[title_box title=”Gideons’ Bible distribution returns to campus”]
Members of The Gideons International dotted the street corners Monday and Tuesday on the University of Tennessee’s campus for their annual Bible distribution.
For two days in October, the university allows the suit and tie clad men to set up anywhere on campus to hand out copies of the New Testament.
University administration plans when the Gideons are allowed to have their distribution period. Until recently, they were allowed one day on campus, but they are now allotted two.
“Over the last several years, the university has been kind to give us two days, Monday and Tuesday, usually in October,” said Gideons member Bobby Russell. “We get here about 7:30 a.m. and we stay until about 11 a.m.”
The university also requires the group to have an on-campus sponsor to perform their distribution. This year, the Baptist Collegiate Ministry is sponsoring the group. Although the BCM is a ministry of the Southern Baptist and Tennessee Baptist Conventions, the Gideons do not affiliate with a particular Christian denomination.
Other than their prearranged time periods and the requirement for an on-campus sponsor, the group has no other restrictions or guidelines from campus administration.
“Really we’re not restricted to anything,” Russell said.
While the group doesn’t encounter adversity from the university, the Gideons do meet some opposition from those they approach on the streets.
“You do get some who say ‘I’m a Muslim” or ‘I’m atheist.’ Some people just say they don’t want anything to do with organized religion,” Russell said. “[The Gideons] don’t let that be a seed for confrontation. We don’t necessarily push our beliefs on anybody. Anybody who wants to take a copy, we give it to them. We don’t force it upon them.”
Levi Inman,a student at UT, has encountered The Gideons bible distribution multiple times.
“They keep to themselves but they’re very outgoing,” Inman said. “If you make eye contact, they’re going to strike up a conversation, but I don’t think it’s disruptive. When I talk to those guys they’re very kind, it warms my heart to know that there are people out there that have passion in their faith.”
The Gideons’ last day on campus was Tuesday, but they are expected to be back on campus next October.
Edited by Jessica Carr