MARS HILL, N.C. (ABP) — Mars Hill College, located in the conservative mountains of an increasingly conservative North Carolina Baptist environment, has hired an ordained woman with Cooperative Baptist Fellowship ties as campus chaplain.
Stephanie McLeskey comes to Mars Hill from the University of Georgia, where she was an academic adviser and campus minister through the CBF of Georgia. She holds missions-related committee positions with CBF of Georgia and national CBF.
Mars Hill President Dan Lunsford, a 1969 graduate, said the search committee’s choice of McLeskey is not intended to send any message “other than that we chose someone in whom we have great confidence will be a great campus chaplain.”
From an interview list of “strong candidates” McLeskey was chosen with the “primary, ultimate focus of what’s in the best interests of the 1,000-plus students we’ll have on campus next year,” Lunsford said.
Lunsford said Mars Hill’s student body is “very ecumenical,” and the committee felt McLeskey had the “experience and desire to serve and minister to people — specifically the students — from different faith experiences.”
Another priority for Lunsford, president at Mars Hill since 2003 and son of one of the longest-serving directors of missions in the mountains, was to have a campus chaplain who expressed a calling to campus ministry, “both personally and professionally, on more than a short term basis.”
McLeskey said she has felt called to serve God in the campus setting for many years. She describes herself as drawn to the ecumenical outlook of chaplaincy, along with its pastoral care and worship aspects.
“I am attracted to chaplaincy because I enjoy the practice of hospitality, welcoming people in to catch a breath from the pace of life, and walking with them as they navigate the unexpected twists and turns our travels take,” she said.
“The college campus in general is such a place of transition, and I am blessed to be able to minister within that constant movement, providing a safe and stable place for students as well as the rest of the campus community to explore who they are in relationship to the world and to God, and to dream about who they might become,” she said.
McLeskey is an ordained Baptist minister and a member of Milledge Avenue Baptist Church in Athens, Ga., where she is a supply preacher, Sunday-school teacher, Wednesday-night teacher and chair of the outreach committee
McLeskey said she was attracted to Mars Hill College because of the size of the community, as well as the college’s devotion to liberal-arts ideals and its ongoing commitment to its Baptist heritage. She said that, from the time she first set foot on the campus, Mars Hill College “felt like home,” and seemed to be “a place where people truly care for one another.”
McLeskey fills the position left vacant by Todd Boling, who now serves as a hospital chaplain and pastoral-care supervisor in Ohio. She is married to Ken McLeskey, a painter and woodworking artist.
Norman Jameson is reporting and coordinating special projects for ABP on an interim basis. He is former editor of the North Carolina Biblical Recorder