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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

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Blog Entries

A Resource Guide For the Start of the New Quarter

The fall quarter is now underway for all us Fuller students and so as is customary I thought I’d write up some things relating to school over the course of the next couple posts. First, I wanted to simply highlight some of my articles relating to seminary. Some of these are geared towards offering resources, links, ideas, etc. for seminary students, while others are more reflective.

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Featured The Biblical

Before A Great Cloud of Witnesses: A New Year At Seminary

Cain leads Abel to death, by James Tissot.
Image via Wikipedia

I was asked to share a passage of Scripture and a brief reflection for a community event this evening and I thought I’d offer it here for all of you as well. I shared this among Fuller students as we prepare for the fall quarter which begins tomorrow.

Here are a few excerpts from Hebrews 11-12:

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.

By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain’s. Through this he received approval as righteous, God himself giving approval to his gifts; he died, but through his faith he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken so that he did not experience death; and “he was not found, because God had taken him.” For it was attested before he was taken away that “he had pleased God.” And without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. By faith Noah, warned by God about events as yet unseen, respected the warning and built an ark to save his household; by this he condemned the world and became an heir to the righteousness that is in accordance with faith…

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Blog Entries

Some Thoughts On This Past Quarter

We’ve reached the end of the quarter, which turned out to be pretty good albeit pretty busy preparing for baby Daniels. The Church In Mission class I TA’d for was a great learning experience, and it’s always good to work with Ryan because he welcomes input and lets me enter into what he is learning about as a professor as well. I’ve been working on my third tutorial, which means after I finish this one, I will have two methods courses (in culture theory areas) and three more tutorials, then comprehensive exams, then that big paper (dissertation). With this current tutorial I’ve been reading loosely in the area of missiology, and more specifically with authors who have considered the church and its role in culture. I’ve obviously been reading Yoder, but have also been looking at some of Stanley Hauerwas, James K Smith, John Milbank, Craig Carter, Wilbert Shenk, Stephan Bevans, and probably one of my new favorite theologians James McClendon. I’ve plowed through 2500-3000 pages so far and am aiming for a little more than 4,000. Through it all I’ve been able to map the various approaches to church in culture, both from a theological standpoint, as well as from a cultural one, and find some areas in which to build on.

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Blog Entries

The Knowns and Unknowns | Entering Into Year Five

Tomorrow marks the beginning of another year of school, our fifth year in California, the (School) year our daughter will be born into and the year in which I come very close to finishing my course work. Of course, it also marks all sorts of things I have absolutely no idea of. Since Emily and I both run our lives by school schedules the educational calendar is in many ways how we order are lives. And every year there is a fresh excitement in the air and a feeling of reliance upon God for all the unknowns that are about to present themselves.

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Featured

So This Is Your First Year In Seminary? Tips, Tricks and Other Advice

Biblia Hebraica

In one more week the masses will pile into Fuller’s bookstore, library, classrooms, and student lounges as the first week of the 2007-2008 school year begins. This is a big year for Fuller, its 60th anniversary. The first week of the fall quarter is always the busiest of the four quarters on campus, all kinds of people trying to get the hang of grad school, living in a new city, and not knowing anyone (one way to find our about people is to visit the Fuller Blogger’s Page or Fuller’s Facebook Network).

I thought it would be fun to write some advice to new students, offering tips, ideas about what supplies you might need, and other advice that could come in handy. As a Fuller student (and employee) for four years now I feel like I’ve had my fair share of “Geez, I wish I knew that a year ago” that I thought it might be fun to share some of the stuff I’ve learned.

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Featured

Allelon: Video Interview with Ryan Bolger on Emerging and Missional Churches

There is great half-hour video of my PhD advisor, Ryan Bolger, where he discusses what emerging churches and missional churches are. During the interview he discusses with Alan Roxburgh of Allelon, and author of the Sky is Falling, some of the major points of similarities, differences, and some possible connecting points of these two movements.

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Featured

B’ham or bust: Three Weeks and Counting

Life seems to be moving at increasing speeds lately, it’s all I can do to keep track of the things that still need done before I depart. I am leaving for England in under three weeks now, and still have tons of books that need read, articles that need to get finished, grading to do, and then of course all the normal (and really important) stuff like spending time with my wife, doing my house chores, working, and blogging!

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Featured

Find Theological Blogs: A Listing of Fuller Seminary Bloggers

I’ve begun to compile a listing of blogs by students who attend or have attended Fuller Theological Seminary. This is meant for any student no matter what you write about, or what your various positions are on theological matters. It’s just a page to help connect Fuller students with each other, share ideas and converse about what you’re learning and thinking about.

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Featured

Thoughts on Pedagogy: Does Technology in The Classroom Help or Hurt?

Screenshot 2-9

A couple weeks back I had the great privilege to meet with some of the faculty and staff at the school where I attend, to discuss updating the classrooms on campus for better learning. The school was recently awarded a grant with this specific task in mind.

One question raised was “What are the best ways in which we can spend this grant money on technology for learning?”