Transgender Professor Loses Position At Evangelical University After His Public Transition

H. Adam Ackley and Azusa Pacific University announced that they theology professor was leaving his position at the university because of their "different views on the theology of human sexuality."

Ackley and the university released a joint statement Friday afternoon, saying that they had come to a mutual agreement after weeks of controversy:

"Dr. Ackley and university leadership have engaged in thoughtful conversations regarding Dr. Ackley's continued employment at APU and recognized that they have different views on the theology of human sexuality. While we appreciate Dr. Ackley's past service and pray God's best for the journey ahead, we have reached a mutual agreement that recognizes it would be best for Dr. Ackley to pursue professional endeavors elsewhere."

Yesterday the APU community said their goodbyes to the professor who had taught theology for 15 years and even served as the head of the department of theology and philosophy:

Ackley had gone by the name Heather Clements, but this year he began to transition and go by the name H. Adam Ackley or Heath Adam Ackley. He told Religion News Service that he finally began to fully accept his own gendered identity when the American Psychiatric Association removed "gender identity disorder" from the list of mental illnesses.

But he ran into trouble when he let APU know about his transition. He told RNS that in his discussions with administrators, they were concerned about the university's image with donors, parents and churches: "I did not get a sense directly from the individuals with whom I was speaking that they had a theological problem with transgender identity. I did get the message that it has to do with their concern that other people, such as donors, parents and churches connected to the university will have problems not understanding transgender identity."

APU hasn't commented on the case, citing personnel issues. But Ackley notes that there didn't seem to be any rule on the books banning transgender employees. He was in the middle of a 5-year contract with the university.

News of Ackley's trouble at APU drew controversy. GLAAD released a statement of support for Ackley and encouraged supporters to sign a Change.org petition asking APU to support Ackley.

Ackley describes how conforming to gender norms ended up damaging him over the years and how transitioning has been a healing process:

Ackley has made a theological case for transgender people, citing Paul's letter to the Galatians that states "there is neither male nor female but we are one in Jesus Christ. What was broken has been restored."

Ackley posted a YouTube video of a lecture he gave called "Come as You Are! God's Good News for All People" that describes his theology that includes details about his own story (the alternative title was "The Genderqueer Gospel"):

Ackley has received offers to teach and consult at both Christian and non-religious institutions.

Related:
Professor's New Transgender Status May Cost Him His Job At Christian University