The Department of Music’s chapel changed its policy in December to allow women to pray, read Scriptures and lead devotionals.
Phi Mu Epsilon, also known as the Professional Music Educators, directs the music department’s chapel. Andrea Ochoa, Phi’s president, said the chaplain, Logan Banister, first brought up the idea of the change.
“My officer team made the decision to allow women to speak,” Ochoa said. “We make our decisions on chapel policies based on what is done in big chapel. At the end of last semester, they had a woman read Scripture at chapel. Once that happened we decided that we could make the change to allow women to participate as well. Our sponsor, Dr. Paula Hutton, oversaw the meeting and agreed with the officer team.”
Tia Allen, a Bible and ministry major, said this change might have occurred because of negative responses to the initial exclusion of women.
“Early last semester they sent out an email asking for volunteers but made sure to inform all of us that women could not volunteer,” Allen said. “I was highly disappointed in this decision. I decided that I wouldn’t attend that chapel until that changed.”
Allen said she has not personally led anything in music chapel since the policy changed, but believes the change should have happened sooner.
“I think people have this idea that people will freak out if women lead things, or if a woman is elected chaplain,” Allen said. “However, many clubs and chapels are gender inclusive and no one has made a fuss about them. I do not think that any students would have rejected the decision before now, but some of the faculty may have.”
According to Allen, no one attending music chapel has a not been a problem with the decision to allow women to volunteer to lead.
“I have not heard any negative comments since the change, and I don’t personally know anyone who disagrees with it,” Allen said. “I 100 percent believe that Oklahoma Christian is ready for women to lead in all chapels. I had the opportunity to read Scripture once for big chapel. I received no negative comments, and received so many messages from women at our school who told me how much it meant to see a woman leading. I think the student body wants to be inclusive.”
Ochoa said she felt extending full participation to women was the right thing to do.
“Since I am the president of the organization and a leader in the department, I feel that I have an obligation to the department and to chapel,” Ochoa said. “But I also enjoy filling that role and leading my peers spiritually. I think the fact that a woman read Scripture at chapel shows that the school is progressing.”
Jeff McMillon, the Oklahoma Christian dean of spiritual life, said the policy has not changed on a school-wide level.
“We haven’t changed any policies as far as the school goes,” McMillon said. “If you want to change a policy like that, you have to write a proposal and take it to the board of trustees.”
According to McMillon, not everyone agrees with women participating in chapels.
“I think it’s great in a small setting, where the people know each other and are comfortable,” McMillon said. “Maybe they have all of their classes together, so when a woman leads it is not an issue. But there are some people who are not ready for that in bigger chapels. Women in leadership positions is an issue people are dealing with right now.”