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Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary Community Statement for LGBTQ+ Inclusivity

November 13, 2018
Garrett-Evangelical Tower with a Rainbow Filter

On October 18, 2018, the Board of Trustees of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary approved the following community statement on LGBTQ+ inclusivity:

Community Statement for LGBTQ+ Inclusivity

Our statement is a proactive affirmation of full inclusion of LGBTQ+ persons in the life of the seminary, the Church, and ordained clergy.

We, the community of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary have sought to discern the will of God as we become an even more open and inclusive seminary community with respect to gender identity and sexual orientation. Therefore, we affirm the following:

1. As children of God, all persons are created in the image of God in all their diversity and they are of sacred worth. We shall therefore be a community where dignity and respect are accorded to each person.

2. As a Christian seminary, we commit to the parity, advocacy, and flourishing of all persons, especially the most precarious and vulnerable. We seek to create an environment as well as pertinent institutional structures in which the policies and practices of admissions, education, scholarship and loan programs, housing, hiring, and employment are in keeping with the human and civil rights commitments of The United Methodist Church (see, The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, 2016, Part V).

3. Within The United Methodist Church and its educational institutions, there are differing understandings regarding sexuality, gender, and gender identity. However, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary affirms an educational commitment to critically and respectfully engage various understandings of diverse biblical, theological, and political perspectives.

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This statement was created to stand in continuity with the tradition of the 1997 Faculty Covenant and was revised in anticipation of the called General Conference of the UMC in February 2019.

This community statement came to be out of a process that began in 2015, when Garrett-Evangelical worked with two consultants who led Circle of Trust® conversations with faculty, staff, students, and trustees on the topic of LGBTQ+ inclusive welcome. From the Circle of Trust® conversations came five recommendations that our Inclusivity Team has been working on since 2016. One of those recommendations was a community statement that would replace the 1997 statements from trustees and faculty on LGBTQ+ inclusivity at the seminary.

The Inclusivity Team recommended a more diverse group of students, faculty, and staff form a Community Statement Task Force. For over a year, this Task Force worked on crafting this statement while continually seeking input and approval from the appropriate constituencies in the seminary. A final version was formed by the faculty at their August 2018 faculty retreat and was sent to all students, staff, and faculty for input. The input was reviewed by the Community Statement Taskforce who made edits in response to this feedback before sending it to the Board of Trustees in October 2018.

As Garrett-Evangelical President Lallene J. Rector said in the October 2018 “Presidential Perspective” in Aware Magazine:

For the last three years, our seminary community has engaged in intentional processes of information gathering, hosting guest lectures, and engaging in careful discussion and consideration on human sexuality. We have not sought full unanimity within the seminary and may never be able to claim such … but Garrett-Evangelical must now explicitly claim who we have been for some time.

It is our institutional commitment to 1) welcome, celebrate, and prepare all of our students for the variety of ministries to which they have been called by God, and 2) proactively affirm the full inclusion of LGBTQ+ persons in the life of the seminary, the Church, and ordained clergy.

… The seminary will always engage a variety of perspectives as is necessary for a robust educational process, protecting space for respectful theological and intellectual disagreement. But in the midst of these pursuits, let us never forget that our Christian unity is finally based on one hope, one Lord, and one God “who is above all and through all and in all.” This is the foundation of what will sustain us as we continue to navigate our differences. (Read Full Article)