Over the weekend, I learned that my alma mater, Columbia Theological Seminary, has officially decided to continue denying on-campus housing to students in committed same-gender relationships. (The full statement from the president of the seminary is available here.) UPDATE Monday afternoon: An additional statement from noontime on Monday is also available here.
This deeply saddens me, and I have offered my voice to a rising chorus on Twitter at #opencts. I also want to share the letter that I have sent to the president of the seminary, Steve Hayner. I hope that others of you, regardless of your connection to the seminary, will speak up as concerned members of the body of Christ and call for a change to this unjust and unwelcoming policy.
I learned over the weekend of the recent decision of the Seminary administration to deny on-campus housing for same-gender couples in committed relationships. As an alumnus and financial supporter of Columbia, I am deeply disheartened by this decision. I have always felt that CTS is an open and welcoming place, where students from various backgrounds and perspectives could come together for theological inquiry and conversation, but this decision is a direct affront to any statement of welcome to all. It says to one group of students that they are less than welcome on campus because of their committed relationship to another person who happens to be of the same gender.
This decision also directly contradicts the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s policies and practices regarding LGBT persons in ministry. It will now be possible for CTS students in a same-gender partnered relationship to be covered under the Board of Pensions medical plan for seminarians even though they cannot live on campus together at one of our flagship PCUSA seminaries. And this decision ensures that the students most likely to be directly affected by this decision will most likely choose another seminary for their theological education rather than enriching the community and conversation at Columbia.
Because of this decision to deny the full privileges of the community to its students, my continued relationship with CTS is in jeopardy. As chair of the Committee on Preparation for Ministry in the Presbytery of New York City, I will no longer recommend and encourage our inquirers to attend Columbia because of this discriminatory policy. I have attended a number of continuing education events on campus, but I will not do so in the future. And I have been a faithful contributor to the seminary since my graduation, but I will redirect those planned contributions to other places where they will be used to build up the whole people of God in theological education and ministry.
I urge you to reconsider this disappointing decision, and I am keeping you and the Columbia community – and most especially those whose lives and families are directly impacted by this decision – in my prayers in these days.
Grace and peace,
Rev. C. Anderson James, Class of 2005