Wednesday morning, Indiana Wesleyan University President Henry Smith inducted into the Society of World Changers its 10th member, actor Kirk Cameron.
The convocation began at 10 a.m. with Smith introducing Cameron and briefly stating why the committee chose him as this year’s nominee: “We honor Kirk Cameron – who through his career as an actor, producer, author, evangelist and, most important, [as a] follower of Jesus Christ – is changing the world.”
Smith then introduced Student Body President Jenna Childress (sr) who led the room in prayer and Carl Shepherd, chairman of the board of trustees, to tell the history of the Society of World Changers.
The society has been in existence since 2003, with its first inductee the late Bob Briner, who inspired the award with his book “Roaring Lambs.”
“[Briner] thought Christians spent too much time hiding in their own cultural enclaves, when they should be invading and occupying the world, embodying the spirit of Christ in secular professions,” Shepherd said.
Smith then introduced Dr. Keith Newman, IWU’s executive vice president, to the stage for a Q-and-A with Cameron. This is the first year the convocation has featured such a session.
Cameron spoke of his family; his fame on the 1980s sitcom “Growing Pains”; his work with Camp Firefly, a camp he created for seriously ill children and their families; his faith and his two most recent movie successes.
Cameron starred in the Christian film “Fireproof,” which was the highest-grossing independent film for 2008.
Cameron also travels around the country speaking at the “Love Worth Fighting For” marriage conference, inspired by the movie.
His most recent film, “Monumental,” is a documentary about the founding fathers of America. The movie released last month.
Cameron is known by the mainstream mostly for his controversial stance on homosexuality. In a March 2 interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan, Cameron called homosexuality “detrimental and ultimately destructive,” causing actors and gay-rights supporters to react.
“Growing Pains” co-star Alan Thicke tweeted in response to the Piers Morgan interview: “I’m getting him some new books. The Old Testament simply can’t be expected to explain everything.”
Gay actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson of “Modern Family” tweeted as well: “The only unnatural thing about me being gay is that I had a crush on Kirk Cameron until about 24 hours ago.”
Newman addressed this controversy at the convocation by introducing a clip of Cameron on the “Today Show.”
“I was surprised, frankly, that people were surprised by the things that I’ve said,” said Cameron on the show. “I have been consistent for 15 years as a Christian. I’m a Bible-believing Christian. What I would have thought was more newsworthy is if I had said something that contradicted the Word of God, if I had contradicted my faith.”
Cameron called the controversy “instructive” and “exciting” for him.
He went on to say, “If you ever get a chance to sit across from someone with a diametrically opposed worldview and stare into the muzzle of a loaded question on national television during the presidential election year and be asked to answer the questions, ‘What do you think of gay marriage?’ ‘Is homosexuality a sin?’ ‘What do you think of abortion, especially in the cases of incest and rape?’ ‘Should the Catholic Church be forced to pay for contraception against their religious conscious?’ and ‘Who would make the best president for the next 4 years?’ – you should go for it.”
Cameron finished his talk by encouraging students to go to the Society of World Changers busts in the library atrium to pick an inductee to research and learn about for their contribution to the world.
“God often uses nobodies from nowhere with nothing to offer but a fully surrendered heart,” Cameron said.
Smith then revealed the bronze bust, and after the Chorale performed, he presented the presidential citation. Dr. Katie Wampler, assistant professor of theatre, gave the benediction.
Sophomores Justin Tracy and Cameron Ames said they believed the ceremony – especially in regard to the new Q-and-A format – was a success.
“I was very pleased,” said Tracy. “I think it went out very smoothly. I think we were very receptive and very welcoming to him. I was happy for that.”
Ames agreed, saying: “I was really pleased that the student body was receptive to [Cameron’s induction]. I was afraid that there might be a little unrest.”