Transgender transition

Transgender transition

Christian college decides to dump female theology professor who became a man

By Sonia Puente 10/22/2013

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Despite widespread student support, a longtime theology teacher at Azusa Pacific University has left the college after officials expressed disagreement with her decision to become a man.

According to a joint statement issued on Oct. 4 by officials with the Christian college and Dr. Heath Adam Ackley, formerly known as Heather Clements, Ackley and the college reached a mutual agreement which resulted in Dr. Ackley leaving the school.

“Dr. Ackley and university leadership have engaged in thoughtful conversations regarding Dr. Ackley’s continued employment at APU and recognized that they have different views on the theology of human sexuality,” according to the statement, which was emailed to faculty members and the school’s roughly 10,000 students. 

“While we appreciate Dr. Ackley’s past service and pray God’s best for the journey ahead, we have reached a mutual agreement that recognizes it would be best for Dr. Ackley to pursue professional endeavors elsewhere,” reads the statement.

Details of the agreement between the university and Ackley remain confidential. 

Over the past several weeks, dozens of APU students have came together in support of Ackley, who, as Clements, taught at the school for 15 years before identifying himself as transgender.

In efforts to convince school administrators to keep Ackley on staff, students attending morning chapel services two weeks ago wore T-shirts and displayed banners and posters that stated “We Stand with Adam.” Some students carried signs that read, “Ignorance, Hate, Money First. God Second,” which they said contradicted the school’s motto, “God First.” In addition, 2,498 students signed a petition supporting Ackley’s efforts to keep teaching at Azusa Pacific, but to no avail.

In the final analysis, “We resolved the matter with APU and I will not be able to answer questions at this point,” Ackley’s lawyer, Paul Southwick, wrote in an email to the Pasadena Weekly.

Ackley, who could not be reached for comment, has said that he decided to recognize his transgender identity after the American Psychiatric Association removed “gender identity disorder” from the list of mental illnesses in its manual, according to a story appearing on the Religion News Service Web site.

Many students who supported Ackley were upset over the decision to let him go.

“He has served as an educator and chair for the Diversity Council at APU for 15 years and now is being asked to leave simply because his gender identity is seen as intolerable,” said senior sociology major Jordyn Sun. “Personally,” she said of Ackley losing his position, “it is devastating for me and many others who are invested in the APU community and had faith our institution was moving forward in a positive and loving direction.”


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