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by W. Bingham Hunter
Thank you for the opportunity to provide a brief historical statement concerning matters touched on in the Fall 1995 issue of Touchstone.
In 1989 the Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS) faculty approved the following statement:
In recognition of the divine act of creation whereby the “image of God” has been equally given to women and men, the faculty of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School offers the following statement on gender references in our speech and writing. We do this as a demonstration of the reality of our belief in the imago Dei (image of God), and as an example of our serious desire to see all men and women treated with that worth and value with which both were invested since the creation of the world:
“As members of the faculty of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and leaders in the Church of our Lord, we recognize that God has given His gifts to both men and women in the body of Christ. Therefore, as we teach in class, speak in the pulpit, or write our books and articles, we commit ourselves before God, to be sensitive about the presence and needs of both sexes and the forms of address that will represent both genders rather than unthinkingly adopt potentially offensive conventions of speech.
“Our decision is based on the fact that God’s gift of the imago Dei to both women and men has forever settled the question of their equal worth, value and meaningfulness as persons.
“As believers desiring to support such an affirmation, we intend by God’s help, to avoid any unwarranted usage of exclusive language. We will seek to avoid referring to all men and women as if only one gender were in view when actually we are intending to address the whole group.
“Furthermore, we pledge ourselves as faculty and administration to encourage students, staff members and the wider Christian community to use language and illustrations which include women and men in our teaching, writing, witness and worship.”
This statement has appeared in the seminary catalog and other publications since September 1990.
In the summer of 1992, a postgraduate program fellow was asked to revise our “Graduate Student Handbook.” This booklet provides advice and guidance to students concerning Masters-level program academic procedures, residency, candidacy, graduation requirements, certain fees, comprehensive examinations, thesis deadlines, format and style. In the process of revision, the material (pointed out in Touchstone) on referring to a so-called mandate to use inclusive language was added without the knowledge or approval of either the faculty or administration of the Divinity School. Due to a series of administrative transitions and new personnel, the Handbook containing this unauthorized material was published in September 1992.
During the 1995–96 academic year, the seminary Educational Policies Committee recommended to the faculty that this section of the Handbook be revised to remove the unauthorized “inclusive language mandate” statement including the following explanatory and illustrative material [quoted in Hutchens’s article], leaving only the catalog statement given above—which the TEDS faculty and administration continue to affirm. This motion was approved by vote of the whole faculty. The Divinity School administration has directed that it be implemented in September 1996, when the Handbook is reprinted.
Your 1995 article may have led some Touchstone readers to draw erroneous conclusions about TEDS and the Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA). Because of this, it seems important to note here that:
(1) the Evangelical Free Church of America, which owns and operates TEDS, has national ministerial procedures through which legal governmentally recognized credentials may be issued to women for service in such venues as the military and hospital chaplaincy. However, the EFCA denomination does not ordain women to pastoral ministry; and
(2) the Trinity faculty are widely known to be in the forefront of Evangelical efforts such as the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.
Dr. W. Bingham Hunter is the Academic Dean of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.