For over 100 years, the Wesley Center has partnered with students at the University of Iowa to create a spiritual home on campus, nurture justice-seeking leaders, and pattern our lives in rhythms of grace, solidarity, and deep connection with each other, the Divine, and the Earth. We have stood by our commitments to peace with justice, anti-racism, and the sacred worth of queer and trans people in the face of opposition from our government and religious denomination. We are proud to be a place to creatively explore spirituality in an anti-racist, queer-led, intersectional justice seeking community.
For many years, it was through The United Methodist Church (the UMC) that we were able to do our best work and be our best selves. With time, however, our commitment to beloved community, particularly with queer and trans students, has resulted in direct attacks from the church body that once supported us. These attacks have resulted in loss of funding, lengthy church disciplinary processes against our chaplain, and denominational distrust among students, whose tolerance for religious hypocrisy and discrimination is blessedly low. In light of the denomination’s entrenched commitments to policies and practices of dominance and destruction, what was once a source of connection and life has become a burden and barrier to our community’s purpose. Our values no longer align with those of the UMC. In order to free the Wesley Center to show up authentically, wholeheartedly, and without reservation for all our students, we will not renew our association as a covenant organization with The United Methodist Church.
In the spirit of Pentecost as witnessed in Acts of the Christian scriptures, we celebrate this opportunity to be made new. Just as the Holy Spirit breathed new life into an ancient community constrained by grief, we too welcome the Divine winds of change. Pentecost celebrates a turning point – consistent with prior events, but embodied in new ways. With imagination, creativity, and joy, we are fashioning ancient rhythms into a new song.
This turning is especially important in a religious and social environment that continues to attempt to close off possibility and prescribe thought and behavior. The Wesley Center invites all students to be, belong, breathe, and be nourished—without qualification or reservation. We do that best at Table, sharing our stories and finding connections, whether over coffee, homemade meals, or chocolate. We let our questions lead us, expectant to discover Divine possibility in our midst. In the face of state legislation and church doctrines that attempt to control and condemn, this invitation into authentic, brave belonging is of vital importance.
Students regularly bear witness to how life-giving it is to have an affirming spiritual community. They say, “Good conversation just hadn’t been part of my college experience thus far, and I think that I felt safe discussing the concepts and the ideas that we do discuss.” And, “Friendships and connections developed organically and a true family was built around seeking hard truths and opening ourselves up to each other and the wider world around us.”
Today, the Wesley Center is a spiritual community for students with diverse experiences and backgrounds. By letting go of our covenant organization status with the UMC, we make room for interfaith, campus, and local partners who share our vision to creatively explore spirituality in community. We sing the new song of the Spirit, on the themes of hospitality and justice that have long sustained us. We do this knowing that our labor is not only for the good of the immeasurably valuable students we encounter, but for the communities they will shape now and in years to come.
The Wesley Center invites and partners with students to seek justice, encounter community, and linger in Divine truths.
Please consider a donation to sustain this vital work.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will there be programming in the fall for students?
- Yes! Tuesday Table and other programming led by Chaplain Anna Blaedel will continue in the fall, as it has in recent semesters.
Will you serve students with connections to the UMC?
- Yes, the Wesley Center invites all students to be, belong, breathe, and be nourished—without qualification or reservation.
How can I support the Wesley Center with this transition?
- There are many ways to support the Wesley Center! You can donate now or on a recurring basis. You can sign up for the Wesley Center’s newsletter. You can also engage with the Wesley Center on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.
How will this decision affect the Wesley Center’s funding?
- The Wesley Center has sustained ministry in recent years by restructuring assets and receiving greater investment from donors as contributions from the UMC have decreased. Fundraising from donors and other revenue sources will be high priorities for the Wesley Center.
How will this decision affect the Wesley Center’s staff?
- The Wesley Center does not anticipate this decision changing its staffing policies and practices at this time. The Wesley Center will continue employing a chaplain and a director of development and operations, as well as offering intentionally robust health insurance, paid time off, and retirement benefits.
What will happen to the Wesley Center’s name?
- The Wesley Center will keep its name at this time.
How will this decision impact the Wesley Center’s location?
- The Wesley Center intends to continue leasing space at 120 N. Dubuque St. in Iowa City.
Who made this decision?
- The Board of Directors of the Wesley Center made this decision after extensive, intentional discernment and in consultation with the staff.
Will the Wesley Center join another denomination?
- The Wesley Center is committed to its values, mission, and vision. There are no plans to join another denomination at this time.
What will guide Wesley Center’s work?
- The Wesley Center is committed to its values, mission, and vision, which will all continue to guide the organization’s work.