Last week, Emory University's Candler School of Theology honored anti-gay minister Rev. Dr. H. Eddie Fox, head of World Evangelism for the World Methodist Council, with a Distinguished Alumni Award. Controversy surrounded the decision because of Fox's anti-gay stances within the United Methodist Church and plenty of students and faculty joined a chorus of displeasure with the decision.
Holding signs that stated, "Don't honor exclusion," "No Awards for Homophobia" and "Fox is not fantastic," dozen of students, alumni and allies gathered at the "Rally for an Inclusive Emory" at the building where the awards luncheon was held on Sept. 27. Check out some of the action captured on video:
[Videos] Candler School of Theology students, alumni protest anti-gay minister’s award
Fox has led two UMC General Conferences — in 2004 and 2008 — to keep in place the church’s longstanding policy that day and lesbian sexual orientation is “incompatible with Christian teaching.”
For many years, LGBT members of the church have fought to change the wording of the church’s policies to reflect there is division on the issue of sexuality.
While Emory University prides itself on being an inclusive institution, welcoming of LGBT students and faculty, some say the Candler School of Theology strays from Emory’s values. The Candler School of Theology was founded by what is now the United Methodist Church.
John Blevins, who is gay, received his Doctor of Theology from Emory in 2005 and was a Candler School of Theology assistant professor from 2006-2009. He is now an associate research professor in the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory.
“Historically, [the Candler School of Theology] is on the side of not having a welcoming space for faculty who are out and open,” Blevins told the GA Voice. “The administration is very affirming personally and they let me know they support me personally, but they didn’t know what to do in offering support at the institutional level,” he said.
In her open letter to students, Jan Love, Dean and Professor of Christianity and World Politics in the Candler School of Theology, reiterated Candler and Emory’s belief in full inclusion of LGBT people.
“Candler not only adheres to all Emory University policies on inclusion but we also fully welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons into our community as we do any other students, staff and faculty,” Love stated.
“In addition to welcoming LGBT persons into the larger community, Candler provides support for student, staff, and alumni groups that are organized specifically to create community for LGBT persons and initiates dialogue on LGBT concerns within classrooms and co-curricular activities. Candler promotes and celebrates the fullness of community we seek to cultivate for all people,” Love stated.
After thoughtful consideration, Love said she decided to honor Fox because he inspires people around the world with his “deep dedication to proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Love offered.
Love noted in her letter that the UMC position on sexuality is a “volatile” subject, as it is within many denominations.