Pride Flag
By Jonathan Lever

What does a loving world look like, and what is our part in creating the conditions for that world as it comes into being? This is a living question in our organization. Most recently, it has been tested in our discernment about the Fetzer Institute’s relationship with Southwest Michigan First. As new members to this economic development organization in our home county, we align with those questioning the recent hire of Lee Chatfield as its new CEO.

For us, a loving world honors the sacred dignity in all people. We stand unequivocally in support of the LGBTQ community—they are treasured members of our staff, families, and friendship circles. They are essential members of a flourishing community, and we will not be members of any organization that fails to honor the full humanity of LGBTQ community members.

In solidarity with organizations who are standing up for the rights and full inclusion of the LGBTQ community, we will be making donations to OutFront Kalamazoo and Equality Michigan in the same amount of our Southwest Michigan First membership, $5,000 per organization.

Our vision of a loving world also requires us to do the hard and too-little-practiced work of bridge-building. It is from this perspective that we will be requesting a conversation with Mr. Chatfield and the board chair of Southwest Michigan First to better understand their commitments to equity, especially for the LGBTQ community. We are pleased to see that Southwest Michigan First this week adopted an organizational policy that prohibits discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation in its hiring process and we hope that this step signals a greater openness toward inclusion in its many forms.  

We do not know where this conversation will go or whether we will retain our membership in Southwest Michigan First, but we are dedicated to taking this risk, guided by our values of love, trust, authenticity, and inclusion.


Jonathan Lever is chief operating officer and executive vice president of the Fetzer Institute.