YDS commitment to inclusivity put in writing

Yale Divinity School has adopted an “inclusivity statement” that formally articulates the school’s intention to embrace “a wide range of Christian traditions” and to welcome “people of various religious and nonreligious traditions.”

TownesThe statement, which is included in the 2010-11 YDS Bulletin, grew out of YDS’s participation in a two-year pilot study sponsored by the Westport, CT-based Religious Institute that assessed institutional commitments to sexuality and gender equity.

“We celebrate the fullness of race and color; denominational, political, theological, and cultural difference; the range of expressions of sexual and gender identity; and the varied voices that come with age, life experience, national and community service, and socioeconomic status,” the statement says.  “In ecumenical conversation and in the space created that crosses traditionally entrenched positions, profound educational value is gained and diverse perspectives are presented.”

The statement, adopted on May 6 by the YDS faculty, concludes, “We value the worth and dignity of every member of the Divinity School community, as we build an environment where inclusivity and diversity are central and consistently affirmed.”

Emilie M. Townes, associate academic dean of academic affairs and the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of African American Religion and Theology, said, “The Ministerial Studies committee is taking the lead in participating in this study and has been working on seven areas that would help us achieve the goal of being a responsible seminary.

“One of those goals is to develop an inclusion statement that focuses on the broad diversity initiatives of YDS.  The inclusivity statement is the result of those deliberations and commitments on the part of the administration, staff, and students of YDS.”

In 2008 Townes was appointed associate dean and also served that year as president of the American Academy of Religion, the first African American woman to hold that position.

The Religious Institute, founded in 2001, describes itself as “a multifaith organization dedicated to advocating for sexual health, education, and justice in faith communities and society.”  In 2009 the Institute published a report on sexuality and gender based on a survey of 36 leading seminaries, including YDS, and rabbinical schools.  Among other findings, the survey revealed that half of the seminaries did not have “full inclusion” policies for gay and lesbian persons.

No statistics are kept on the number of openly gay or lesbian students at YDS, but the vitality of that community is demonstrated by the strong presence on campus of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered and Queer (LGBTQ) Coalition.  The Coalition was founded in 1979 with an aim of full inclusivity, and at Convocation 2009 a celebration was held highlighting the group’s accomplishments over three decades.

Regarding other diversity yardsticks, enrollment statistics from fall 2009 show that the YDS student population is approximately 72 percent white.  International students comprise about 9 percent of the student body; Black, 7 percent; Asian, 5 percent; Hispanic/Latino, 1 percent; and “other,” 6 percent.

 

The inclusivity statement follows in its entirety:

YALE DIVINITY SCHOOL INCLUSIVITY STATEMENT

By history, intention, and design, the Yale Divinity School community embraces a wide range of Christian traditions. Committed to serving church and world, it also welcomes people of various religious and nonreligious traditions, drawing wide the circle to include myriad perspectives.

Seeking to foster the knowledge and love of God through critical engagement with the traditions of the Christian churches, the Divinity School upholds the value of broad inclusivity and diversity in our academic, worship, and communal life.

We celebrate the fullness of race and color; denominational, political, theological, and cultural difference; the range of expressions of sexual and gender identity; and the varied voices that come with age, life experience, national and community service, and socioeconomic status.

In ecumenical conversation and in the space created that crosses traditionally entrenched positions, profound educational value is gained and diverse perspectives are presented.

To this end, we foster inclusivity and diversity through our academic, social, and spiritual practices. At the core of our intention is the deliberate encouragement of con­versation across the lines of difference; attention to offering access to all aspects of our common life; consistent sensitivity to the uniqueness of each person’s background; and particular attentiveness to our words in speech, writing, prayer, and praise.

We value the worth and dignity of every member of the Divinity School community, as we build an environment where inclusivity and diversity are central and consistently affirmed.

Adopted by the Yale Divinity School faculty, May 6, 2010.