Some Thoughts on SBL Council’s Letter to Petitioners (part 1)

In my last post, I copied, in its entirety, the email I received from SBL Executive Director John Kutsko on behalf of SBL Council in response to the petition that I circulated regarding the Midwest Region’s choice of Olivet Nazarene as host institution for its conference, and the need for an SBL policy on academic freedom and LGBT inclusiveness.

In this post, I’m going to offer some of my thoughts on what that letter says, and–of equal importance–what that letter leaves unsaid. There are a number of issues that I want to address, so I’ll be doing this in stages.

1.  This letter is not  a response to our petition posted to

Rather, this single letter was drafted to answer both the concerns raised in the petition as well as an independent letter sent to Council, circulated by Professor Tracy Lemos, that focused on questions of academic freedom in general.

The disregard that Olivet Nazarene has shown for academic freedom is, indeed, blatant, disappointing, and repugnant.  However, our petition focused in equal measure on the fact that Olivet Nazarene University is an institution that actively engages in the violation of individuals’ civil rights, and actively discriminates against LGBTQ persons.

Now, gentle reader, if you would be so good as to again peruse Council’s Letter to Petitioners. Please note now the following terms:

  • LGBT
  • Gay
  • Lesbian
  • Transgender
  • Bisexual
  • Queer

NOT ONE OF THESE TERMS APPEARS IN COUNCIL’S LETTER. John Kutsko and SBL Council actively chose to ignore the LGBTQ community in their response. Perhaps this tells us all that we need to know regarding current SBL leadership’s attitudes toward LGBTQ issues. The letter addresses academic freedom; it addresses the relationship between the Regions and the national SBL (and neither of these does it address in a wholly satisfactory manner–more to come on that).  Not once does Council’s letter mention the issue of active discrimination against LGBTQ persons and the call for an SBL policy stance on this.

To spend this amount of time mulling over the petition, to “extended our usual meeting schedule by a half day in order to attend to the important concerns [the petition] raised” and NOT to mention the LGBTQ issues at the heart of the petition is little short of an insult.

So: Cowardice or indifference?

Those are the two primary explanations I can see for failing to address in any way the LGBTQ civil rights issues by name. And I’m not sure which is worse.

more to come later….





One thought on “Some Thoughts on SBL Council’s Letter to Petitioners (part 1)

  1. Thanks for this, Matt. I was dissatisfied with SBL’s response and also found their unwillingness to name the oppression we are dealing with to be at best strange.


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