Community Gathering Summary – Philadelphia & Gettysburg

Summary – Philadelphia Campus

Tuesday, February 27, 2018—11:00 am
Benbow B

Dean Kiran Sebastian opened with prayer, called the meeting to order, and shared expectations for the conversation. He introduced the speakers: Charles Miller, Chair of Presidential Search Committee; Rev. Dr. J. Elise Brown, Board Chair of United Lutheran Seminary; Bishop Claire Burkat (SEPA Bishop and Board of Trustees member); and Reverend Dr. Theresa Latini, President of United Lutheran Seminary.

Charles Miller

Charles Miller began by explaining the search committee process and described the group was comprised of students, staff, faculty, synodical bishops, and board members from the predecessor schools. Miller stated that the committee discussed a number of LGBTQ-related questions with candidates in the course of its interviews. In the committee’s debriefings after the two interviews with Dr. Latini, the committee expressed enthusiasm for her responses and heard no concern or reservation from committee members about Dr. Latini’s convictions on LGBTQ matters.

Miller acknowledged that, on his watch, the committee did not look far enough into Dr. Latini’s background to identify her connection to One by One. Miller further acknowledged that the committee did not end the interview with the customary question about any past personal actions or engagements of the candidate that may have had potential to embarrass the seminary.

Miller also explained that the committee, on the basis of Dr. Latini’s initial letter of interest, her resume, references from five stellar colleagues and associates, and her extensive outstanding response to our many questions, enthusiastically recommended Dr. Latini to the Board of Trustees to be the President of United Lutheran Seminary.

Rev. Dr. Elise Brown, Board Chair

Elise Brown explained that after the search committee did its work, Dr. Latini called to talk to her about her past affiliation with One by One. Brown explained the due diligence taken in relation to Dr. Latini’s candidacy: two levels of background checks; inquiry into her work with One by One; conversation with colleagues in the ELCA, including LGBTQ+ colleagues. There were no concerns raised about Dr. Latini.

She reached out to Dr. Marvin Ellison (a long-time leader in the More Light Network in the PCUSA; an expert in Queer Theology; and seminary professor). She asked him to research Dr. Latini and One by One. He did not know Dr. Latini and hadn’t heard of the organization. Dr. Ellison reached out to an additional six individuals in the More Light Movement. None of them knew the work of One by One and those who knew of Dr. Latini spoke highly of her. Brown also asked the search committee chair, Charles Miller, about Dr. Latini’s answers during the search process and asked if she was supportive and inclusive of ULS as an RIC seminary. The answer was “yes.”

Brown stated that she heard from two staff and one faculty member concerns about Dr. Latini’s prior association with One by One. This was brought to the full board on a call in late December. Brown acknowledged she should have brought this information to the board sooner, saying, “I am deeply sorry for the pain this has caused.”

Bishop Claire Burkat

Bishop Burkat acknowledged the pain of everyone in the room, in particular, members of the LGBTQ community. She continued by saying, “I am so sorry for my part in this and the pain it has caused anyone.” In her words: “When we talked about [Dr. Latin’s] involvement in One by One in a December 29 board call, I thought it was a great transformative story. It’s how I took it. I did not think it was my story to share—but I realize now it was not mine to keep.” She again acknowledged the pain in the room.

President Theresa Latini

Dr. Latini began by acknowledging her statement posted on website about her prior work as director of an organization in the Presbyterian Church (USA), called One by One. The mission of that organization was “to educate and equip the church to minister the transforming grace and power of Christ to those in conflict with their sexuality.” Latini explained she was the director of that organization for approximately 5.5 years, beginning in 1996. In that role, she presented a view of sexuality that was marginalizing and hurtful to members of the LGBTQ+ community.

As director of One by One, Latini said that she believed and taught that sexual orientation could be changed for some people, if not many. She apologized, acknowledged that this belief was wrong, and said, “I do not believe that one’s orientation can change. I do not believe that anyone should try to change their sexual orientation.”

Dr. Latini explained that she was not a reparative therapist. She did not lead ex-gay support groups or counsel teenagers to stop being gay or lesbian. She acknowledged that she presented basic ideas of a reparative therapist, Elizabeth Moberly, and believed this path was a valid option for those LGBTQ+ persons who wanted to live in chastity in singleness or fidelity in marriage between a man and woman, the Presbyterian standard at that time. She stated, “I completely reject reparative therapy, and renounce it. “

Latini described that One by One was one of a cluster of Evangelical organizations operating in the PCUSA at that time. People connected with those organizations included seminary presidents, professors, pastors, and other church leaders. Latini stated that it was a very different context and that “the power imbalance between me and that whole system was staggering.” Latini further explained she became the director of One by One while finishing her undergraduate degree and attending a conservative Presbyterian church with an ex-gay support group.

