LGBTQ allies gather at Duke Divinity Convocation

Aug. 26, 2014 @ 09:05 PM

Dozens of Duke Divinity School students and faculty gathered at the school’s convocation Tuesday morning to show support for the LGBTQ community after an alleged conflict at the school’s orientation.

Student Lizzie McManus-Dail said she asked a question at orientation regarding how to combat heteronormativity, which deals with gender separation, in classrooms. 
She said that Richard Hays, dean of the Divinity School, responded he was concerned the question was raised about the LGBTQ community and read from the United Methodist Book of Discipline on homosexuality.
Duke Divinity School is an official theological school of the United Methodist Church.
“While this is a Methodist seminary, there are many denominations present,” McManus-Dail said.
According to the Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, published in 2012, “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers or appointed to serve in the United Methodist Church.”
Every four years, delegates to a Methodist conference vote on changes to the book, which outlines denominational law, doctrine, administration, organizational work and procedures in addition to pronouncements on social issues, according to a release from the United Methodist Church.
Hays issued a letter to members of the school Tuesday evening.
In the letter, Hays writes that the Methodist Church’s position on these matters is under debate, which mirrors a debate in other ecclesial communities and society overall.
McManus-Dail said the incident was a “powder keg,” which ignited a lot of conversation on campus.
Duke students and faculty gathered on the lawn of the Duke Chapel before convocation sporting rainbow-colored and purple pins and clothing.
“We just had a conflict during orientation,” said Andrew Patty, of Sacred Worth, a divinity school student organization that promotes the LGBTQ community in church inclusion. “We’re trying to remedy that and have faculty talk about this issue.”
McManus-Dail said the gathering was intended to make LGBTQ allies a visible presence in a friendly, peaceful way.
Hays said in the letter “some of my remarks during last week’s orientation for new students were gravely misinterpreted by some who were present.”
At the orientation, a faculty panel spoke about the inclusion of gay and lesbian students as a feature of the school, Hays said, and strongly reinstated their commitment to inclusion as a value and mission of the school.
“I then pointed out additionally that the diversity of the community extends to theological and ecclesial beliefs,” Hays said. “Within such a community, students need to understand that serious differences may persist, and that some of these differences are grounded in the teachings and traditions of particular church communities.”
Hays said that he told the students at orientation they should be aware of Methodist Church’s statements on sexual conduct and that the book declares that all persons are “individuals of sacred worth.”