Letter to the editor: School of Theology voices desire for Gene Robinson’s honorary degree

To the editors of The Purple:

With joy and gratitude, we commend you for your recent editorial calling for the conferral of an honorary degree on Bishop Gene Robinson. We add our voices to yours: it is past time for Sewanee to recognize the achievements of one of its most notable alumni.

We appreciate and affirm that you have framed Robinson’s worthiness on his own merits. Having held the office of bishop is a notable achievement, though not a unique one. What sets Robinson apart is his exemplary courage and sacrifice and the important work he has done and continues to do as an advocate for LGBTQ+ people in the Episcopal Church, Christianity more broadly, and society at large. That he is an accomplished alumnus is indisputable, and he would bring honor to the University if its leaders would let him. To continue to withhold an honorary degree says more about Sewanee than it does about Robinson.

As future leaders in the Episcopal Church and other churches, we give thanks for Robinson’s work to celebrate the full humanity of LGBTQ+ Christians. It is not too much to say that some of us would not be Episcopalian, let alone in seminary, if not for his contributions to these conversations. This is only one way in which Sewanee is a stronger and truer version of itself because of Robinson’s work; LGBTQ+ people have unique gifts to offer their communities and everyone benefits when we live in ways that encourage those people and gifts to flourish. 

At the same time, we must acknowledge that the official policy of a more welcoming and inclusive church does not always match the experience on the ground—both here on the Domain and elsewhere. Such policies are aspirational and there is always work left to do. Recognizing Robinson would be a fitting way to signal Sewanee’s commitment to this continued work. We commit ourselves to joining you as we all strive to make Sewanee a place where kindred truly do dwell together in unity.

Yours in solidarity,

David Goodpaster T’20
Mary Haggerty T’20
Melissa Howell T’20
Brandon Hudson T’20
Maribeth Manoff T’20
W. Andrew McLarty T’20
John C. Simpson, IV T’20
Noah Stansbury T’20

David E. Boyd T’21
Shelby Bowles T’21
Ted Clarkson T’21
Benjamin Cowgill T’21
Rachel Eskite T’21
Elizabeth Grohowski T’21
Judith Marklin T’21
Lathrop Mosley T’21
Andrew C. Sloan T’21
Marie Smith T’21

Adam L. Dawkins T’22
Robert Delvin T’22
Thomas C. Drake, IV T’22
Sarah Hess T’22
Mark Lobb T’22
Meghan Mazur T’22
Gabriel Perkins-Lawrence T’22
Derek J. Quinn T’22
Christopher L. Schwenk T’22
Ashley Simpson T’22
Becca Walton T’22
Ian Williams T’22

One comment

  1. This is long overdue. And seriously, why isn’t every student on this list?

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