Latini then shared that, over time, her understanding of human sexuality changed profoundly. She cited a number of sources of her evolution:

  • Learning from theologians and church leaders with an inclusive sexual ethic
  • Meeting LGBTQ+ Christians in the Presbyterian Church who celebrated their sexuality
  • Seminary friends who were LGBTQ+. She said, “They celebrated their sexuality as a gift of God and I couldn’t deny their gifts for ministry or their rights to love whom they loved and to marry whom they wanted to marry.”
  • Nonviolent Communication trainings. “Time within this community was the tipping point,” she said. “I was no longer the director of One by One, which meant I was no longer the poster child for the right or the villain for the left.”

Latini explained that one of the questions she has lived with for a long time is related to confession and repentance. She mentioned the actions she took to make amends:

  • She asked that all writings on the One by One website be removed and that anything in written form never be distributed in any form again. They didn’t represent her beliefs and she didn’t want them to be used to marginalize LGBTQ+ people in the church.
  • She apologized to LGBTQ+ people with whom she was connected relationally especially LGBTQ+ leaders who were fighting for their rights to ordination and marriage.
  • She began teaching Nonviolent Communication in seminaries and churches and led restorative circles for people bitterly divided over sexuality debates.
  • She supported the first openly gay student in another theological school to come out to his classmates in one of her courses.
  • As an associate dean of diversity and cultural competency, she tried to advocate for equitable policies for LGBTQ+ students and expanded diversity work to include LGBTQ+ persons.
  • She was a pastor at an open and affirming PCUSA congregation with LGBTQ+ members and ordained leaders and participated in an ordination service for a member of the LGBTQ+ community who had been denied ordination for decades.

Latini stated that her CV focused on work completed since her ordination. She said that she told people about One by One at each organization she has worked in case questions arose. “Those who have known about my work with One by One have included administrators and faculty colleagues at both of my previous institutions; PCUSA pastors; and some of the references listed on my CV.” She stated that she did not bring it up in the presidential search committee but that she shared it with the board chair. She apologized, “I am sorry for the significant pain this has caused.”

Summary – Gettysburg Campus

Tuesday, February 27, 2018—5:30 pm
Valentine Hall Auditorium

Bishop Jim Dunlop opened with prayer, called the meeting to order, and shared expectations for the conversation. He introduced the speakers: Charles Miller, Chair of Presidential Search Committee; Rev. Dr. J. Elise Brown, Board Chair of United Lutheran Seminary; Bishop Jim Dunlop—Lower Susquehanna Synod (Bishop and Board of Trustees member); and Reverend Dr. Theresa Latini, President of United Lutheran Seminary.

Charles Miller

Charles Miller began by explaining the search committee process and described the group was comprised of students, staff, faculty, synodical bishops, and board members from the predecessor schools. Miller stated that the committee discussed a number of LGBTQ-related questions with candidates in the course of its interviews. In the committee’s debriefings after the two interviews with Dr. Latini, the committee expressed enthusiasm for her responses and heard no concern or reservation from committee members about Dr. Latini’s convictions on LGBTQ matters.

Miller acknowledged that, on his watch, the committee did not look far enough into Dr. Latini’s background to identify her connection to One by One. Miller further acknowledged that the committee did not end the interview with the customary question about any past personal actions or engagements of the candidate that may have had potential to embarrass the seminary.

Miller also explained that the committee, on the basis of Dr. Latini’s initial letter of interest, her resume, references from five stellar colleagues and associates, and her extensive outstanding response to our many questions, enthusiastically recommended Dr. Latini to the Board of Trustees to be the President of United Lutheran Seminary.

Rev. Dr. Elise Brown, Board Chair

Elise Brown explained that after the search committee did its work, Dr. Latini called to talk to her about her past affiliation with One by One. Brown explained the due diligence taken in relation to Dr. Latini’s candidacy: two levels of background checks; inquiry into her work with One by One; conversation with colleagues in the ELCA, including LGBTQ+ colleagues. There were no concerns raised about Dr. Latini.

She reached out to Dr. Marvin Ellison (a long-time leader in the More Light Network in the PCUSA; an expert in Queer Theology; and seminary professor). She asked him to research Dr. Latini and One by One. He did not know Dr. Latini and hadn’t heard of the organization. Dr. Ellison reached out to an additional six individuals in the More Light Movement. None of them knew the work of One by One and those who knew of Dr. Latini spoke highly of her. Brown also asked the search committee chair, Charles Miller, about Dr. Latini’s answers during the search process and asked if she was supportive and inclusive of ULS as an RIC seminary. The answer was “yes.”

Brown stated that she heard from two staff and one faculty member concerns about Dr. Latini’s prior association with One by One. This was brought to the full board on a call in late December. Brown acknowledged she should have brought this information to the board sooner, saying, “I am deeply sorry for the pain this has caused.”

