The story of ordained minister and Azusa Pacific University Professor H. Adam Ackley has received considerable public attention in recent days, ever since the university requested that Ackley leave his professorship. Today’s Huffington Post carries Ackley’s own account of the story:
“I am a transgender professor who has served full-time as, variously, a professor of theology, a professor of church history, a professor of ministry, department chair, and university diversity council co-chair at a Christian university for 15 years, most of which I spent in treatment with female hormones and psychiatric medications for gender dysphoria and related symptoms of mental illness. Recent changes in diagnosis and treatment of transgender persons, along with a lifetime of research on the theology and biblical understanding of gender, have helped me live as one who is clearly sane by ceasing to fight my transgender-masculine identity. However, this has caused what has become a very public conflict with my employer, one that is being mediated with outside help and cannot be addressed any further here.
“I’ve publicly commented on my personal chastity at this specific season of my life only to help clarify for this conflicted community that gender and sexual behavior are different, since that is not clear to all involved. However, it is equally important to me that I never even implicitly contribute to homophobia in this community. Therefore, I want to affirm clearly that I am not embarrassed to be a lover of men. Rather, I have been embarrassed by having my gender identity publicly confused with my private sexual conduct, and by the silence of those who could help clarify that misunderstanding. The only reason that this even embarrasses me is that my current private personal experience includes the breakup of a fraudulent marriage, with children involved, as an ordained minister and a person who chooses to live in faithful covenant with a particular faith tradition (Christianity). Therefore, for me personally, it is most appropriate in this season of my life to live and witness to my young adult students and my children a singleness of devotion to what is healing and nourishing in my present life: parenting, prayer, teaching, preaching, and personal recovery.
“However, I also affirm in my spiritual life and my teaching that faithful sexual partnership grounded in covenant with God and community is sacramental, regardless of the gender of the couple celebrating that grace-filled sacrament. From the perspective of my biblical faith, I believe very much that God pronounces in the creation account in the first biblical book (Genesis) that it is not good for the human (ha’adam, a being not yet divided into two binary genders) to be alone, and that God thus blesses covenantal partnership between human beings. As a transgender person myself, a person who has characteristics of both of the conventional binary genders, I cannot help but embrace this biblical teaching not as a principle that exclusively upholds heterosexuality but as an affirmation of the importance and blessedness of human partnership. The socially constructed category of heterosexuality (a word that does not appear in the Bible) is an especially challenging fit for one who is transgender. For a transgender person who is a lover of men, like me, a Christian prohibition of “homosexuality” as a description of same-sex attraction would only preclude my intimacy with those gendered like me — in other words, those transgender persons who were wrongly assumed to be cisgender females at birth but now are clearly recognized as transgender-masculine, who account for less than 1 percent of the general population.