On February 26, 2019, the Special Session of the General Conference of The United Methodist Church adopted the “Traditional Plan,” which continues to exclude “self–avowed practicing homosexuals” from ordained ministry and prohibits clergy from officiating at same-sex weddings.
This decision has given birth to a great many uncertainties, but at least one thing is absolutely clear: it in no way changes our institution’s historic stance of inclusion. From its inception, Perkins School of Theology has sought to serve the whole, undivided church, not simply one fraction or faction of it. Perkins led the way in 1952 with the admission of five African-American students, resulting in the racial integration of Southern Methodist University two years before the landmark Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka. We are a diverse community that welcomes students, staff and faculty—including those who identify as LGBTQIA—from a wide range of traditions and perspectives. We see our inclusiveness as both an abiding strength and a positive goal. Perkins is one of an increasingly small number of places where individuals of differing background, experience, and opinion may come to know each other first as persons, not as positions. The aim is not to turn out students who all think alike, but to graduate leaders who think both deeply and broadly and who understand and care for others, however different they might be.
This is in concert with the commitments of the larger institution in which we are imbedded, Southern Methodist University, whose nondiscrimination statement reads as follows:
Southern Methodist University (SMU) will not discriminate in any employment practice, education program, education activity or admissions on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, genetic information or veteran status. SMU’s commitment to equal opportunity includes nondiscrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.
Understandably, this week’s decision has caused a great deal of pain and confusion, both here at Perkins and at the twelve other United Methodist schools of theology. It is worth noting that the full implications of the General Conference action will continue to emerge in the weeks, months, and years ahead. Perkins School of Theology is a part of Southern Methodist University and related to a broad collection of theological seminaries, colleges, and universities affiliated with the United Methodist Church. Conversations will continue among these groups and their constituencies. Read the statement from the Association of United Methodist Theological Schools.
In the interim, we claim this truth: Inclusion of all persons, as beloved daughters and sons of God, is our history, our present and our future. It is our unalterable commitment as we educate the next generation of leadership for diverse expressions of Christ’s church throughout the world.
Grace and peace,
Craig C. Hill
Dean, Perkins School of Theology – SMU