Written by Alice Hunt
April - May 2009
Thank you for your February/March article, "Seminaries struggle to prepare clergy in addressing sexuality," highlighting some of the findings of the Religious Institute / Union Theological Seminary report, Sex and the Seminary: Preparing Ministers for Sexual Health and Justice.
Ultimately, the crucial issue is whether or not we are adequately preparing religious leaders for their positions in communities of faith. The United Church of Christ has a rich history of standing on the front line of providing just such religious leadership.
Our seminaries have an equally rich history in preparing this kind of transformative religious leadership. The UCC was well represented. Of 253 seminaries and divinity schools in the Association of Theological Schools of the United States and Canada, only 36 schools participated. Of these 36 schools, four were UCC seminaries: Chicago Theological Seminary, Andover Newton Theological Seminary, Pacific School of Religion and Bangor Theological Seminary.
Out of the 36 schools, the study names 10 institutions as leading institutions when evaluating the criteria for sexually healthy and responsible seminaries. Chicago Theological Seminary and Andover Newton Theological Seminary were two of the 10 leading institutions. The criteria included questions about curricula, institutional environment, and advocacy.
For example, Chicago Theological Seminary was positively evaluated in the following areas: progressive policies concerning sexual harassment, discrimination, and the full inclusion of lesbian/gay bisexual, transgender and/or women; greater than 40 percent of senior leadership, faculty, and/or board of trustees are women; and high evidence of advocacy through worship services, publishing, media appearances and/or on campus events related to sexuality issues.
The report also listed the LGBTQ Religious Studies Center at CTS as one of only nine free-standing centers (among the 36 seminaries) dealing directly with sexuality-related issues in ministry, LGBT/queer studies, and women/feminist studies.
While there remains much work to be done in the area of sexual health and justice as we work toward flourishing of life for all, the United Church of Christ has much to celebrate in our performance with respect to the evaluated criteria.
The Rev. Alice Hunt is President of Chicago Theological Seminary.