The letter that was recently crafted by Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary faculty requesting “mutual forbearance” was quite surprising. I’ve taken a few days to consider it, and have been in conversation with area clergy, alumni, and students about its contents.
First, let me say, I do not believe the faculty had malicious intent in publishing this letter. I believe they thought it was a nice, middle-of-the-road sentiment calling for churches, pastors, and lay people on each side of contentious issues to stick it out. I believe that many faculty may have been surprised at the push back. I believe straight privilege can make it difficult to see clearly the impact of our words on LGBTQ people.
People of privilege would do well to remember that we are invited into liberation movements; they do not belong to us. We do not determine their direction, but walk alongside our friends as allies. When there is a question of direction or action, we should consult the marginalized, not presume to know what is best.
To those of us who already have what we want, be that ordination, marriage, tenure, or a place of standing among our denomination, it is easy to ask others to wait. It is easy to insist on patience. It is easy to suggest forbearance. We lose nothing. We go on about our lives and nothing changes for us. But behind statements like the one released by this faculty are real people…waiting.
You know them. They are brilliant, gutsy, feminist, Methodist lesbian women turned away for ordination. They are young, fiery, outspoken Presbyterian gay men forced to temper their speech for the comfort of their oppressors. They are same gender couples, your own students, seeking to seal the covenant of marriage in the beautiful Shelton Chapel. You taught them. You worshipped with them. You encouraged them.
I’m deeply saddened that you weren’t more thoughtful of the way this letter might be heard. I’m grieved that the students and alumni of APTS cannot count on their faculty, a faculty who privately voices support, to make a public statement of support to their LGBTQ students. Instead, the faculty chose to make a statement requesting non-action. Status quo. Waiting.
You ask them to wait for what you already have. This is heartbreaking. It is unfair. It is unjust. I hope you all will reconsider, and instead encourage other seminaries to throw their support behind the radicals they produce. Let us be bold instead of tepid. Let us not ask one more day of waiting. Not one more day. The time is now.
Rev. Katrina Shawgo, M.Div. ‘08