NEW 305 - Searching for a New Dean at Hendricks Chapel

This project was Created by myself--AJ Chavar, Christen Brandt, and Nancy Mucciarone for our NEW 305 class at Newhouse, taught by Gina Chen.

Hendricks Chapel is currently looking for a new dean, and the Rev. Tiffany Steinwert is the latest candidate to visit Syracuse University.

The dean search committee is striving to be diverse, and is comprised of faculty, staff and student members from all over the university. “We’ve been meeting since the beginning of the semester and interacting with the candidates through phone interviews, online interviews and meeting with them when they come to visit,” said Sierra Fox, one of the two student members of the committee.

Steinwert, along with the Rev. Kristen Leslie and the Rev. Mark Edington, are the final three candidates in the running for the position after being narrowed down from 70 applicants. Steinwert is a United Methodist pastor and founder of the Cambridge Welcoming Ministries, a congregation in Massachusetts that welcomes the LGBTQ community and allies.

In the Methodist church, LGBTQ people are not allowed to be married, and in some cases, pastors can refuse church membership to a person because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“I’ve worked in the state and the nation to create communities of support and advocacy both on the issue of marriage equality and within my denomination on a national and global level, advocating for the inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered folks within the Methodist church,” Steinwert said. “I’ve been working over the past 10 years through grassroots organizations and legislative change.”

Tim Griffin, an SU senior and member of the Presbyterian Church, said that although his personal beliefs go against Steinwert’s, he thinks that welcoming everyone is a good thing. “Nobody is perfect, so I think it’s important to accept gays and lesbians into a church if they want to be there,” he said.

Marcus Stevens, a member of the Alibrandi Catholic Church, said that we shouldn’t focus on the personal beliefs of the new dean, but instead should try to find a dean who is supportive of all beliefs. “We should be looking for a dean that is willing to embrace and understand all the diversities of faith he or she is representing,” he said. “As long as her personal beliefs don’t attack or dismiss one or many of the faiths she is supposed to be representing, I don’t have a problem with her.”

Steinwert said that if she were chosen as dean, she would create discussions among the different faiths and groups on campus to talk about sexual orientation and gender identity. She said she would work to eliminate hateful language in these discussions, and would encourage the LGBTQ community to network with national groups who are working to be included in the ministry.

“I would work with the LGBTQ community to connect them to the wider broader network of people who are working for full inclusion, not within the greater Syracuse area, but [across] the nation,” she said.

Christopher Woodside, a member of the LGBT community and a former Syracuse student, said that he agreed with Steinwert’s ideas on including LGBTQ people in religion. “If nothing else, it’s reassuring to have religion symbols support our cause to show it’s not a black and white issue,” he said. “You can be religious and supportive of gay rights.”

Steinwert said that the dean position interested her because it spoke to her three passions: being a pastor, a scholar, and a community organizer. Hendrick’s has a unique history that many other college campuses don’t have because it was created to be a multi-faith center, she said.

Steinwert also said that she wanted to build relationships among the different communities that exist in Hendrick’s and to motivate them to come together.

“A lot of times in interfaith work, what we do is talk at each other, instead of talking with each other,” she said. “If I were dean, I would try to facilitate these relationships where we’re able to talk with one another so that our conversations across faith boundaries would not only inform us about what the other view is, but help us to critically reflect on our own faith position as well.”

Trevor Marsteller, a member of the leadership team for Baptist campus ministry, said that a successful dean would have to be able to bring people from all different beliefs and religions together. “If the goal of a dean is to make sure all students are included – and certainly certain groups are excluded – then bringing them in and making them feel welcome is what they should do,” he said.


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