AZUSA, Cal. – An evangelical Christian university has reportedly asked one of its professors to leave the school after she announced that she was changing her gender identity from female to male.
Azusa Pacific University (APU) is a private educational institution near Los Angeles with a student body of nearly 10,000. According to APU’s website, the university is committed to fostering “a strong, clear, unswervingly evangelical Christian worldview that permeates the university and guides its activity,” and holds to “the historic Christian understanding of Scripture” by reaffirming that “sexuality is a gift from God and basic to human identity as well as a matter of behavioral expression.”
“Therefore, we seek to cultivate a community in which sexuality is embraced as God-given and good and where Biblical standards of sexual behavior are upheld,” the educational institution notes.
For 15 years, Heather Ann Clements—also known as Heather Ann Ackley, who was ordained in the Mennonite Church—has been teaching various topics at the Christian university. Her online profile lists over 20 courses Clements has taught over the years, as well as dozens of publications she has authored.
One of her articles—titled A Constructive Wesleyan Theological Proposal: Redemption and Sanctification of Human Gender—was published in a 2004 edition of The Asbury Theological Journal. In it, Clements argues that sexual confusion, including homosexual orientation, is a phenomenon brought about by humans’ fallen, sinful state.
“Even if a genetic explanation for homosexual preference is accepted, it is understood to be a tragic genetic defect caused by the fall, a pathological distortion of the originally good (and originally heterosexual) order of creation,” she wrote. “Homosexual practices and behavior are explicitly understood as sin. Christian homosexuals must avoid this sinful practice by remaining celibate.”
However, reports broke late last week that 47-year-old Clements announced she now considers herself a man, and wants to be known as Heath Adam Ackley. She also advised that she is gong through a divorce from her second husband. A Friday article in The Clause—APU’s weekly student publication—explained that Clements had originally announced her “change in gender identity” on a Thursday Facebook post.
“Fired as my university uncomfortable with my change in gender identity,” the post states. “[T]oo hard to navigate with their conservative donor & media base. Sober and free today though.”
Clements later deleted the post, remarking that her announcement had been too blunt. Since then, she has posted several explanatory notes on Faceboook, stating that she desires “to educate anyone willing to explore what it means to be both Christian and transgender with me in a peaceable spirit.”
Before announcing the matter to administrators at APU, Clements had delivered a sermon last month at La Verne Church of the Brethren, where she pointed to Pat Robertson’s recent comments about men who believe they are trapped in a woman’s body.
“Thank you,” she said. “It’s not a sin.”
“[T]here is neither male nor female, but we are one in Jesus Christ,” Clements asserted. “What was broken has been restored.”
Officials at APU are not talking to the media about the matter at this time, but have released a statement, advising that “[u]niversity leadership is engaged in thoughtful conversations with our faculty member in order to honor the contribution and treat all parties with dignity and respect while upholding the values of the university. It is an ongoing conversation, and therefore, a confidential matter.”
Reactions to Clements’ announcement have been mixed. As some students are circulating a petition to urge the university to keep Clements on staff, they applaud the former professor’s declaration.
One student claimed that Clements was a “good man” who shouldn’t have been removed from the university.
“The vast majority of us hate what APU is doing,” the individual wrote. “It’s the top that deserves the shame and blame for the firing of a good man. … I am ashamed of the actions of my school and the constant close-mindedness in regard to the LGBT community and especially Professor Ackley. Nothing in the actions of my university reflects the God I love.”
However, other responses to Clements’ situation have been less positive in nature, opining that the professor is not seeing matters from a Biblical perspective.
“The problem is that there are too many liberals at [APU], what once was a conservative Christian university where Godly standards were actually upheld,” one commenter posited. “Now all of these liberals think that conservatives are close-minded and do not want LGBTs or transgendered professors. The fact of the matter is that you liberals are just as ‘close-minded’ as you say conservatives are because you are not open [to] the ideas or reasons why this professor might be asked to leave .”
“[It’s] unfortunate that [Clements] couldn’t realize that God made her perfect in his image and accept that she was a female not a male trapped in a woman’s body,” they continued. “We live in a sad world where people don’t see that God made us all in his image and that we don’t need to change for it.”
Photo: Azusa Pacific University