This is a post I made on Tyndale.co that is coupled with the end of new posts until Tyndale responds.
A decision was made at 8:46am on Wednesday the 13th to “stop it from happening;” in reference to the event planned between George W Bush and Tyndale. The last few days have turned into something I was not prepared for. As stated before in my letter, I think any kind of professional relationship with George W Bush and all he represents is a complete lack of Christian character. It promotes hate and oppression to all those who have been affected by him both in North America and on an international scale. To attempt to pass his presence as merely promoting free speech is a cop-out. The thought of using such a man for the stated sake of “raising the school’s profile” at an invite only, elitist breakfast made me sick. I would have no problem having Bush speak or engaging in constructive dialogue about a variety of issues, but this isn’t about free speech. The issue here is having him publicly associate himself with a school that should be primarily associated with kingdom values. It’s with bringing in a high profile speaker to in turn raise the profile of Tyndale and ultimately gain financially from this association. If Bush wants to address Christian higher education, this website, or other public policy matters I’d encourage everyone to hear what he says and discern how they see fit.
Before acting, I sought counsel from friends whom I respect and who Gary Nelson respects before I moved forward in anything. I did not take this lightly. I wasn’t trying to stroke my ego. I was simply trying to prevent my school from associating itself with this event and hopefully create a level of transparency which, from my experience, has never really existed at Tyndale. I sought counsel from a number of people, especially people that I assumed would have told me to back off and remain silent if it was needed. From many sides I was told this was a good plan. I was advised (again, from people both sides would respect), that protest is good. I was advised that “Gary Nelson would welcome a storm of protest …especially if it was from former students, which then reflects well on the seminary…” Another person responded to me, a university faculty member in the Toronto area who is well-respected in the Christian community, and told me that there “needs to be a significant response to this.” So these responses, coupled with the encouragement from others, set the move in motion to expose the mess. There was never intention to harm or create distrust or to disturb peace, but it was meant to disrupt the conscience of Tyndale as a body, and especially of those at the top of the chain who have the power to make the decisions.
I love Tyndale. I loved a lot about my experience there. I loved my professors and some of my closest friends are still heavily involved with the daily ongoings there. I would not have worked so hard at this if I didn’t have some kind of investment in the result and in the school. In a lot of ways Tyndale still represents me as a person and what I do in ministry contexts.
So I did what I do best, I started a website. I started it as a way to document the process, gain support and speak loudly against what I saw as a non-kingdom like decision. The website/petition snowballed so fast that by the next day there was obviously enough of an uproar to cause the apparent cancellation of the entire event. This was the best news I could have heard. This meant that I wasn’t just spouting off stupid ideas and annoying everyone but there was actually enough resistance to cause a cancellation. It wasn’t until it was cancelled, however, that the media really started getting involved. We started getting e-mails from across the country congratulating us on our victory and people trying to replicate the same kind of results in other places in the world. International media picked up the story and now the world saw that a group of Christians stood up for kingdom values even if it did tarnish their “high profile.” I saw this not only as a great accomplishment on our part but also on the part of the Tyndale administration who acted bravely in listening to their students and alumni and cancelling the event. Myself and others saw the cancellation as having something positive attached to Tyndale as students rallied together to oppose what they thought was a bad move.
Of course, with anything good comes opposition (which is what was said about the Bush event in the first place). I have been in this place before of exposing shady deals or calling out harmful practices in the public sphere and I should have been prepared for what was to come next. Everyone came under the gun. Accusations started flying in every direction. To the people who started the site (me), to Gary Nelson, to Dan Oudshoorn and the list went on. The goal of the site was to be honest and post everything in regards to this fiasco in hopes of getting a sufficient response that would eventually create no need for this site. I approved every letter and every comment that came my way, even if they were straight up insulting me. I thought this was the fair thing to do. I knew there would be controversy, but I did, and I still do, uphold that this kind of dialogue is the kind of thing that an institution, especially a Christian one, should accept with open arms. I weighed my words carefully and I believe that I upheld integrity in my responses in both what I wrote or said to the media or on the site. I submitted to correction numerous times and did my best to do this in a way that was honourable. Really though, this isn’t about me. This is about Tyndale. Tyndale, through all of this, has had glimpses of hope, but for the most part has completely let its student body/alumni down. Besides actually cancelling the event, which still is questionable as to how/why/what happened, they have been completely silent and difficult to work with or understand.
