their story is not necessarily a unique one — other LGBTQ students also came forward. Approximately 50 current and former members of the Protestant Community at the college contributed to a document including quotes regarding acceptance in their community, with many saying that they have felt excluded.
The Protestant Community on campus is a religious group that represents a variety of ideologies, ranging from incredibly liberal to incredibly conservative — some experts estimate that there are nearly 9,000 different Protestant denominations worldwide. It seems difficult, then, to create a religious community on campus that feels welcoming and inviting to all people, considering the contradictions that may come from this blending.
Religion often serves as something people can turn to when they need support, and the Protestant Community has failed to create that atmosphere among all of its members, especially LGBTQ members. Following the raising of these issues, the Protestant community is tweaking its mission statement to say that the community will “strive to always be a diverse community.” A diverse community should be one that welcomes people from a range of Protestant experiences, including people of color and LGBTQ individuals. These students not feeling welcome is contradictory to the claim of “a diverse community” and is a failure on the part of the Protestant community. A diverse community should be one that makes room for all members of all Protestant denominations. While this could be a fine line to walk, the community needs to be committed to improvement moving forward.
To address these issues, the Protestant Community is hosting events to generate discussion among its members, like readings about racism in America and ideas surrounding legalized marijuana.
The Protestant Community’s intentions are commendable, but for this mission to reach its goal, all members of the Protestant community must take part. Both liberal and conservative members of the Protestant community must come together in conversation to find their common values.