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The Chimes

The Student News Site of Biola University

The Chimes

The Student News Site of Biola University

The Chimes

Missions Conference: Unhinged

The Biola community reacts to the unexpected events of Missions Conference session two.
Neema+Mbogo%2C+Chad+Miller+and+Mark+Muha+address+attendees+with+an+apology.+
CHIMES//File
Neema Mbogo, Chad Miller and Mark Muha address attendees with an apology.

Editor’s Note — This piece was first published three weeks after the event occurred. The original publication included an error consisting in a lapse of journalistic integrity.

In the paragraph noted by an asterisk, the Chimes previously stated that one of the Missions Conference directors “declined comment.” The Chimes removed this statement after discovering it was not true. After realizing this oversight and making thorough investigation, we recognized the source expressed willingness for an interview, but no interview with either of the directors was conducted.

The Chimes recognizes that the tone of this piece may have been significantly different had one of our writers or editors conducted an interview with the Missions Conference directors. The Chimes regrets this oversight and apologizes for the lapse in integrity. We will commit ourselves to more thorough clarity and research for our reporting in the future.

The cornerstone of any reputable Christian organization lies in the ways they carry themselves through difficult situations with integrity, and unfortunately, that was not the case with Bill Wilson. During Biola’s 94th annual Missions Conference, known as the largest student-led conference in the world, students experienced a heavy and difficult main session resulting in conflicting opinions among the community. Difficult conversations need to be at the forefront of any cutting-edge university, however, the ways it cultivates a Christ-like image can distinguish Biola from any other secular institution having a conference session on poverty or violence. 

WHAT HAPPENED?

In session two, students had the opportunity to listen to Wilson as the guest speaker. Wilson established an outreach program called Metro World Child in 1980 in one of New York’s toughest neighborhoods, known for gang violence and poverty. Wilson was set to speak about a topic titled “Standing Between the Living and the Dead.” 

The session opened with a video introducing Wilson’s involvement with Metro World Child in different states and countries. He had students turn to Numbers 16:43–48 and explained that Aaron took fire from the altar, standing between the living and the dead. He was an unlikely man that God chose to intercede between him and the Israelites. 

In the first half of the session, Wilson displayed graphic images and videos, resulting in many students leaving the session. Some students took this as a learning experience, while others argued that it could have been presented more gracefully. Before the session ended, Chad Miller, the director of Pastoral Care and Student-led Ministries stopped Wilson from speaking further. Though Biola’s statement prides itself on ending the session early, it did so at the moment it was scheduled to end. Biola was unforthcoming with their response to this incident. Despite claiming that once unapproved content was shared the session was terminated, that is not the whole truth, since the session continued through two, unapproved, graphic videos. 

Despite Biola’s best attempts to blame-shift this situation solely on Wilson, as the hosting organization that funds this event and is responsible for protecting the wellbeing of the students who are required to attend, they showed an incredible lack of judgment and integrity in their ongoing handling of this situation.

Miller offered resources like the Biola Counseling Center to students who were disturbed because of the graphic images. The session ended with some cheering and booing. This session was live-streamed on YouTube for family, alumni, and others to watch the conference, however, Biola quickly made the livestream private following the events.

However, when students emailed Chapel Accountability explaining that they did not feel emotionally ready to attend more conference sessions that day, they were told that no attendance waivers were being considered. 

BIOLA’S OFFICIAL STATEMENT

Before the next session in the evening, Miller and Mark Muha, the Vice President of Student Development made a statement that was sent via email to all Biola students. 

“We wanted to address the content presented in today’s Missions Conference session, particularly the graphic videos and stories shared by speaker Bill Wilson from Metro World Child,” stated Spiritual Development in a mass email sent to students. 

According to the statement, the message and content were initially reviewed by Miller, Muha and Missions Conference leadership. Yet, multiple cases of unapproved content were displayed to the Biola community. 

Miller and Muha said in the email, “We want to express our heartfelt apology for what took place during the session today and the distress it may have caused by the content presented. Our priority is the well-being of our students and the entire Biola community.”

They went on to recognize Wilson and Metro World Child and their ministry contributions but expressed their concern for the graphic videos and stories shared in front of the student body. 

In the email, Miller and Muha said, “The message shared during the session was different from what was previously reviewed by myself and the Missions Conference leadership. Upon realizing the speaker was presenting unapproved content, we took action to end the session. We take responsibility for this mistake and are committed to revising our efforts to implement a more rigorous review of content prior to a public presentation.”

At the beginning of the evening session, Miller and Muha went on stage and reaffirmed these statements. Muha disclosed that Wilson was asked not to lead his designated breakout session the following day. Miller then prayed over students for healing and asked God to bless the rest of the Missions Conference. 

SMU & SGA STATEMENT

The hosting, which solely relies on student organization, failed to protect attendees and demonstrated an equal lack of integrity in their response.* 

The Student Missionary Union (SMU) made a statement on Instagram that said, “We want to formally apologize for some heavy and disturbing content that was displayed during our last session. Our team was notary services made aware of this. If you are in need of prayer and need to process please come to the [Spiritual Development] office right across from the gym. Pastoral care is here to help you through this.”

President-elect Jacqueline McCauslin also commented on the situation that took place during this session. 

“‘Can one person truly make an impact?’ Yes. The impact of Bill Wilson’s presence on campus demonstrated the answer to this question that he himself posed to the student body during the second session of the Missions Conference,” said McCauslin. “Though it is clear that there were mixed reactions from students across campus, the approach that was taken did cause unexpected distress to many distracted from the purpose of the conference and the importance of missions.”

McCauslin urged the attendees to appreciate the passion of Wilson’s servanthood within the field of missions for children. However, she acknowledged the absence of compassion and appropriateness in this session. 

“This was a learning experience for many student leaders on campus, including leaders within SMU and even myself, as it has allowed us to respond and assess how to best move forward while also seeking understanding for how this situation can be prevented in future conferences,” said McCauslin. “As I reflect on this conference, I seek to continue gaining understanding of students’ thoughts and feelings about the conference so that I may continue to gain wisdom on how to continue serving them as God leads me. Going forward, we will engage in conversations about how to ensure content warnings where necessary in addition to making sure that any content presented, such as videos or pictures, will be properly approved and screened before it reaches the eyes and hearts of students.”

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About the Contributors
Dalet Valles
Dalet Valles, Editor-in-Chief
Dalet Valles is a senior journalism major who loves spontaneous adventures with good company, new foods and creating lifelong memories.          
Monica Salazar-Jimenez
Monica Salazar-Jimenez, Opinions Editor
Monica Salazar-Jimenez is a senior Journalism major with a concentration in visual media who loves long walks at the park, iced chais, and race cars.
Patricia Yang
Patricia Yang, Arts and Entertainment Editor
Patricia Yang is a junior English major aspiring to be a novel writer. She loves drawing, playing her violin, and playing The Legend of Zelda—as well as talking about stories and characters for hours on end.
Olivia Kam
Olivia Kam, News Editor
Olivia Kam is a sophomore English major with a concentration in literature who loves music, matcha, volleyball, and going to the beach.
Kenny Cook
Kenny Cook, Staff Writer
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