Equality APTS
Mary Ann Kaiser ‘12
Rev. Katrina Shawgo ‘08
John Russell Stanger ‘12
November 21, 2012
Cassandra Carr and the Board of Trustees
Rev. Dr. Ted Wardlaw, President
Dear friends,
Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary has long  been about the work of bringing the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world through  education, service, leadership, critical thought, and perhaps most uniquely,  creating a “winsome and exemplary community of God’s people.”[1] Our emphasis on  forming strong relationships between faculty, staff, and students results in an  incredibly intimate community and makes APTS a Christian environment. It was  this sense of community that drew many of us to APTS to study and has acted as a  source of nourishment amidst our seminary journeys.
APTS has an admirable history of responding to  students and alumni who bring to light issues of injustice and marginalization  in our community by making changes to policy and shifting the community milieu.  Over the last few years, APTS has become an even stronger community by beginning  to intentionally make lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning  students feel welcome. A few examples of this good work are the domestic  partnership addendum to the housing policy, the creation of the Queer Alliance  student group, and various diversity training workshops which incorporate the  marginalization of queer students and other minorities. The student body itself  has illustrated through community events like Argyle Day that it longs to  witness publicly to what is already occurring within our community.
As alumni who are grateful for and encouraged by the  steps that have been taken to fully celebrate LGBTQ persons in our community, we  believe the Spirit is beckoning us towards further growth. We have been given a  vision of a community—a community where faculty, staff, and students feel safe  being LGBTQ persons. We envision a space where students have more than a few  places on campus to turn for care when struggling with rejection, especially  from the denominations that baptized us. We see the possibility of a community  where, from week to week, LGBTQ people do not receive mixed messages from the  administration, never quite knowing if we are welcomed or not. We dream of  classrooms where we are not fearful to share how our teaching and learning  connects to our own lives and others do not feel it is within their rights, and  often their responsibility, to speak against us. In this envisioned community we  will use expansive language that honors all genders and sexualities, create  non-gender specific bathrooms to begin to ensure safe spaces for our transgender  family, and employ liturgy that acknowledges the diverse identities with which  God blessed us. Our dream is of community where LGBTQ people are mentioned as  more than just an “issue,” which currently deprives everyone from learning how  to pastor all of God’s children.
You have the power to make this vision a reality. We  urge APTS to make a public declaration of support for its LGBTQ students, staff,  faculty, and alumni. Without a written proclamation of support, our seminary  will remain unable to live into its full potential as a Christian community. It  is time the institution as a whole proclaims that the affirmation of LGBTQ  people is a part of the gospel. At this time, the silence of the seminary  suggests it remains content with the status quo. Like the rest of society, it  leaves the dignity and inclusion of LGBTQ persons up for debate in any given  context. Without an institutional commitment, LGBTQ students, faculty and staff  will remain in a vulnerable position within our seminary.
United in common conviction, we call on the president  and the Board of Trustees to create a public statement of support (as modeled by  the attached statement by San Francisco Theological Seminary) on behalf of the  institution which demonstrates full and affirming inclusion of all LGBTQ  persons. We expect the statement to include: a declaration of APTS as an  intentionally inclusive environment for LGBTQ people; a commitment to  strengthening an academic environment which promotes dialogue that is honest,  yet respects the full dignity of all in our community; and a pledge to expand  our curriculum to include queer perspectives in all disciplines.
Equality APTS, a growing body of alumni concerned  with issues of justice and equality, looks forward to working in partnership to  assist the president and the board in creating this necessary document by the  end of the 2012-2013 academic year. Representatives of Equality APTS are  available for meetings to discuss these documents as soon as possible. The best  way to contact us is equalityapts@gmail.com.
May the ever-surprising Spirit open in us new ways of  seeing each other and the path before us, new ways of hearing each other and the  still small voice of our Creator, and new ways of loving the Christ in all whom  we are blessed to meet.
In hope and peace,
Mary Ann Kaiser ‘12, Rev. Katrina Shawgo ‘08, and  John Russell Stanger ‘12
Equality APTS
cc: Rev. Dr. Jack Barden, Kurt Gabbard, Rev. Jackie  Saxon, and Dr. Melissa Wiginton, Vice Presidents
     Rev. Dr. Allan H. Cole, Academic Dean
     Rev. Tim Blodgett, President of the Austin  Seminary Association
     Barrett Abernethy, President of the Student  Body
     Molly McGinnis and Tony Spears, Co-Moderators of  Queer Alliance
[1] “For the glory of God and to proclaim the gospel  of Jesus Christ, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary is a seminary in the  Presbyterian-Reformed tradition whose mission is to educate and equip  individuals for the ordained Christian ministry and other forms of Christian  service and leadership; to employ its resources in the service of the church; to  promote and engage in critical theological thought and research; and to be a  winsome and exemplary community of God’s people.” – Austin Presbyterian  Theological Seminary Mission Statement