By Sunnivie Brydum
Originally published on Advocate.com September 23 2013 5:23 PM ET
A 15-year teaching veteran at an evangelical college in Whittier, Calif., could be out of a job after he revealed to school administrators that he's a transgender man, and will be seeking a legal name change and gender transition.
Heath Adam Ackley is a professor of systematic theology at Azusa Pacific University, and has been teaching at the school for more than a decade as a married woman. But last week, Ackley told administrators that he's a transgender man, and revealed that he is going through a divorce.
"I really wrestled with it, of course, being someone who was trained in biblical scholarship and theological study and that was, that is, Christian," Ackley told KABC in Los Angeles on Sunday.
That put him at odds with the university's evangelical doctrine, and the professor is now unsure whether he'll be allowed to finish the school year on campus. Ackley told KABC the University is concerned that keeping him in the classroom through his legal and clinical transition might be a distraction to the students, and could impact future donations, or even the school's admissions.
On Monday, Ackley offered a nuanced explanation of his employment situation on his Facebook page.
"Please let me clarify that I was asked to step down and agreed to some extent," he wrote. "Namely I agreed that the university and I may not currently be the best fit for one another and that it makes sense in light of that for me to find employment elsewhere, and that they are being quite gracious to give me through the end of this academic year to do that. However, the place we are struggling to come to understanding has to do with impact on students I currently serve enrolled in my fall classes."
The University issued a statement Monday, saying it is "engaged in thoughtful conversations with our faculty member in order to honor the contribution and treat all parties with dignity and respect while upholding the values of the university. It is an ongoing conversation, and therefore, a confidential matter."
Soulforce, a progressive group that works to reconcile communities of faith with LGBT people through "relentless nonviolent resistance," came out in support of Ackley, noting that the organization visited Azusa's campus on its semi-annual Equality Ride, where LGBT people attempt to open dialogue with faculty and students on religious campuses that have non-LGBT-friendly policies.
"We absolutely stand with Adam, this extraordinary teacher, pastor, and person of faith," said Soulforce's executive director Rev. Dr. Cindi Love. "But, like Adam, our deepest concern is for the students and faculty of this campus where the administration has now publicly sanctioned an anti-LGBT climate. The administrators say that students will be 'confused' by the transitioning of a transgender person when, in truth, the students are not confused at all. It is the administrators that are confused, and intolerant, of the range of sexual and gender expression that we recognize as integral to the Creator's design for humankind and all nature."
Watch KABC's report below.