After two amicable phone calls with the Dean and the Chair of the School of the Arts, Media and Culture, I’ve come to see my situation a bit more clearly.
Primarily, I’ve come to understand that the reason I have been barred from teaching at Trinity has to do with the fact that my “clarifying statement” re: article 10 of the university’s statement of faith went beyond simple clarification and into an outright contradiction of said article. At least that is how the university administration interpreted it. Therefore, the provost was unable to sign my contract b/c doing so would have set a precedent that essentially put any and all of their articles of faith up for grabs. In other words, it would have taken away Trinity’s ability to use their statement of faith as a means by which to maintain a distinct identity as a Christian educational institution. Therefore, while both the Dean and the Chair made it clear that I’m more than welcome on campus as a guest speaker, I am not allowed to become a faculty member, because then I would have an official role as a representative of the university, which would put them in a potentially awkward legal position.
In response, I would say that I affirm the administration’s right to maintain a distinct identity. However, I as I noted in a previous post today, I question the entire notion of using a statement of faith as an identity-formation mechanism. Not only does it make it appear like the institution is closed to ideas or individuals that threaten or contradict its presuppositions (which I don’t believe is actually the case at Trinity), it unnecessarily narrows the field of educational opportunities on offer to their students. Rather than using a set of beliefs as a prerequisite for participation in the community, I would advocate acquiescence to set of community goals and/or ideals that we strive to attain in journey together. Of course, that’s a much broader conversation, seeing as it essentially calls all forms of confessional Christianity into question, but I’m just throwing it out there for what it’s worth.
But it does seem to me that this is how Jesus recruited his followers. Rather than get them to assent to a statement of faith, he simply said, “Follow me,” and the beliefs came later. In fact, it seemed more like Jesus asked his followers to toss out everything they believed, or at least totally redefine it. My point being, the only prerequisite to join Christ’s community was a willingness to follow him.
Finally, I should say that people have expressed a lot of anger and outrage at Trinity’s decision, both on my Facebook pages and in emails to me personally. I’ve also had to deal with anger, frustration and disappointment over this issue on my own part. And while the temptation to castigate and scapegoat the “evil institution” is ever-present, I don’t think such feelings are warranted in this case. And they’re never a constructive way to respond in the long run anyway.
Instead, apart from a clear dispute over doctrine, what I think we have here was an old fashioned failure to communicate. I think the Trinity administration has learned a lot from this experience, and so have I. So I’m going to chalk this one up to experience and move on. No hard feelings.