By: Shalom Maleachi ‘17
This upcoming spring semester, students will likely encounter a new figure on campus: Timothy Colegrove, a newly hired program director who will plan events and provide resources on sexuality and relationships.
Colegrove, a Connecticut native with a long, invested history in the Boston area, entered into this newly created position (official title pending) officially last November. His primary role within this position is to organize programming on sex, sexuality, and relationships on campus.
The position Colegrove now occupies, first of its kind at Gordon, may strike many as peculiar. Given Gordon’s tense recent history with topics of sexuality, it is not surprising if some—as evidenced by social media discussion— have received this move on the part of Gordon’s administration with scepticism.
As someone new to Gordon’s community, Colegrove may not be completely aware of the atmosphere he is entering into. Regardless of this fact, however, Colegrove is very much aware of the complexity of what it is he has been hired to address. “At some point in my time,” he said, “I’m probably going to rub someone the wrong way, from all sorts of angles.”
This admission, however, is not one of wariness. Rather, it is a frank recognition of the consequences of his personal faith conviction—a grasp on the existential nature of one’s faith. “If I am faithful to the gospel,” Colegrove said, “if I am faithful to Jesus Christ and looking to him to inform what I’m doing here, that means that I’m not going to be faithful to partisan ideas.”
This commitment to Christ that transcends social or cultural affiliations has been a feature all throughout Colegrove’s life.
As a Journalism undergraduate at the University of Connecticut, Colegrove helped coordinate inter-club meetings and non-agenda community dinners between the Reformed University Fellowship (of which he was a member), the Pagan Organization for Diverse Spirituality and the Rainbow Center (the LGBTQ group on campus).”
In 2007, post-college, Colegrove moved to Jamaica Plain to live in intentional community. Staying in the city, Colegrove and his wife, Alice, worked with the homeless around Harvard Square. Colegrove, too, has been involved with InnerCHANGE—“a parachurch organization committed to new monastic forms of missional community organizing all over the world. ”
All these efforts and intertwined trajectories seem to all have been strongly driven by a passion for relationship building. Indeed, the importance of relationship building, Colegrove says, is a “…lesson has carried on through my life, and I value that highly. I value building relationships before talking about differences, building community first then talking about differences.”
“It is harder to harbor bitterness,” Colegrove goes on to comment, “when you’ve had dinner together.”
Colegrove’s academic career as well has been shaped by this focus on relationships. Colegrove spent four years studying theology in the form of Gordon-Conwell’s CUME (Center for Urban Ministerial Education) program, where students work and learn in the city alternative to Gordon-Conwell’s South Hamilton campus. He continued his academic training at Boston University, where he obtained a Master of Sacred of Theology—pursuing these part-time while maintaining full-time ministry.
When asked about why he was drawn to Gordon, Colegrove cites an interest in seeing his experiences on the ground and what he has been studying in an academic vein coming together in this new environment.
A main concern for Colegrove as he steps into his role is the safety of the student body. He views the work set in front of him as “an opportunity to bring people together to help to develop for this campus a constructive view of sex and sexuality,” acknowledging that “Christian faith has expressed a lot of prescriptions but has often lacked a compelling and beautiful vision of sex and sexuality in the Christian life.”
Cultivating a holistic vision of sexuality and culturing an environment where discussions about sex, sexuality and relationship can be had candidly and organically is core to this goal. Colegrove hopes “to see our student body to be able to have open conversations about sex that are simultaneously sensitive, open but not crass.”
Particularly concerning crassness of speech, Colegrove points to a specific example that has been a continuing problem in the Christian community:
“I want to see an end—specifically for the LGBTQ community—an end to derogatory speech.”
Derogatory speech, Colegrove describes, is hurtful and misrepresenting. It makes it harder to see actual differences in beliefs and rejects persons instead. In other words: it is against relationship building. Contra this, Colegrove hopes to see “more opportunities for [LGBTQ] narratives to be told.”
Another important aspect of cultivating a holistic vision is to note that things do happen here—things such as objectification, the commodification of sex, identity struggles, hate speech, derogatory speech, issues around equity, sexual assault, pornography, and hook up culture do exist and occur on Gordon’s campus. For conversations around sexuality to not be, as Colegrove puts it, “dialogue that is not the constant rehashing of old wounds,” but rather dialogue that helps us see that being in community with each other as a process, we must work to destigmatize conversation around these tough issues.
All in all, it would seem appropriate to close with a few words on ready openness, as Colegrove articulates—and this for the whole campus community, students, staff, and administration alike: “If you’re looking to really listen to Jesus,” he says, “prepare to be confronted, no matter who you are.”