Response from Rev Gary Bertels, Theology Department Head, to LGBT advocacy event

Thanks to BJS commentator Jim, for this email from Pastor Gary Bertels, Chair, Department of Theology/Languages at Concordia University Chicago:


From: CUC Faculty distribution list On Behalf Of Bertels, Gary L.
Sent: Monday, February 28, 2011 1:27 PM
To: CUC Faculty
Subject: Re: STOP Educational Event

David – greetings on this sunny afternoon, spring must be around the corner.

Received your invitation to the educational opportunity Straight But Not Narrow later this week and have a few questions and concerns.

Happy to hear that there is a committee on campus dedicated to overcoming prejudice. Is this a committee of the faculty or a group of individuals sharing a common concern? I would hope that all faculty and staff are dedicated to overcoming prejudice, attempting to create a community in which everyone is treated with respect and dignity. How does one join this group? Are there any plans to encourage individuals to report prejudice to the appropriate campus officials so the offending individual(s) might be evangelically admonished? My perspective is that it is more beneficial to confront the offender than forming a support group for the offended. Matthew 18 provides good guidance for a Christian community in addressing the giving and taking of offense.

Does the committee have additional educational opportunities planned?

The major concern I have about the opportunity this Friday is that the Safe Zone Program sticker that will be available includes the word “affirmed.” I support educational opportunities to learn about the issues relative to LGBT persons, and I want to be welcoming. However, I cannot in good conscience be affirming, for a few reasons. First, as a public minister of The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, I have taken a vow not to teach contrary to the Synod’s position and practices. Affirming relationships that the LC-MS understands to be contrary to God’s design for life would place my integrity into question as I seek to be a teacher of the Church. I have the opportunity to attempt to change the Church’s position through our resolution process if I am of the opinion that it is not in agreement with Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, but until then I have agreed not to advocate another position. By not declaring my office to be a Safe Zone I fear that I will be perceived by the community as being prejudice and unwelcoming. I am concerned that the Safe Zone Program will divide our community rather than make it welcoming.

A related reason is the academic freedom policy of Concordia. As a faculty member of a university of The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod I have pledged not to advocate a position contrary to the teachings of the Synod. I need to inform students of issues and perspectives, but I am limited in what I can advocate, although in my personal life I may hold differing views. I would understand the affirming of LGBT lifestyles to be contrary to the public teachings of the Synod, so even if I were not a public minister, as a member of the faculty my integrity would be in question, and correctly so.

If I declare my office to be a Safe Zone and do not resign, I am lying to my Church and University. If I do not declare my office to be a Safe Zone I am communicating to the community that I do not treat all community members with respect and dignity, and that I am unwelcoming.

Out of respect for me and others in the community who may share my concerns, I would ask that the committee not institute the Safe Zone Program on our campus. I am in favor of learning as much as possible about the related issues, but I fear that the Safe Zone Program will divide our community. So I guess that I am asking the STOP Committee to stop the promotion of the Safe Zone Program, for fear it will promote prejudice.

Thanks for reading this epistle, see you Friday if not before.


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