Conversation on Human Sexuality: Phase II

Last spring, rigorous conversations about human sexuality continued from the previous summer and fall in the form of intentional public conversations and lectures. These events were the fruit of a task force that was first convened by Dr. Duffett in the summer of 2014. This task force was formed in response to the backlash Duffett received from students, alumni, and faculty for signing a letter to President Obama in conjunction with over 100 US Christian leaders. In the letter, Duffett and his fellow signees asked Obama to grant religious institutions exemption from “any executive order providing nondiscrimination guarantees for LGBT employees of federal contractors”.

The members of the task force have changed since last spring. Dr. Christopher Hall left Eastern to take a position as president of Renovaré, Jocelyn Paul graduated from the Templeton Honors College, and Dr. Walt Huddell’s period as ex officio faculty senate moderator ended at the close of the semester. While Dr. Hall was not replaced, the position formerly held by Jocelyn Paul will be filled by student chaplain Maria Emanuele, the position occupied by Dr. Huddell will be filled by Dr. Wendy Mercier, professor of exercise science and nursing.

Last spring, the task force initiated its first phase by facilitating a semester-long conversation on “The Nature of Sexuality and Sexual Difference.” The second phase, planned for this semester, seeks to explore “Relational Sexual Ethics.” Next semester will involve discussions on how to proceed based on what we have learned and may include policy changes regarding the hiring of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. The policy in question currently states that engagement in “homosexual conduct” is “detrimental to the well-being of the University,” and it allows for the termination of a tenured faculty member without a probationary period. According to Dr. Huddell and student moderator Efram Harkins, the role of the Task Force in policy changes is unclear. It is also unclear how the OrganizationaDesign Task Force will affect the policy review process.

The schedule of events hosted by the Human Sexuality Task Force this semester is as follows:

Sept. 24: Human Sexuality Pastors’ Panel, Maria Emanuele moderating (7:00-8:30 p.m., Gough Great Room)

Oct. 9: Al Vernacchio with Joe Modica — “For Goodness Sex – A Conversation About Healthy Sexuality,” Landi Turner moderating (10:00-10:50 a.m., McInnis Auditorium)

Oct. 21: “God Values Us: Where is God in my HIV?” Calenthia Dowdy moderating (7:00-8:30 p.m., Eagle Great Room)

Oct. 29: Rachel Held Evans — “The Misuse of Power in Gender Relations,” Amy Perez moderating (7:00-9:00 p.m., McInnis Auditorium)

Nov. 3: “Marriage and the Common Good after Obergefell v. Hodges: A Debate between Stephen Macedo and Ryan T. Anderson,” Steven McGuire moderating (7:00-8:30 p.m., Warner Library Atrium)

Nov. 13: T.C. Ryan — “Christian Spirituality in a Sex-Saturated Culture,” Margaret Peterson moderating (10:00-10:50 a.m., McInnis Auditorium)

Nov. 17: “Fears and Anxieties of What’s Over the Horizon,” Efram Harkins moderating (7:00-8:30 p.m., Gough Great Room)

There will also be two informal conversations on events, hosted by Drs. Cary and Saba, and student task force members Maria Emanuele and Efram Harkins. These conversations will take place on Oct. 5 and Nov. 2, both at 10 a.m. in McInnis 254.


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