Kathleen Temple Resignation Statement
Is it about “the homosexuality issue”?
I have been enjoying the privilege of teaching in the Bible and Religion Department here at Eastern Mennonite University for the past eight years. I love to submerge myself in my subjects, Bible and philosophy. I love to work with EMU students and with my colleagues. My eight years in this ministry have been deeply stimulating, engaging, successful, and rewarding. But this semester, Spring 2004, will be my last. I will soon return to my previous profession as a dressmaker and tailor. See me at Ragtime Fabrics in Court Square, downtown Harrisonburg.
I am leaving EMU, and yes, perhaps it does have to do with “the homosexuality issue”. The issue, though not always on the surface, has been continually swirling around our community and buffeting many of us. Though I am happily married to an individual who happens to be of the opposite gender to myself (I am therefore not attacked for my own sexual orientation identity), I have been criticized for having the “wrong” opinions about same-sex relationships, and for associating with women who love women and men who love men.
Wait. I had better start over with my explanation.
I am leaving EMU, but no, it is NOT about “the homosexuality issue”. I could remain on the EMU faculty if it were simply that we have a contentious issue, one on which we have divergent and strongly held opinions. I could stay, maybe for quite a few more years, if it were simply an intellectual or spiritual or ethical issue. If it were just an issue, we’d be studying the attendant questions. We’d be debating it. We’d be asking one another about our experiences and insights and emotions about it. I would enjoy exploring and working on “the homosexuality issue” if it were treated as an issue, because we would all be learning and growing and finding out more about one another and our diverse sexualities in the process.
So, no. My resignation is not about the homosexuality issue. No. Rather, it is about disrespect toward women who love women and men who love men and harassment of those of us who want to ally ourselves with our lesbian and gay sisters and brothers. Such treatment toward sexual minorities and their allies is by no means the only discrimination that happens in the EMU community; too often other persons and groups perceived as “different” face hurtful attitudes and actions as well. But who would dare to sanction and defend those bigotries? Unkindness toward sexual minorities and allies is unique and constant -- it is the one type of discrimination that is condoned by those in power. I no longer want to participate in an institution that continues not only to commit but even to defend harassment, hurt, exclusion, and castigation of people because of their sexuality. I find it difficult to do my work under the dread that another incident against sexual minorities could happen at any moment.
I am not going to list all the cases of this sort of unkindness in the EMU community. I am sure I am aware of only a fraction of them. I will note, however, that there has, to date, as far as I know, been no apology for the summary and unfeeling way Sue Blauch was dismissed (though all agreed that she had been a model employee for 15 years), no apology for the vilification of Ken Roth (though he merely expressed publicly his personal opinion, as a personal opinion, about same-sex relationships), no apology for the intimidation of EMU employees by the November, 2002 statement by the Board of Trustees, and no apology for the firing of Tom Arbaugh (though he and his partner maintained a celibate relationship). Also, to date, I have seen few serious attempts to defend and walk alongside any student who has come out as lesbian or gay or bisexual. On the contrary, persons who attempt openly to stand with students of diverse sexual identities fear for their own safety. I could go on.
I have remained at EMU as long as I have not because I did not know what is happening, not because I am tough enough not to be frightened by what I observe, and not because I think the discrimination is waning. I have remained at EMU these eight years because I believe in EMU’s mission, because I love the Mennonite Church and her young people, and because I get strong support and encouragement from the myriad staff, faculty, and students who are working to eradicate discrimination of ALL kinds from our community, that we may truly learn to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God.
But now I am just tired.
I will miss being part of the Bible and Religion Department. I will miss chapel. I will miss teaching and learning with students. I will miss my inspiring colleagues. I thank you all for the deeply rewarding conversation and companionship.
Kathleen Temple, March 21, 2004