One of the strengths I admire about the Candler School of Theology’s community is its openness to dialogue and converse about anything that may be on one’s mind. Walking through Brooks Commons, our gathering commons area, I hear conversations ranging from theodicy to Tillich, from the weather to weekend plans, and sharing about family and favorite faculty. What is even more impressive is that these conversations are happening all over campus—in the classroom, at lunch or over coffee, in the hallways and across bathroom stalls. In fact, I had a great conversation about Wesleyan theology with a Jewish Master of Arts student, who has a United Methodist minister in her family, on the Emory Shuttle on the way to school last week. We are a community of talkers. Wait; let me clarify. We are a community of dialoguers. Sure, every now and then it seems like we talk just to hear our own ideas but, for the most part, the Candler community is welcoming and open to dialogue with whatever is on your mind.

One conversation that I had the privilege to be a participant in this week was hosted by Sacred Worth, which is a group comprised of straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) students at Candler. Their mission statement says that, “Sacred Worth seeks to be a place of support and safety to those members of the Candler community who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered and those who are supportive heterosexual allies of LGBT justice issues. The group also serves as a prophetic voice, promoting and provoking conversation about sexuality and gender orientation, especially as it relates to ministry, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identification.” This is Sacred Worth Week, therefore, they are hosting a number of events including a silent auction and coffeehouse, several panels and conversations, a faculty and staff appreciation dinner, as well as planning and leading all the chapel services for the week.

The main speaker and preacher they have for the week is Dr. Harry Knox, who is the Director of the Religion and Faith Program at the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). The conversation I attended was with Harry Knox and Rev. Beverly F. Ostrowski as well as those of us in attendance. The conversation was about the HRC’s resource Out in Scripture, which is a weekly commentary by theologians, scholars, and LGBTQ writers that coincides with the Revised Common Lectionary. Their website says, “This Human Rights Campaign resource places comments about the Bible alongside the real life experiences and concerns of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people of faith and our allies. With the help of skilled scholars, you will discover a fresh approach to Scripture.” During the conversation, Harry Knox commented, “Let’s let the church be ahead of something, for once,” in reference to the conversations going on in both secular and sacred arenas about LGBTQ issues and concerns. Indeed, there are dialogues, debates, and down right fights happening around many divisive issues within the church and world. I am grateful that we are encouraged at Candler to talk openly and with compassioned spirit and passion about issues that touch us at the core of our beliefs and ideals.

Rev. Ostrowski offered the following comment about the Out in Scripture resource: “It encourages us to listen to the voice we might not otherwise hear.” And I would argue, or dialogue with you, that the Candler community, as a whole, pushes itself to be in dialogue with the voiceless, the marginalized, the mainstream, the right winged, the leftist liberal, the traditional orthodox, and all the other beautiful loud and quiet voices that make up the conversations of the world.

Sometimes the conversations are hard and push us to look beyond what we know and believe, but at least we are conversing. There will be other student-led weeks throughout the year, such as Heritage Week, hosted by Black Student Caucus, and Women’s Week, coordinated by Candler Women. Student groups, professors, and even our chapel services are constantly asking us to be in dialogue, and those of us who matriculate at Candler are more well-rounded dialoguers and citizens of the kingdom of God for having been invited to the conversation.