This is why the website is still up and is still running. I believe that people who are affected by the decisions Tyndale makes, need a place to challenge Tyndale in the public eye. I also think that there needs to be a place to defend Tyndale. Because of their silence over an obviously controversial event, it showed me that there was a hole in the transparency of the Tyndale administration and its leadership. When people feel as if something is being held from them, which they most certainly do now, they need a place to express that and to be heard. Or when people feel that wrong is being committed and they aren’t given the appropriate outlet to express this, they need a place where they can gather support and challenge decisions. I know that even this view is controversial. Why should private institutions be publicly accountable to the masses, international media and loud mouthed alumni? The people of God are constantly on display, and it is our duty to be honest about who we are, the mistakes we make and the things we believe.
A site like this is only ever criticized by two kinds of people. The first are those that have something to hide or are afraid of confrontation. Because this site forcefully confronts both those people, it doesn’t make a lot of friends. The second group of people who don’t like this site is really why I wrote this post. These are the advocates of peace and love. They are good people who are beautifully empathetic with any hurt that they see has been caused. They want a world of peace (and God knows so do I ) where all sides can love one another. Reconciliation is at the forefront of their minds; not just confronting that which is evil, but striving after that which is good (even if it means ignoring that which is evil). These are the people whom I want my conscience as a Christ follower to be formed by. Those that place compassion ahead of confrontation. I am not built that way, but I long to be formed into that kind of person. The amount of hurt that has been expressed through this ordeal is too much for one person to take, I can only imagine how Gary Nelson feels. I am constantly thrown back and forth as to what my response should be. Should I take down the site completely? Should I continue to stand up for what I think is right and confront what I think is wrong even if it’s causing strife? What is the appropriate balance between justice, love and peace? What is my role in any of them? The questions haunt me. I realize that my actions carry a lot of weight, especially since I can flick a switch and end the site right now.
I’m not even sure what peace is anymore. Is peace just everyone getting along, oblivious to the fact that there is something to be up in arms about? Is peace ignorance? Is peace just a weapon to use to stop people from opposing evil? These are what I feel are some people’s suggestions, that they just want to go on with their life, forget anything happened and ignore the reality of what took place and what could easily happen again. I don’t think this is a peace that we are to seek as Christians. Rather, the kind of peace that Christians should seek is one that embodies an honest portrayal of who we are, both the good and the ugly, and leads us to be formed into a kind of people that can face into reality (not our ideological hopes for peace) humbly and with Christ at the core. Unfortunately, I don’t think this process comes across as very peaceful. It carries with it the baggage of hurt egos, true and false accusations, confessions and blatant opposition.
I never intended this website to turn into a ‘bash Tyndale’ or ‘bash Gary Nelson’ site. Every time someone calls for Nelson’s resignation, my heart aches. In no way do I think a resignation solves anything or answers anything. I don’t want Gary Nelson to resign. I would start a website to oppose that suggestion as well. I recognize that this site has caused insurmountable grief, especially amongst some of the current staff and students at Tyndale, and for that I’m truly saddened. My hope is that this site has proven to be an honest take from a range of people about Tyndale’s transparency, the Bush event and the appropriate response. So, from this point on I’m not going to post anything new. I’m only going to approve comments that add something new to the conversation and if their full name is stated, but for the most part this site is going to be frozen/paused. I’m also going to take down the petition for people to sign. 120 people signed it, 85 confirmed their signature and 10 people or so have asked to be taken off of it. The petition served its purpose to prevent the event from happening. No one needs to feel associated to the opinions on this site just because they signed to cancel the Bush event. The petition did it’s job and now it is simply a reminder that it helped bring the end to a harmful relationship.
I am planning on coming up to Tyndale on Monday and Tuesday to try and mend anything that I can that has been broken. I would love to meet with anyone who is interested, especially Gary Nelson. E-mail me if you are interested. I’m open to whatever kind of reconciliation steps are necessary and I hope that whatever people feel has been broken can be fixed. I’m willing to take responsibility for what I have done, and I hope Tyndale is willing as well.
My hope still is that Tyndale responds. I can’t imagine them not responding at this point. If they do respond, we will post it on the site as well. This site can serve as a historical database of our successful opposition to Bush representing Tyndale and hopefully the successful reconciliation of all the divisiveness that has occurred. I’d even be willing to hand over the domain to Tyndale if they would agree to having this information posted elsewhere on their site, or if I could post it elsewhere as a reminder of what happened.
So I hope this explanation is sufficient and that it is obvious that my intentions are not to harm or to cause strife: they are for peace, they are for reconciliation.
Peace, love and grace