Alumni Call for Declaration of Support for LGBTQ People at 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
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.” 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
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
 “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