Fuller Seminary and Daniel Kirk

Fuller Seminary and Daniel Kirk June 29, 2015

Until today, I had been very impressed with the breadth of Fuller Seminary.

Daniel Fuller at a cafe in NYThey have long managed to maintain a reputation for being Evangelical and yet seriously scholarly, in a way that meant allowing room for a genuine diversity of voices and the kind of creative exploration that is essential to genuine scholarship.

I was particularly impressed by the presence of Daniel Kirk on the faculty, as I knew Daniel to be a person of serious faith who was not afraid to go places that Evangelicals in the past have generally avoided, when he was persuaded that the Biblical evidence led in that direction.

And so it is with disappointment that I read about the reality of what he has experienced at Fuller, and how he now finds himself having to leave there.

Daniel wrote earlier today on his blog:

Fuller had shown itself to be a place where we could ask questions, where we could confess that our traditional readings of the Bible might be wrong, or that the implications of those readings might need to be revisited.

You can imagine my disappointment, then, when I left that panel on how to respond to SCOTUS and walked across campus to a meeting with a couple of senior colleagues who indicated that my writing on homosexuality was going to be a profound hindrance to their ability to support me should I apply for tenure.

You may or may not be surprised to learn that neither had attended the panel I had just been a part of…

For my part, I do not want you to see what I do and think that Fuller is a place where you should come to study if what I’m doing here on the blog and in my writing is helpful, challenging, life-giving.

Fuller and I have chosen different paths in our pursuit of integrity as we stand in relationship to Christ, scripture, and the church.

Fuller has this phrase, “Fuller fit,” that we use to evaluate potential colleagues. It’s an amorphous way of saying that we know “us” when we see it. My senior colleagues have decided that I do not qualify under this rubric. I will therefore be leaving at the end of the 2015-16 academic year.

I am disappointed that someone like me was not able to take deep root in a place that seemed to hold so much potential at its early moments. And I hope that in the future Fuller’s vision of integrity will look more like mine.

But for now, that is not to be.

That is just an excerpt. Click through to read the rest.

Christopher Skinner is the only other blogger I’ve seen mention this today so far. And I am sorry that I had to let most of the day go by before managing to blog about it myself.

There is, of course, little to say except that which has been said time and time again, when Evangelical schools have driven out scholars as diverse as Pete Enns, Christopher Rollston, Tom Oord, and Michael Pahl (which is, sadly, to name but a few of the many who fit this category). Scholarship can only be called that if it is open to following evidence in unexpected directions. Dogmatic creedalism is diametrically opposed to that.

Isn’t it time that organizations like AAR and SBL took a stand on this, and petitioned accrediting bodies, emphasizing that schools which proceed in this way do not deserve to be accredited in the same sense by the same bodies that accredit universities which foster research?

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  • Ken Schenck

    Nice of Fuller to take the spotlight off Northwest Nazarene. 🙂

  • Dan

    John W Loftus blogged about it before you did (at least according to my feed).

  • Andrew Dowling

    “Isn’t it time that organizations like AAR and SBL took a stand on this,
    and petitioned accrediting bodies, emphasizing that schools which
    proceed in this way do not deserve to be accredited in the same sense by
    the same bodies that accredit universities which foster research?”

    That time is long past due, but do you really think they’ll have the balls to go forward on that?

    Me neither.

    • ChuckQueen101

      I think this is an excellent question by James. And I suspect that even in religious accrediting bodies money talks.

  • RxCowboy

    I’ve been in academia for 23 years. It is comical to think of pulling a university’s accreditation because they espoused a particular position on a social/theological issue. We would have no accredited universities left.

    • lowtechcyclist

      I was in academia for only 8 years before choosing a different path in life, but there’s a huge difference between a university’s espousing a particular position, and firing faculty for holding a different position.

      If every university did the latter, then we shouldn’t have any accredited universities left.

      • Robert Estienne

        We’re talking about a seminary here. Would you have a problem with a seminary founded by those who hold to a particular confession of faith requiring that all professors keep their teaching in line with that confession?

