You are here: American University Board of Trustees January 17, 2020 Letter

AU Memo Letterhead

January 17, 2020

Bishop Kenneth Carter
President of the Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church
100 Maryland Ave NE
Washington, DC 20002

Bishop LaTrelle Easterling
Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church
11711 E Market Place
Fulton, MD 20759

Dear Bishop Carter and Bishop Easterling,

American University (AU) was founded in 1893 as the culmination of Methodist bishop John Fletcher Hurst’s vision to create a national Methodist university in the nation's capital. Beginning with the Special Act of Congress that established AU, we are connected to the Methodist Church in many ways. These include governance provisions in our charter and bylaws, the presence of Church officials on our Board of Trustees, financial support from the Church for AU scholarships and awards, and many buildings on campus named for Methodist bishops and lay leaders. But even more important, while our relationship with the Methodist Church (now the United Methodist Church) has evolved across our 126-year history, the ties to our Methodist roots remain strongest in our values as an institution.

Our culture of service and AU's commitment to social justice is part of a tradition of affirming human rights and dignity, freedom, and diversity that are the core of United Methodist values as expressed in the Church's "Social Principles." We pursue these values in our dedication to inclusive excellence: a recognition that all people have a place at the table, and that all are worthy of dignity and respect.

However, these values were shaken when in February 2019, the General Conference of the United Methodist Church voted to remain opposed to same-sex marriage and continue its ban on gay clergy. This decision does not comport with the values of inclusion that matter so deeply at American University, and is painful to many in our community, especially our LGBTQ students, faculty, and staff.

As the Church prepares to revisit this issue at its next General Conference in May 2020, the American University Board of Trustees, on behalf of our institution, reaffirms our support for our LGBTQ community and encourages full inclusion in the life and ministry of the United Methodist Church for all persons regardless of their race, ethnicity, creed, national origin, gender, gender identity/expression, or sexual orientation.

We are heartened that many voices within the Church have called for inclusion. American University was proud to be among the more than 90 United Methodist affiliated colleges and universities that urged the Church to embrace inclusion in January 2019. In our home community, we are members of the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church. The Baltimore-Washington Conference’s unifying efforts in this space have been a source of great solace and strength to our community, and we look forward to continued collaboration in pursuit of our shared values. Additionally, the recent proposal from a diverse group of United Methodist bishops and other leaders offers another path forward, preserving the United Methodist Church and its values while allowing traditionalist-minded congregations to form a new denomination.

We hope that the Church’s longstanding ideals of dignity and inclusivity are embraced at this year’s General Conference, and we will be monitoring the developments closely. We appreciate our connections to United Methodist Church and know this matter has been difficult, but our mission, our community, and our commitment to inclusivity must be at the heart of all our actions and affiliations.

Thank you for your attention to this critical matter and our best wishes for a successful and unifying General Conference.

Marc N. Duber
Chairman, American University Board of Trustees

Rev. Greg Bergquist, General Secretary, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM)
Sylvia M. Burwell, President, American University
Traevena L. Byrd, Secretary, American University Board of Trustees