An Open Letter to Eastern Mennonite University Regarding The Listening Process

If you were asked to identify a significant event that occurred in September of 2001, most would immediately recall the horrific and devastating terrorist attacks of 9/11.

For me personally, I recall where I was sitting, what I was doing and how it felt to hear the news. For many, including most students who currently attend EMU, the memories of those events have faded except for those whose lives were personally affected. The event is now just a page in history, while for others it left lingering physical and emotional scars that continue to heal.

If you were to ask me to identify a significant event that occurred in September of 2001, it would be 8:30 a.m. on September 28, 2001, the day and time that I was involuntarily separated from Eastern Mennonite University.

I confirmed, after being asked by former EMU President Joseph L. Lapp, that I was gay and that I was living in a committed relationship with my partner.

An “anonymous person in the ministry” from the Franconia region of Pennsylvania called the President’s office to inquire about and to inform EMU of my same gender relationship.

After being part of the Eastern Mennonite educational community for twenty years (EMHS for two years as a boarding student, four years as a student at EMC and fifteen years in four different administrative positions), my termination came without regard for or interest in my own personal faith journey, to the struggle and reconciliation that occurred between me and my God.

It was painful and a grave injustice to be expelled from a community that frankly had no right to tell me that I didn’t belong. EMU was my community as much as it is your community.

Initially, many faculty and staff were angry and frustrated by my termination. Over the course of that academic year, they demanded to meet with the president, cabinet and trustees and be heard. But in 2001, no one was listening.The exclusionary membership and employment policies of the church and its institutions provide a place to harbor fear and, subsequently, hatred and injustice for the gay and lesbian community. Institutional policies regarding gays and lesbians (and those who support same gender relationships) like those long held by EMU and the larger church provide our society with fodder for hatred, discrimination and bigotry.

It is what compels families to disown and marginalize their children and treat their gay and lesbian members as outcasts.

While the upcoming six month Listening Process seems long overdue, I applaud the Trustees and President Swartzendruber for a willingness to sit down at the table and listen. I confess that after nearly thirteen years since my termination it is tempting to roll my eyes at my alma mater and former family, but instead I will simply watch and see what unfolds.

For those who don’t recall the events of my termination or of other gay and lesbian EMU employees or for those who have simply turned the page after the memory faded, it’s time to dust off the history books.

Many who have passed through EMU over the years have been personally impacted by the current employment policies – the scars may not be visible but the lingering pain and effects are real. The healing continues.

More details of my story plus the stories of other gay and lesbians employed by church related institutions can be found in the book “The Cost of Truth” edited by Roberta Kreider. I trust that the listening process will result in a greater understanding of the shared values of the gay Christian community and that a decision will be made to write a new chapter for Eastern Mennonite University’s history books.

Hopefully Submitted,

Sue Blauch – Class of ’86; Em- ployed Aug. 1986 – Sept. 28, 2001

Categories: Opinion

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