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
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.
to November 17, 1997 Contents Page