Earlier this month, Duke joined 92 other United Methodist affiliated colleges and universities to sign a statement urging the denomination to fully include LGBTQ+ Christians.
The statement was unanimously approved by all schools attending the conference. Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations, said the statement “is consistent with Duke’s longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion.”
"Historically, the Church has witnessed a profound commitment to the sacred worth of all persons and to social justice, such as the Church’s position on civil rights, women’s rights, and the rights of different ethnic communities," the statement said.
The General Conference of the United Methodist Church will meet February in St. Louis, Mo., to discuss the statement and decide the denomination’s official stance. Currently, the Book of Discipline bars “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” from being ordained as ministers and forbids pastors from marrying them.
L. Gregory Jones, dean of the Divinity School, said he was not involved in the conference, but he explained that the school is working to strengthen its commitments to diversity and inclusion, including to the LGBTQ+ community, and that it will continue to do so regardless of what the conference in February decides.
The Divinity school has recently faced criticism for claims about its treatment of African-American and LGBTQ+ students. Students and allies interrupted then-Dean Elaine Heath's State of the School speech in March 2018, protesting how they said the Divinity School treated students with different gender identities and sexual orientations.
Duke's relationship to the Methodist Church has changed as the higher education institution has grown, according to a University Archives account. The name became Trinity College in 1859 following a formal agreement with the church, and the school was a Methodist institution when Washington Duke began to give money to it.
Other prominent Methodist-affiliated institutions include Syracuse University, Boston University and Emory University.
"We call upon the leaders of the United Methodist Church at this 2019 Called General Conference to honor the past and current practices of inclusion by amending their policies and practices to affirm full inclusion in the life and ministry of the United Methodist Church of all persons regardless of their race, ethnicity, creed, national origin, gender, gender identity/expression or sexual orientation," the statement said.
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