Trumpet

President Chace's June 2 Statement

June 17, 1997

EDITORS NOTE: This may be used as a sidebar to UMNS #348 {160}

NOTE: Emory University President William M. Chace released the following statement June 2, prior to the 1997 session of the United Methodist Annual Conference described in the accompanying story:

* * *

Owing to the unfortunate misunderstanding of the meaning and authority of the university's Equal Opportunity Policy (formally adopted by the Board of Trustees in 1993), a member of the Emory employee community and his partner were recently denied, inappropriately, the use of a university facility on the Oxford campus in which they had sought to solemnize their commitment, which they deemed a marital one, to each other. I apologize to both of them and to their relatives and friends for any anguish and embarrassment caused by this denial.

The university has clearly stated that, under the policy, no member of this community is to be treated differently or invidiously because of that person's sexual orientation. Nothing customarily and routinely offered to one individual can be denied to another. This is the meaning of equal opportunity.

I recognized that this policy, unmistakable in its outline, can present challenge or pain to those finding some of its applications offensive to their religious and moral sensibilities. We live in a time of controversy about matters of the heart. That makes it a time like all times, but one no less burdened by confusion and unsettled by conflict. The administrative colleagues with whom I work seek to do well: at times they err as do I; but we endeavor to make Emory a just and good place.

In so doing, we recognize that a university is a place within the larger society that does not seek to purge differences but to live amid them. For that reason adherence to our policy of equal opportunity is an obligation to be met by all of us for reasons rising from the very nature of the educational aspirations that ultimately bind us together.

I now touch upon specific matters germane to this recent event and to others that might be like it:

1. The university obviously has no charter or authority to confer marital status on anyone; use of any of its facilities (upon proper applications) implies no such conferral;

2. While the university is closely affiliated with the United Methodist Church under the jurisdiction of that church's Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference, it is an educational institution;

3. While it respects the complexities of church polity, particularly as that polity undergoes evolution and reconsideration, it does not and cannot seek to unify at every moment its educational aims with that polity.

I ask all members of this capable and principled community to join with one another in renewing our respect for the separate virtues and the mutual loyalties that have made Emory strong in the past and will offer us strength in the times to come.