Bishop Jim Dunlop

Bishop Dunlop acknowledged the pain of everyone in the room—in particular, members of the LGBTQ community. Stated that he spoke Elisabeth Peter about the reactions on campus around “Specifically, what did the Board know? “

He explained “On December 20 a member of the LSS Synod spoke to his pastor about the link. Immediately called the Board Chair which prompted board meeting 12/29.” He was assured there was a communication plan in order to disseminate info to wider audience through a website. Communication went out 2/14 to a very poor reaction. He went on to state, “We didn’t realize; We thought this was old history. I am deeply sorry. I thought it was a story of incredible transformation and grace. We were wrong about a lot of things. That is why we pulled these meetings together as quickly as possible. “

President Theresa Latini

Dr. Latini began by acknowledging her statement posted on website about her prior work as director of an organization in the Presbyterian Church (USA), called One by One. The mission of that organization was “to educate and equip the church to minister the transforming grace and power of Christ to those in conflict with their sexuality.” Latini explained she was the director of that organization for approximately 5.5 years, beginning in 1996. In that role, she presented a view of sexuality that was marginalizing and hurtful to members of the LGBTQ+ community.

As director of One by One, Latini said that she believed and taught that sexual orientation could be changed for some people, if not many. She apologized, acknowledged that this belief was wrong, and said, “I do not believe that one’s orientation can change. I do not believe that anyone should try to change their sexual orientation.”

Dr. Latini explained that she was not a reparative therapist. She did not lead ex-gay support groups or counsel teenagers to stop being gay or lesbian. She acknowledged that she presented basic ideas of a reparative therapist, Elizabeth Moberly, and believed this path was a valid option for those LGBTQ+ persons who wanted to live in chastity in singleness or fidelity in marriage between a man and woman, the Presbyterian standard at that time. She stated, “I completely reject reparative therapy, and renounce it. “

Latini described that One by One was one of a cluster of Evangelical organizations operating in the PCUSA at that time. People connected with those organizations included seminary presidents, professors, pastors, and other church leaders. Latini stated that it was a very different context and that “the power imbalance between me and that whole system was staggering.” Latini further explained she became the director of One by One while finishing her undergraduate degree and attending a conservative Presbyterian church with an ex-gay support group.

Latini then shared that, over time, her understanding of human sexuality changed profoundly. She cited a number of sources of her evolution:

  • Learning from theologians and church leaders with an inclusive sexual ethic
  • Meeting LGBTQ+ Christians in the Presbyterian Church who celebrated their sexuality
  • Seminary friends who were LGBTQ+. She said, “They celebrated their sexuality as a gift of God and I couldn’t deny their gifts for ministry or their rights to love whom they loved and to marry whom they wanted to marry.”
  • Nonviolent Communication trainings. “Time within this community was the tipping point,” she said. “I was no longer the director of One by One, which meant I was no longer the poster child for the right or the villain for the left.”

Latini explained that one of the questions she has lived with for a long time is related to confession and repentance. She mentioned the actions she took to make amends:

  • She asked that all writings on the One by One website be removed and that anything in written form never be distributed in any form again. They didn’t represent her beliefs and she didn’t want them to be used to marginalize LGBTQ+ people in the church.
  • She apologized to LGBTQ+ people with whom she was connected relationally especially LGBTQ+ leaders who were fighting for their rights to ordination and marriage.
  • She began teaching Nonviolent Communication in seminaries and churches and led restorative circles for people bitterly divided over sexuality debates.
  • She supported the first openly gay student in another theological school to come out to his classmates in one of her courses.
  • As an associate dean of diversity and cultural competency, she tried to advocate for equitable policies for LGBTQ+ students and expanded diversity work to include LGBTQ+ persons.
  • She was a pastor at an open and affirming PCUSA congregation with LGBTQ+ members and ordained leaders and participated in an ordination service for a member of the LGBTQ+ community who had been denied ordination for decades.

Latini stated that her CV focused on work completed since her ordination. She said that she told people about One by One at each organization she has worked in case questions arose. “Those who have known about my work with One by One have included administrators and faculty colleagues at both of my previous institutions; PCUSA pastors; and some of the references listed on my CV.” She stated that she did not bring it up in the presidential search committee but that she shared it with the board chair. She apologized, “I am sorry for the significant pain this has caused.”


If you would like another account of the Gettysburg Campus Community gathering, I recommend you check out Pastor Victoria Larson’s (LTSG-Class of 2014) highly credible account of the Gettysburg Community Gathering. Pastor Larson has been gracious enough to work with us to make sure the most accurate and transparent account of what was spoken at the community gathering is represented. Pastor Larson’s account also includes the question and answer time and has given up her time to make sure the Q & A section is fairly represented. Thank You, Pastor Larson.

We would also like to remind you that there is a form for you to express your questions, concerns, or comments on the community concerns page.