Less than a year after Theresa F. Latini was hired as the first president of United Lutheran Seminary in Pennsylvania last April, she was unceremoniously ousted from the institution of higher learning after news broke that she once led a Christian ministry helping believers overcome same-sex attraction. She left that organization in 2001 and has since sworn off the idea that LGBT people can reject their identities, but that did not save her from ideological cleansing.
United Lutheran Seminary (ULS) was formed in 2017, as a merger between two seminaries in Gettysburg and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Latini was named its first president last April. One of seven seminaries under the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the school affirms LGBT identity and apparently will brook no dissent, even if it came 17 years ago. For its part, the ELCA only recently took this position, in 2009.
On Wednesday night, the seminary’s Board of Trustees decided to oust Latini and replace her with Bishop Jim Dunlop. Dunlop announced that he will serve as acting president until the board chooses an interim president.
Eight board members resigned immediately before and after the meeting to oust Latini, and the board hired a communications firm “to guide and assist in improving our long-term communication process.” Also on Wednesday, the board announced it would fund an increase in “Pastoral and Behavioral Health services,” the hiring of “a specialist in communal trauma to assist with healing, justice and reconciliation,” and “a full outside audit focused on diversity, equity and inclusion audit [sic] within the ULS.”
In its announcement, the board justified Latini’s ouster as “based on the Board’s concern that the ongoing controversy surrounding her naming as President made it extremely difficult to overcome issues related to trust as the President of this institution.”
“I have been scapegoated by an historically divided institution resistant to unification, and have been given little chance to respond to the accusations against me,” Latini wrote in a statement to Penn Live.
Latini worked as director of the ministry OneByOne, which aims to “educate and equip the church to minister to the transforming grace and power of Jesus Christ to those in conflict with their sexuality.” The organization has a two-fold goal, to offer educational material and “to help create and/or support local ministries to those struggling with sexual brokenness, including but not limited to homosexuality.”
Like the ELCA before 2009, OneByOne affirms the Bible’s teaching “that all sexual relations outside of a marriage commitment between one man and one woman are contrary to God’s plan for our lives.” The ministry also emphasizes “God’s unconditional love, forgiveness and redemption of all sin as we submit our lives to Christ.”
ULS released a statement from Latini explaining her leadership at OneByOne from 1996 to 2001, Inside Higher Ed reported.
As director of One by One, Latini said that she believed and taught that sexual orientation could be changed for some people, if not many. She apologized, acknowledged that this belief was wrong, and said, “I do not believe that one’s orientation can change. I do not believe that anyone should try to change their sexual orientation.”
Dr. Latini explained that she was not a reparative therapist. She did not lead ex-gay support groups or counsel teenagers to stop being gay or lesbian. She acknowledged that she presented basic ideas of a reparative therapist, Elizabeth Moberly, and believed this path was a valid option for those LGBTQ+ persons who wanted to live in chastity in singleness or fidelity in marriage between a man and woman, the Presbyterian standard at that time. She stated, “I completely reject reparative therapy, and renounce it.”
As the statement suggested, Latini has flatly denied the idea that homosexual activity is wrong, and she has even insisted that the redeeming power of Jesus Christ cannot free someone from unwanted same-sex attraction. She repudiated OneByOne’s philosophy, declaring it “fear-based, controlling, and particularly marginalizing of LGBTQ+ persons,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
In a February 21 statement, the then-president declared that she was working within the seminary in “actively identifying and resisting homophobia and heteronormativity.”
This utter surrender to LGBT ideology was not enough, however. One trustee, the Rev. Lisa Leber of Carlisle, resigned Friday from the board. Leber condemned the board for reacting slowly to the news, and being too slow to “publicly and unequivocally condemn conversion/reparative therapy” and recommit to educating in a “safe, open and affirming community.”
A joint letter from the Lutheran Students of Harvard Divinity School and the Union Theological Seminary claimed a voice in the controversy, as many Lutheran students at those who institutions finish their pre-ordination studies at ULS.
“So-called ‘conversion therapy’ is theologically and morally bankrupt, incredibly dangerous, and antithetical to the message of Jesus Christ,” the letter declared. While the students said they could forgive Latini as individuals, her record leading a group that (they claim) hurt gay people “should have been disqualifying” for the seminary presidency.
Members of the student body and the LGBT community at ULS stopped short of demanding Latini’s resignation, but insisted on a public hearing. “We seek first and foremost a promptly scheduled space for dialogue in which President Latini will speak personally in more detail about the nature of her past views, her personal and spiritual transformation, and her reparational acts in recent years,” the letter declared. “That space must allow for students to have a voice and to, with a spirit of respect and peace, be able to ask questions and seek clarifications for areas that remain unclear.”
Perhaps for this reason, the former seminary president was incensed to hear of her unceremonious ouster. Latini held herself back in an email to the board, however. “I was saddened to learn today that the Board of Trustees has elected to terminate me as president of United Lutheran Seminary,” she wrote.
Even in this letter, however, the former president cast shade on the institution. “Since I became President in July 2017, I have poured every ounce of myself into leading this newly-consolidated and profoundly polarized school to overcome the longstanding divisions that have been, and continue to be, the primary impediments to building a vibrant and sustainable institution,” she wrote.
However, LGBT activists’ radical insistence on purity is far from limited to this instance or this “profoundly polarized school.” Across the country, activists are demanding not just legal recognition of LGBT identity and relationships, but sanction and celebration from small businesses and churches that hold to traditional sexual morality.
Assaults on wedding vendors, adoption agencies, and even churches for refusing to celebrate LGBT issues have become commonplace. Activists openly speak about “punishing the wicked,” i.e. forcing conservative Christians to celebrate and acknowledge same-sex weddings. Powerful organizations with links to Google, Apple, and Amazon brand conservative Christian groups “hate groups” on par with the Ku Klux Klan because they oppose LGBT ideology.
In this context, Latini should not have been surprised that her days at the seminary were numbered. Never mind that she spent 12 years pushing for LGBT “inclusion” (starting before the ELCA fully embraced homosexuality). Never mind that she flatly denied not only reparation therapy but the very idea that even God can change someone’s sexual orientation.
None of this is enough for the rabid LGBT purists. The president used to advocate for Christians overcoming unwanted same-sex attraction, therefore she must be anathema.
There are many forms of reparative therapy, many of which were indeed heinous and should be opposed by everyone. Using electric shocks to change someone’s sexual orientation is hateful, but there is no proof that Latini ever supported this horrific course of action.
Many Christians support counseling and prayer, rather than electric shocks, to allow God to grant victory over unwanted same-sex attraction. Many Christians accept that same-sex attraction will likely never be reversed. Authors like Wesley Hill, Henri Nouwen, and Rosaria Butterfield have written about their struggles with same-sex attraction, and God’s power to enable them to resist this temptation.
Unfortunately, these voices are silenced by the LGBT activists’ insistence that same-sex attraction is an unalterable facet of identity.
In fact, the LGBT movement is so unalterably convinced of the virtue of their cause that any previous support for leaving homosexuality makes a person persona non grata and unfit to serve as a seminary president, even if that person has a 12-year history of LGBT activism.
Theresa Latini stands as proof that even outspoken support for LGBT issues and outright repeated denials of reparative therapy are not enough to satisfy the purist activists, even when the ELCA only recently adopted an “affirming” stance. Latini was even ahead of the curve — but she still must be purged.