An Open Letter to Fuller Seminary Expressing My Sadness and Disappointment For The Expulsion of a Lesbian Student

Recently, I learned with a deep sadness, after reading the LA Times article, that Joanna Maxon was expelled because of her same-sex marital status. I was surprised this was the position the Seminary took, not because it isn’t known that it has anti-LGBTQ stances, but because the action against a student in this way seems outside of the Gospel of Grace as I know it; moreover, this action does not reflect what I know Fuller to be capable of. As an alumnus of the Seminary, I feel compelled to write to say how disappointed I am in this decision and, more basically, that such a policy even exists. I plead with you to change this policy, and welcome a new era of theological reflection that includes all of God’s people.

I made my own journey from an anti-LGBTQ stance to one of affirmation and inclusion, performing the first same-sex wedding in my Quaker Yearly Meeting, being fired from an Evangelical seminary for advocating on the behalf of a transgendered student, and doing my dissertation research on the first queer-led Christian Quaker church in history. Within a few years of beginning my studies in 2003, I built on the tools I learned from the Fuller Seminary faculty, moving to a position of being open to and affirming of all who fall outside of heteronormative and cis-gendered identities. I know that I am not the only student, staff, and faculty member who has made similar moves as a result of being at Fuller and experiencing God’s grace there.

And yet, here we are, taking a stance against a student and expelling her because of what is a rebarbative policy. Policy can be changed. And when it goes against what is right and good in the eyes of God, policy should be broken. We have come to a time in history in which positioning ourselves on the side of heteronormativity and patriarchy causes deep spiritual violence. As Christians we must always stand on the side of love. Historically, Fuller has had a commitment to love, holding a position within the theological world that is broad and deep, welcoming of diverse experiences, languages, and convictions. It is a space where students are given the freedom to explore God, biblical teachings, divergent theologies, and contemporary spiritualities within a container that remains committed to Jesus. This Generous Orthodoxy is how I understand what it means to stand on the side of love above the law. I benefited from this experience and I wish that others, such as Joanna Maxon can as well, regardless of sexual orientation, gender, race, ability, and class. If you want to apprentice yourself to the Christian tradition Fuller should be a place where this can happen.

There are so many of us that want this for Ms. Maxon and others who are now threatened by this kind of policy and the sentiment that underwrites it. I want these students to know that there are those who support them and believe that actions like these do not reflect the God we know.

My hope is that Fuller will overtime eradicate these policies that do not reflect the teachings of the gospels, the table fellowship of Jesus, and the realities of God at work in our culture and world today.

My hope is that Fuller could witness to the Gospel in how it treats its own student body and community.

My hope is that Fuller can challenge Christian supremacy in a world that has suffered enough spiritual violence at the hands of Christians.

Know that I, for one, support the seminary in undergoing the work of God in this way and I know that I am not alone in this.

Prayers for growth and grace in this movement,

C. Wess Daniels, Ph.D.

William R. Rogers Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College

Published by Wess Daniels

Teacher, author, Quaker, ​and public theologian. Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College.

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