        It seems like that would compromise the purpose of the seminary. For example, I’m not a Presbyterian, but I perfectly understand the importance of a seminary founded by Presbyterians to require all teaching to be in line with the Westminster Confession of Faith. If they didn’t, they would have no way of guaranteeing that they will remain a Presbyterian seminary for any length of time.

        • RxCowboy


  • Steve Wiggins

    As a member of this not so illustrious club, this always gets my attention. Time to form a support group!

  • Michael

    I attend AAR / SBL with my companion who is a Hebrew bible scholar at a mainline seminary. She has noted, as have I, that the SBL has taken a sharp turn toward evangelical theological fundamentalism couched in the language of neo-orthodox academia. I wonder how Andrew Root, whom I read, has remained at a place like Fuller because I’ve experience him as more progressive through a neo-orthodox lens. The accrediting agencies need to remain in business and to do so they have to accredit places that are more about status quo orthodox Christianity than research into deeper questions about following Jesus.

    • Ken Schenck

      It’s a mixed bag. I know that there are evangelical scholars in SBL who feel like the guild is biased against them too.

  • John MacDonald

    If they do it to institutions, should the AAR and SBL also petition for the resignation of individual scholars who convey non-inclusive sentiments?

    • lowtechcyclist

      No, individual faculty members should have the freedom to take themselves wherever honest intellectual inquiry leads them. If they come to conclusions that support inclusiveness, or that support non-inclusiveness, the only question should be the intellectual quality of their work.

      Universities and other academic institutions cease to be true academic institutions when they keep or dismiss faculty based on their conclusions, rather than the soundness of the paths that brought them to those conclusions. And that is what the accrediting bodies should have a problem with.

      • John MacDonald

        So, according to your position, why shouldn’t universities be able to support non-inclusiveness if that is the stance that their collective administrators’ honest intellectual inquiry have lead them?

  • Jeff Kisner

    Why I’ll not be advising my grads to investigate FTS. Shameful!

  • Tim

    The thing is, at some point most institutions inevitably lose sight of their original mission and default to going about the business of preserving the institution rather than fulfilling their actual mission. If something happens that is seen as a potential threat to this, the people involved in what they see as the preservation of the institution get antsy. I’ve noticed this is an extremely unfortunate feature of institutions in general.

  • As a Fuller Graduate (1982), I find this development so sad. Once again a body of Evangelicals attempts to be a “gatekeeper” as Rachel Held Evans puts it in “Searching for Sunday”, insuring only those who fit a certain mold are fit to enter the Kingdom. Of all places that should be open to the possibility that God may want to do something in the LGBT community, Fuller and we Evangelicals stand in God’s way. The legacy of Fundamentalism and legalism runs deeper than I thought. The Religious Right in America is afraid of losing control, I fear. I tend to look at the ruling as God’s (somewhat humorous) way of forcing us on the Right to actually look at Gays as people, acknowledging them as more than a scarlet letter. God has been dealing with me on this matter. I am not the same Christian I was a year ago. God may not change, but we need to.

  • Diane

    The Evangelical and Catholic faith appear to be more like cults then religions.
    There is no room for honest discussion, dissention and thinking in these religions now.

  • John D

    I am a Fuller Seminary graduate and employee. In response to the controversy surrounding Mr. Kirk’s resignation and blog post and the recent ruling, an internal email was sent to the admissions department instructing admissions counselors how to respond to calls regarding Fuller Seminary’s stance on LGBTQ issues. They were told to tell callers who seemed to advocate for LGBTQs about One Table, Fuller’s LGBTQ student advocacy group, and Fuller’s commitment to dialogue on LGBTQ issues. If a caller seemed ‘conservative’ or adverse to LGBTQ’s, admissions councelors were instructed to affirm a conservative viewpoint and Fuller’s commitment to traditional values. Employees uncomfortable fielding these calls were instructed to refer them to their superiors. This sort of duplicity is typical of the seminary and indicative of its primary objective of institutional self-preservation over honest dialogue about anything that might jeopardise its revenue flow.

    • Ben W. Wilson

      If Fuller finds that the New Testament teaches unequivocally that homosexuality is sin, opposing and not retaining through tenure those who would teach otherwise, how can we condemn them?