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Alleged conflict at Duke Divinity School

Alleged conflict at Duke Divinity School

dukediv.jpegDuke Divinity

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.

Letter from the Dean who writes to correct “regrettable and inaccurate impressions” and notes that “his remarks were “gravely misinterpreted.”


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Gary Gilbert

The Dean’s letter is less than reassuring regarding the treatment of LGBT students at Duke. I agree people need to be made aware of the official discrimination against LGBTs by the Methodist denomination.

Gary Paul Gilbert

John Thomas

As a response to David–

The Harold Sun article listed above is the most credible of sources, I do not believe the session was recorded (or at least not publicly).

A blog post has gone viral about it here:

All the UM-affiliated theological schools (attached to universities) and several of the UM-affiliated seminaries have non-discrimination clauses inclusive of sexual orientation, and all of the theological schools have official student organizations (usually called, a bit of a jab at current UM canon/BoD “Sacred Worth”). It seems in the case of Duke, LGBT advocates are claiming the dean violated the university’s non-discrimination policies by the manner and message of his statement– even if he was “legally” correct by quoting from the UM social principles.

My current institution is blessed to have students from the local Episcopal diocese– Now that all mainline Protestant denominations allow for (or don’t disallow at the national level) for ordination of LGBT persons… how will the discriminatory statements both from Duke and from the UMC more broadly effect relations between the UMC and TEC– such as TEC bishops allowing seminarians to attend UM-affiliated schools like Duke, and our interim Eucharist sharing agreement?

My hope is that it won’t– the UMC needs ecumenical partners, like the ELCA and TEC, to both call us out, and show us that having LGBT persons in ordained ministry can be a blessing to the entire church.


As a student at Duke Divinity School I remember when Dean Langford, a person I loved and respected heard rumors that a gay support group was forming in the community and shut it down fast. I understand that the divinity school is a UMC seminary and must be held accountiable by the denomination,but as a young person just starting to struggle with my sexual orientation, it was chilling. What a broken world we live in.

Tim Lusk

M.Div 82

Duke Divinity School

David Allen

John, is there more to this story regarding the dean? If so, is it scuttlebutt, or is there a credible source where we may read more?

Bro David

PS – I attend Perkins School of Theology at SMU in the Fall of 1964. This was just after the UMC General Conference adopted it’s anti-GLBT legislation from that summer. Dean Kirby, dean of the school, addressed my fears at that time as Perkins’ first openly gay seminarian (MCC,) by giving me a letter above his signature stating that the seminary would never discriminate against me during my career at Perkins with regard to my sexual orientation.

John Thomas

As a UM seminarian (attending another UM-affiliated seminary), I see this as representative of a huge void between the positions of the larger (and global) United Methodist Church–including administrators– and the majority of seminarians and faculty at UM-affiliated seminaries (Asbury Seminary is not UM-affiliated, although many conservative seminarians attend there). What I see is that the majority of young clergy and majority of seminarians in the UMC do not support the homophobic policies of the church, yet the policies remain because of conservatives, primarily laity, within and outside the US. While we are taught LGBT-affirming interpretations of Scripture, there is so much tension in the UMC that many churches and seminaries are hesitant to encourage discussion of (let alone with) LGBT persons. The LGBT group I lead at seminary is attempting to change that– not by debates about the Bible, but rather showing LGBT persons are abused by the church, yet many are still drawn to God and to the church and have a great deal to offer. The good that comes out of this statement by the dean (and his university-forced non-apology) is that it opens discussion, and hopefully real Christian/Holy Conferencing.

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