Emory Report

 November 17, 1997

 Volume 50, No. 13

Henry-Crowe, Clark issue
pastoral letter to community

We write as ministers of the Gospel entrusted with our sacred responsibilities by the United Methodist Church. We are both energized and challenged by practicing ministry in a university setting that reflects the complexities and multiplicities of the world in which we live. Our primary focus as university chaplains is pastoral. This duty carries with it the charge to foster an open environment for religious expression within a richly diverse community. All of the 24 religious groups and 15 campus ministers at Emory have their own particular interests but at the same time strive to enter into relationships with the University, with their constituents and among themselves with honesty and integrity.

The University chapels, born of United Methodism, exist to serve the religious and spiritual aims of the whole community. These chapels receive steady use by myriad religious communities that reflect the dynamic plurality of a university setting.

The past months have afforded us the opportunity to listen carefully to members of the Emory community as they express their hopes, concerns, ideas and affirmations. We have heard from those who are faithful members of Christian congregations, United Methodist and otherwise; those of Jewish faith; those of Muslim faith; those others who worship regularly at the University chapels; people of faith who have no congregational affiliations; and friends and colleagues of unstated constituencies. Out of these hundreds of conversations with the Church, the trustees and the community, we are convinced of a widespread respect for our shared origins and histories. We are equally convinced of both the University's and the Church's mutual commitment to the noble aims of church-related higher education.

We now stand at a time when both Emory and the United Methodist Church must reaffirm their historic covenantal relationship. It is a union marked by strong but different identities and missions, yet we affirm the sacred trust each has with the other. It is also marked by a commitment to understand and uphold the respective missions of each. Out of its historic and cherished United Methodist roots, the University understands its mission to be the uniting of knowledge with vital piety.

The mission is manifest in the search for truth and accumulation of knowledge as well as service to the common good. The Church's mission is the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This proclamation is expressed in love, the commitment to justice and the reconciliation of the human family. While both missions can be stated simply, together they become complex, calling for the best within us to be faithful to ourselves and each other. It is inevitable that occasional ambiguities will exist that will be irreconcilable. When such ambiguities emerge, we must live respectfully with each other, agreeing to disagree out of our commitment to serve our respective missions. But our covenantal relationship is stronger than our disagreement and will not be dissolved. Not only will we live with irreconcilability, but we will do so honorably in order to serve the greater good and our common aims.

Furthermore, we acknowledge that difficult issues concerning sexuality, particularly homosexuality, will continue to confront society. Together-accepting the pain and tension of struggling with sensitive issues-the University and the Church shall move forward with a continuing need to reach deeper understanding theologically, scientifically, culturally and sociologically. Rather than being viewed as a vexing burden, the issue of sexuality gives us all an opportunity to reach broader understandings about the nature of being human and having differing needs for relationships and deep commitments.

The Church and the University agree wholeheartedly that all persons are of sacred worth and are endowed by the Creator with inalienable rights. The breadth of sacredness and the fullness of equality are not at issue. We also acknowledge, with regret and hope, the brokenness of the human family. Each new era in history has brought and will continue to bring issues that perplex and anger, divide and challenge; issues that compel us to call forth our strongest commitments to shared and individual missions.

We as university chaplains pledge to offer ourselves as guides and pastors as we embrace the future with all its problems and joys.

Susan Henry-Crowe
University Chaplain

Sammy Clark
Oxford Chaplain

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